When you hear the name Hanson, you are probably likely to remember 3 young American brothers with long, blonde hair singing away to the infamous tune that was Mmmbop in the midst of the 90's. Zac (11, drums), Taylor (14, keyboards) and Isaac (16, guitar) won over millions of fans worldwide. At the time they were pretty unique. At such a young age and playing their own instruments they were bound for success. "Middle Of Nowhere" (their debut album), was released soon afterwards on Mercury Records, however after a year the hype soon died down as they seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth.
Since then, not many people are aware that those 3 young lads have stayed in the business of making music and have had (since the release of Mmmbop) 9 albums. The latest being "The Walk" marking the 10th year since their 1997 debut. Just briefly, I will give a little background to the band before I go into details of the album..."The Walk".
3 years after "Middle of Nowhere" was released, they suddenly came back with 'This Time Around', bringing a much more mature sound and the lads obviously having matured themselves. Unfortunately, the 3 year gap seemed to have cost them a lot of fans and also the difficulty in shaking off the 'teenybopper' image and sound from the success of "Mmmbop". Since then, they seem to have been rather underrated for the music they produce, which is of a very high standard in my opinion. 3 years later after much deliberation, Isaac, Taylor and Zac wanted to part ways with their record label (Island Def Jam at this point), to be in control of their own music. They set up 3CG Records and from then on started producing their next album "Underneath", and taking on the music business independantly.
Now after 2 years comes "The Walk". A mature, yet lively and well-balanced album, and now at the ages of 26, 23 and 21, all married and two of them with children, their musicianship and songwriting has also matured and developed tremendously - which is apparant in not just this album but also 'Underneath'.
'The Walk' has no less than 14 tracks. The first track being an introduction to the album's 2nd track, 'Great Divide', which is a powerful guitar and piano driven song written for World Aid's Day 2007. Whilst on a recent trip to Africa, Hanson involved themselves in the project of incorporating an African children's choir into some of the tracks on "The Walk" and in this first track, they can be heard chanting the words 'Ngi ne themba', which means 'I have hope' in Zulu. This is a chilling introduction into what is a very varied album, but works extremely well in hitting you hard and leading you into the following track....
...which is "Great Divide" as mentioned before. Track 2 on "The Walk". The idea for the song was to raise awareness of the rise in AIDS amongst children in Africa. All proceedings form the single go straight to the PHRU hospital in Soweto, that helps to reduce the transmission of pre-natal AIDS. The song opens with a bold and catchy guitar riff, and in comes the moody and bluesy piano. Isaac recently called it a sort of 'gospel funk' which I think completely sums up the style of this song and the choir add a very special touch.
Track 3, titled "Been There Before" is a much more easy-going song, and one that you can have a fun sing-a-long to. This one also features the Soweto children's choir. Lyrics such as '...does it fill your heart and soul, with the roots of rock and roll?' add a good little punch to the chorus, as well as a little bit of harmonica to break up the 'pop' sound of this track. This isn't one of my favourite tracks unfortunately as it doesn't have as much impact and oomph to make this song one to remember, as some of the other songs on this album.
Next, "Georgia" on track 4, offers us some flowing piano melodies, a strong chorus and Hanson make good use of the range of their vocals. The song describes the difficulties in a relationship - one person is saying they're sorry for their ups and downs but it doesn't mean they love their partner any less. It's actually quite an upbeat song and there are some surprising chord changes which make this song really interesting and pretty to listen to!
"Watch Over Me", track 5 is sung by Isaac Hanson. A strong power ballad, which has a melancholy feel to it, yet I don't feel it really packs a punch. It's not quite there. The lyrics just dont quite hit it with me. I'm not sure if this is also the music, but somehow the song doesn't give me that feeling of 'WOW'. Still, it's not entirely a bad song, Isaac shows some good vocals and the song is very rhythmic.
