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POP ALBUM REVIEW

Out again, into a box set

November 26, 2005|Randy Lewis

Garth Brooks

"The Limited Series"

(Pearl Records)

* * *

The cover photo of the booklet with Brooks' new box set shows fans' hands clutching at the country star's boots -- probably the same desperate longing for a piece of Garth that spurred Wal-Mart execs to commission him to assemble "The Limited Series," a six-disc box selling for an economical $25.

The package, using the same title as his 1998 box that gathered his first six studio albums, includes five CDs -- his previous studio albums "Sevens" and "Scarecrow," the 1998 two-CD "Double Live" album, plus "The Lost Sessions," containing 11 previously unreleased recordings. The sixth disc is a DVD with interviews and concert footage.

In terms of an addendum to his career, the key piece is "The Lost Sessions," the closest thing to a new studio album he's put out since "Scarecrow" four years ago.

There's less of the emotional gooeyness that slowed down "Sevens" and "Scarecrow" and more fresh spirit of such earlier albums as "No Fences" and "Ropin' the Wind."

For the most part the new disc excels when the tempo picks up, in particular with Dewayne Blackwell's wickedly funny "Please Operator (Could You Trace This Call)," a portrait of a heartbroken guy's solace-seeking drinking binge.

For emotional weight, there's Mike McClure's "I'd Rather Have Nothing," which seems to reflect Brooks' decision to hang up his microphone and spend more time with his daughters. He closes with a stripped-down, from-the-heart reading of Ed McCurdy's '50s anti-war folk standard "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," wrapping things up on a sociopolitical note -- unexpected for anyone who feared this might just be a closet-cleaning exercise.

Fortunately for Brooks' watchers, his closet has some pretty nice duds lurking in the corners.

-- Randy Lewis

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released into stores unless otherwise noted.

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