20 Years Ago: Garth Brooks Changes Live Album Expectations With ‘Double Live’
In the 1990s, CDs sold like hotcakes. As that trend turned underdogs such as Alanis Morissette and future country star Darius Rucker’s Hootie & the Blowfish into household names, Garth Brooks became more than just an established star. He rewrote the record books when it came to album sales, with seven multi-platinum albums issued between 1989 and 1997. As a well-oiled commercial and creative machine, Brooks followed up that success by somehow reaching new heights with an often-maligned concept: the live album.
Brooks' Double Live hit shelves on Nov. 17, 1998. It compiled powerful renditions of the country superstar's party-hearty favorites (“Rodeo,” “Friends in Low Places”) with more sentimental selections (“Unanswered Prayers,” “The Dance”). Guest appearances by Steve Wariner and Trisha Yearwood, and previously unreleased tunes “Tearin’ It Up (and Burnin’ It Down)” and “Wild as the Wind,” sweetened the deal for more than just the CD-collecting completists.
Captured on tape during Brooks’ 1996-'98 World Tour, the Double Live compilation helped explain the modern country equivalent of Beatlemania through its quality of material and its fiscal performance. In the all-time sales charts, it still tussles with unit-shifting titles by Michael Jackson, the Eagles and Shania Twain.
Math gets a hair tricky with this release: It just now turns 20, although its 25th anniversary edition arrived in 2014. To further muddy the waters, its 21-time platinum certification benefits from the RIAA doubling up on double-album sales — a typical one-disc album, such as Brooks' Sevens, sold 1 million units to go platinum, while the two-CD Double Live got there in half the time. Still, like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the Beatles’ White Album and other seminal double albums, its sales impress no matter how you divide the bottom line.
Few things better sum up the Brooks phenomenon than a massively successful live album. Seemingly everyone had a copy of Double Live in their ‘90s-model Honda Accord. It had to be the biggest sign yet that everything Brooks touched turned to platinum — until Chris Gaines oozed up from the abyss in 1999.
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