After the power ballad we have an uplifting kind of song here called "Running Man", Track 6 on "The Walk". It starts off with a funky piano/organ intro and a burst of guitar into the first verse. Zac takes the lead on this song, and being seen as having the least lead vocals on Hanson albums, he actually gets a few on this album which is very nice to see! The chorus is bound to get you singing along and it's the sort of song you could let loose on your car cd player.
Next up is the first single off the album - "Go", a slow, bittersweet ballad about the difficulties of walking out of a relationship going sour. Zac Hanson also sings lead on this song and it is surprising to see how well he can hit those high notes! It's an acoustic song, with plenty of guitars, piano and of course drums. I'm a little surprised they chose this as their first single off "The Walk", as I think they might have caught some attention with a much more lively and outgoing track, such as "Blue Sky".
"Fire On The Mountain" is the 8th track and shows the variation in the styles that Hanson can take on as a band. Once again, Zac takes the lead vocals and does a great job. There's plenty of acoustic and electric guitar and the lyrics appear to have a slightly religious underlying theme in explaining the morals and good and bad things we do in life and how we can help to make things right from what we have done wrong.
Track 09 is "One More", which is another slow one, but not one of my favourites. It seems to go on for a while and seems quite whingy if I have to be really honest. I think this is one song that really could have been a lot better melodically. Whilst there is obviously some sort of meaning to this song, I can't seem to get into it. I generally skip this one unfortunately and have only listened to it twice since I bought the album 3 months ago.
"Blue Sky" is on Track 10 and is a lively, foot-stomping piece of music! This is the rockiest song on the album and it doesn't fail to impress. Taylor takes lead and really gets into it. This is another song that involves the Soweto choir from Africa and the gospel vibe really adds to the overall feel of the song. This is fantastic live and always gets the crowd going. The song is basically about looking for that 'blue sky' in life. There are some real killer chords and you might find yourself sticking this one on repeat!
So onto Track 11, which is "Tearing It Down" which hangs onto the liveliness to the album. Zac sings lead and I was very impressed by a certain guitar part in the middle of this song. I just think it's fantastic. The intro is extremely enticing, with a funky drum and guitar rhythm. This is definitely the most funkiest song on the album and will make you dance! Whilst I'm still not sure what this song is about, I still love it because the music just works for this album overall.
"Something Going Round" is another upbeat song sung by Taylor this time. Whilst this is a good song, with a catchy rhythm, like "Been There Before" it seems to lack the punch to produce impact. This is a little disappointing, as both these songs could really hit you, but they just don't.
Track 13, "Your Illusion" is the second last song on the album and once again sung by Taylor. The album now starts to wind down with this song. This song is basically about dealing with problems in life and it's affect on people around you.
The last and final track, holds the same name as the album itself - "The Walk". This last song is sung by Zac and wraps up the many themes covered in the songs on the album, although it seems to end the album on a negative tone. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful song, sung with piano. Haunting lyrics such as 'A tightrope is strung to his heel, and high on the walk he's down on one knee, he waits for the slow of the breeze'. It definitely leaves you thinking and rounds up the album well. The only thing that gets to me about this song is the small 'clap clap' sound that can be heard between lines, it seems a bit unnecessary.
Overall, this album shows good breadth of what Hanson are capable of as musicians and singers. They have clearly matured in their songwriting and this is a good album to own that has a bit of everything for everybody. However, I think some songs could have been better or replaced with something else, but hey everyone has different tastes! I would definitely reccomend this album even if you didn't like Hanson's earlier music - you might be pleasantly surprised by the evolution of their music.
At the moment you are more likely to find it available online on places such as Amazon.co.uk or HMV.co.uk for a good price. Most shops did have them on the shelves, but you might have to check first. The album can also be downloaded from iTunes if you wish.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Great Divide
3 Been There Before
5 Watch Over Me
6 Running Man
8 Fire On The Mountain
9 One More
10 Blue Sky
11 Tearing It Down
12 Something Going Round
13 Your Illusion