...makes for a fairly comprehensive overview of Brooks' key tunes.
Paul Sullivan 2007
Troyal Garth Brooks, the American country-rock singer who's shifted more records than Elvis (120 million plus at the last count) and won more awards than he probably knows what to do with, officially went into retirement a couple of years ago. Though he stopped recording and touring in order to take on the role of 'full time father', he hasn't been able to step completely out of the musical spotlight, popping into the studio now and again to record new songs, playing the odd live show, and sealing a high profile deal with Wal-Mart back in 2005 to release a compilation called The Limited Series.
That six-CD box set contained a wealth of Brook's previous material, eleven previously un-issued recordings and a live DVD - and was slammed by many critics for effectively forcing fans to re-purchase material they already owned. Their complaints didn’t stop the collection selling more than 20 million copies, however. His Wal-Mart exclusivity deal now expired, Brooks is at it again with Ultimate Hits, which gathers together many of his most famous hit songs between his rise and his ‘retirement'.
Comprising 34 songs in total (four of which are new), the two-disc set also comes with a DVD full of music videos for most of the songs. More than half of these tracks can be found on Brooks' '94 anthology, The Hits, including early smashes like "If Tomorrow Never Comes", "Ain’t Going Down (Til The Sun Comes Up)", "Friends In Low Places", "Good Ride Cowboy" and "Friends In Low Places", "The Thunder Rolls", "Standing Outside The Fire" and "We Shall Be Free".
The remainder bring us up to the last half of the '90s, with 'newer' hits like 95's Aerosmith cover "The Fever", "Two Pina Coladas" (from Sevens), "When You Come Back To Me Again" and "Wrapped Up" (from Scarecrow) and several more. None of the four new songs – which include current single "More Than Memory," – stand out as particularly exceptional, though the shuffle of "Midnight Sun", is fairly infectious and "Leave A Light On" stands up to his usual 'power ballad' standards.
Despite the relative ubiquity of the material here, Ultimate Hits makes for a fairly comprehensive overview of Brooks' key tunes. It will also serve as a decent introduction to the man and his music for those few far-flung listeners on Planet Earth who have yet to discover him.