Brooks' return: surprises, questions
EmptyThe Garth Brooks juggernaut is setting the table for a new release. And this time, Billboard has learned, you won't find it only at Wal-Mart. After exclusively selling his music through that big-box merchant for the past two years, Brooks will once again make it available to all retailers. But in a surprise move, his Pearl Records imprint will apparently be self-distributed.
Meanwhile, speculation regarding a live performance aspect to Brooks' resurfacing has been centered on 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 and 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.
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.
Programmers from across the country, who have been given few details, have been invited to an Aug. 17-18 event in Nashville. Brooks has also scheduled an Aug. 18 press conference there.
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, which contained three of his prior 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 2006, he 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 around 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.
Since retiring, Brooks has made sporadic live appearances, including a Hurricane Katrina benefit, a Grand Ole Opry appearance in 2005 and a more recent performance at a Live Earth concert in Washington, D.C. He previously said he would not embark on a full-blown tour until his youngest daughter graduates from high school in 2015.