Toby Keith - "Unleashed" Mar 29, 2015 14:35:15 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 29, 2015 14:35:15 GMT -5
By: Toby Keith
By: Toby Keith
Toby Keith's Unleashed is one of his most commercially successful releases to date, with three huge singles and two of which effectively making him a, albeit controversial, household name, if he wasn't already one by the release of Pull My Chain. A great deal of Keith's notoriety and subsequent divisive opinions came from his hit single "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)," which kicks off Unleashed, was one of the many prideful American anthems by country artists that emerged following the events of September 11th, 2001, with singers like Alan Jackson, Aaron Tippin, and Darryl Worley even coming for a piece of the patriotism pie. Keith's song is brazen in its emotions and its intentions to spark fire, anger, and pride within those who listen to it, and his vocals and production has never been stronger. However, the song is a mess tonally, slowing down to almost spoken word poetry at times and then kicking it into overdrive with a midtempo, rock sound. It's tonally uneven, but it has its own merit, even if it did kickstart a rather poor trend of Keith's flag-waving patriotism throughout the early 2000's.
Unleashed also bears my personal favorite Toby Keith song, and one of my favorite songs, of all time, "Beer for My Horses," a song I instantly fell in love with when I was a child and still can't help but singalong with whenever I hear it. It's a simple but brilliant story of two detectives, one a seasoned vet (Willie Nelson, who is a guest on the song) and the other his wise but still relatively inexperienced son, attempting to identify and arrest a man who has been strangling prostitutes all over Manhattan. The music video details much better backstory than the song (which concerns more the detective force, old and new customs on the force, the kind of work the men deal with, and so on). The context built around the song through the music video, however, isn't essential because Keith and Nelson make the song work on their own thanks to the strong singing and songwriting together. Keith's baritone vocals work well with Nelson's raspier southern drawl that it's a shame that these two never teamed up to do a collaboration album. "Beer for My Horses," nonetheless, is a sublime country song in every way, right down to its infectious instrumentation.
The other single on Unleashed that helped propel Keith to certain stardom was "Who's Your Daddy?," the lesser known of the three songs, but an average mix of Keith's charm and witty lyricism. However, Keith does something unique and unexpected with Unleashed, as he effectively blends his contemporary style of brashness and witticisms with his original, debut style of crooner country music that was ballady and focused on acoustic guitars. Songs like "Losing My Touch" and "Rock You Baby" almost feel as if they were left on the floor from his album Blue Moon, which was almost entirely made up of slow, glacially-paced country ballads. These songs, after about four or five in a row, prove to be a bit of a muchness, but not without purpose, as it shows Keith's still firmly in touch with his roots and still holds a true talent for simple songwriting.
Unleashed serves as a reminder to even the staunchest Keith haters that despite firmly entering in the mainstream, Keith, however, did not compromise his style. And even in his later years, began to change it up right after he had a built in fanbase, showing the versatility that many probably assumed he lacked. There's a lot of good to come out of this album, and it's surprising to note a great deal comes from the album's singles.
Recommended tracks: "Beer for My Horses," "It Works for Me," "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)," and "Rock You Baby."