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*** GARTH BROOKS "Double Live" Capitol

November 15, 1998|RICHARD CROMELIN

Let's see. . . . Take $100 gazillion in concert grosses, divide by the low ticket price, adjust for repeat customers, and you get a figure roughly the population of Brazil that's been to a Garth Brooks concert. Assuming that every one of them will rush out to grab this ultimate souvenir, the singer's prediction of a million first-day sales may prove to be on the low side.

That would be a rare note of caution from the one-man McDonald's of Music Row, who keeps raising the numbers on his personal "millions sold" sign. Ironically, though, this two-CD set showcases the shortcomings of his bigger-is-better mentality.

The 25 songs (including three new ones, and drawn from performances over the past seven years) reflect the wild fluctuations in taste and temperament that make Brooks both a frustrating and fascinating artist.

The big arena numbers come off as bloated spectacle, country compromised by Queen, and Brooks can be overwrought and maudlin as a balladeer. But then he'll endow a reflective piece with rare believability, and he can charge up his novelty narratives with feisty energy. Brooks' lack of vocal virtuosity underscores his essential appeal--he's all about transcending limitations.

That quality comes through only sporadically here. "Double Live" doesn't fully immerse you in the Brooks concert experience until a stretch near the end, when the simple four-note arpeggio that opens "Friends in Low Places" sends the crowd into ecstasy. Brooks follows that wry celebration with the regretful glow of "The Dance"--a mood swing only he could pull off.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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* Excerpts from these and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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