Volume 93, Issue 23

Thursday, October 7, 1999


Weekend Pass


2P4H is 2 good 4 words

Three Kings boasts a full house

Buie jumps to reel world

Brand new Garth, same old Mellencamp


Brand new Garth, same old Mellencamp

Gath Brooks
Chris Gaines Greatest Hits
Capitol Records

Is Garth Brooks battling an identity crisis or just making a cheap attempt to change his image and expand his musical repertoire? This is the puzzling question which plagues the minds of his devoted fans worldwide.

With an international fan base and a plethora of platinum records under his belt, a lot of confusion and controversy surrounds the country super-star's decision to ditch the cowboy hat and jeans for a messy mop and black leather. Brooks has compiled a 13 track album in the role of fictional rock-star Chris Gaines. The album is the soundtrack to an upcoming pseudo-biographical movie of Gaines, rumoured to star Brooks.

On the album, Brooks walks a fine line between country and rock – whether or not he pulls it off is questionable. Although many tracks carry a pop sound, such as "Unsigned Letter" and "Main Street," songs like "Lost In You" prove he can still pull off the soft, sensual love ballads he is famous for. Many times, however, Brooks seeks refuge in the familiar and the spirit of country is prominent in most of his tracks, especially "Snow In July."

Brooks' rock sound is not yet developed enough to distinguish it from anything else already out there. The tracks are neither country nor true rock, leaving a musically ambivalent album.

Despite occasional high points, such as the compelling lyrics, Brooks should stick to what he does best – country.

–Melissa S. Leshem

John Mellencamp
Rough Harvest
Mercury Records

John Cougar. John Cougar Mellencamp. Camp Cougar John. No matter the stage name John decides to go with, he has always been known for his folky, raspy-voiced rock ballads.

In his new album, Rough Harvest, Mellencamp strays only slightly from his career formula. For the most part, Rough Harvest includes a collection of songs Mellencamp and his band play behind doors, away from the commercial world of the music business.

The strongest track on the CD is "Between A Laugh And A Tear," a genuinely touching tune about coming to terms with the sadness and greatness we encounter in our lives. Mellencamp also covers two obscure Bob Dylan songs on the album, "In My Time Of Dying" and "Farewell Angelina." However, when these tracks are compared to the rest of Mellencamp's album, Dylan's superiority as a lyricist becomes unfortunately evident.

With the good comes the bad and Mellencamp's decision to cover "Under The Boardwalk" is a perfect example. While bellowing out the famous chorus, Mellencamp is almost too good at sounding like a cheesy lounge singer. "Rain On The Scarecrow" is also brutal, attempting to blend old-fashioned country with John's raspy vocals.

The album as a whole is a well blended mix of folk, country and classic rock influences. Instrumentally, Rough Harvest is entirely acoustic, featuring a violinist and a female back-up singer on just about every track. The album is certainly worth a listen.

–Chris Lackner

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Copyright The Gazette 1999