Brooks back in saddle

Ends Wal-Mart deal, preps CDs

The Garth Brooks juggernaut is setting the table for a new release. And this time, you won't find it only at Wal-Mart.

After exclusively selling his music through the big-box merchant for the past two years, Brooks again will make it available to all retailers, sources said late last week. But in a surprise move, his Pearl Records imprint apparently will be self-distributed.

Meanwhile, speculation regarding a live performance aspect to Brooks' resurfacing has been centered around an extended run in one market.

According to retail sources, the country star will issue a three-disc boxed set, "The Ultimate Garth Brooks," that will street either Nov. 6 or Nov. 13. The set will contain a 34-track, two-CD greatest-hits retrospective with four new songs as well as a DVD with videos -- many of them recently filmed -- for all tracks on the CDs. In addition, Brooks is rereleasing his catalog titles, some of which have been on moratorium at general retail since 1998.

The new box will carry a $12 wholesale cost, the typical major label wholesale price of a front-line single-disc album, while catalog titles will carry a $7.85 wholesale cost, sources said.

Nashville-based Big Machine Records is involved with promoting the new cuts to radio; the first single is expected in September. One of the new cuts is reportedly a remake of Huey Lewis' 1982 hit "Workin' for a Livin'," on which Lewis plays harmonica.

In 2005, Brooks split from Capitol Records and left with ownership of his catalog. Later that year, he issued a "Limited Series" boxed set exclusively through Wal-Mart that contained three of his previous albums, a previously unreleased DVD and a disc of never-before-heard songs. In early 2006, Brooks rereleased his catalog exclusively at Wal-Mart and then, in time for Christmas, issued "The Entertainer," a five-disc DVD package, solely at the giant merchant.

On the live front, standing offers from promoters have apparently been on the table for Brooks since his retirement in 2000. Last time out, Brooks shattered country touring records with an outing centered on his 1998 Capitol release "Sevens." The three-year extravaganza grossed more than $105 million -- country's first $100 million run -- and drew close to 5.5 million people. Notably, Brooks charged a relatively paltry $20 per ticket when he likely could have demanded three times that amount.

Billboard senior correspondent Ed Christman reported from New York; Billboard executive director Ray Waddell and Billboard correspondent Ken Tucker reported from Nashville.
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