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CD Reviews: Review of Hanson: The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Hanson: The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric  (Three Car Garage Records 2005)

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Given that the brothers Hanson – Isaac, Taylor, and Zachary, if you’re keeping score – are going out of their way to trumpet their transition from their earlier, boy-band-ish days to their current status as singer/songwriters, it seems like a rather odd maneuver to open their new live album, The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric, with a cover.

And, yet, it most certainly does raise the eyebrows when you realize that it’s a cover of…Radiohead? And not “Creep,” lest you think they’re taking the easy way out. No, they tackle “Optimistic,” from Kid A, and damned if they don’t do an exemplary job of it. No, it’s not going to make any indie hipsters suddenly smack their foreheads and go, “My God, why have I not noticed the genius of Hanson before now?” But what it might do is catch the attention of people who’ve been on the fence about liking Hanson but felt they were a little too sugar-coated for them, and that, it would appear, is the audience Isaac, Taylor, and Zachary are trying to sway. Clearly, however, no swaying is required of the audience in attendance at the show from the Palais Theater in Victoria, Australia, that’s documented here; they’re screaming along to every song, be it an original or a cover. (Actually, there’s only one other cover besides the Radiohead track, and that’s the brothers’ take on U2’s “In A Little While,” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind; like “Optimistic,” it’s a nice, unexpected choice and a very acceptable version.)

For the show, the band consists of the Hanson brothers, ably aided by Aaron Kaplan on electric guitar and…okay, you’re gonna think is a joke, but it isn’t…on bass, Mr. Peter Griffin. (If you’re not sure why this is funny, then you clearly don’t remember the episode of “Family Guy” where Quagmire was convinced that Taylor Hanson was a girl. Said a horrified Quagmire when confronted by the truth, “Oh, my God. I’ve got all these magazines. Oh, God.”) The track selection is a nice blending across their three proper albums – defined as the two discs released through Mercury, plus the independently-released 2004 album, Underneath – and the performances are, if not consistently breathtaking, at least solid throughout. Although Hanson are trying to disassociate themselves from their teenybopper days, they nonetheless revisit “Mmmbop” and “Where’s The Love” because, well, they’re expected to trot them out. Where they really shine, however, is on songs like “If Only” (Taylor’s harmonica licks are so hot that they make one wonder if John Popper was ever actually on the studio version), “Strong Enough to Break,” and “Penny and Me,” probably because they show the evolution the guys have made over the years and give them a chance to jam out.

Live and Electric is clearly intended as a transition album for Hanson, to build on their newfound reputation as an indie band – this is the second release for their own label, 3CG Records – and hopefully put a few more fans in the bank before putting another studio release into stores. It’s not Under a Blood Red Sky or anything, but it does show the trio continuing to grow into a full-fledged rock act with some serious chops.

~Will Harris 


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