The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric
is not a compilation; it's a live album, capturing the band on their supporting tour for their 2004 album Underneath
. It's not their first live album -- about a year and a half after their 1997 major-label debut, they released Live from Albertane
, which was a little fast for a live record, but it does illustrate just how crazy Hanson
mania was in the late '90s. Here in 2005, Hanson
not only have a larger repertoire to draw from, but they're a different band: they're older, stronger, road-tested, and tougher. They're a mature band now, usually for better, but sometimes for worse, as in on their opening gambit of covering Radiohead
's crawling "Optimistic." It's a move that practically begs for the band to be taken seriously, to not be thought of as teen pop sensation, and the self-consciousness of the cover is awkward. But that's the only false note on an album that's tight, lean, and quite entertaining. Every song here, whether it's a newer tune or their old hits "Where's the Love" and "MMM Bop," is given an arrangement that is simultaneously stripped down and opened up, giving the trio -- augmented by Pete Griffin
on bass and Aaron Kaplan
on electric guitar -- plenty of space to jam. In a way, this is as much as a throwback to the era of late-'70s live albums as their first records were a throwback to late-'60s/early-'70s bubblegum: there just aren't many live albums any more that sound like a band in concert, revealing a different side of the band, one where the songs seem to gain strength in a live setting. That's not to say that this is the second coming of Frampton Comes Alive!
or, even better, Thin Lizzy
's Live and Dangerous
, but this is nevertheless a very good live album that will certainly satisfy hardcore fans and, if given a chance, could change the minds of some skeptics.