“Middle of Nowhere” would seem to be the obvious choice for most popular Hanson album.
The Hanson brothers’ major-label debut, released in 1997 when the three were only teenagers, is still the group’s best-selling album. The record spawned five hit singles, including the ubiquitous “MMMBop,” earned the brothers three Grammy nominations and launched the boys to national fame — and infamy, with their bubble gum sound and youth making them the target of jokes and one-hit-wonder accusations.
But judging from the past month of shows on the band’s Musical Ride Tour — where fans have been voting for one of the band’s five albums to be played in its entirety at each show — the most popular Hanson album is actually the group’s 2000 sophomore effort, “This Time Around.” While the album fizzled on the charts, its more-mature, classic rock-derived sound helped cement the band’s identity as more than a one-hit wonder.
“My thoughts on it are just that I feel like a lot of our hard-core fans — fans who have been with us for 15 years — I think a lot of them became hard-core fans on that album,” said drummer, vocalist and youngest Hanson brother Zac from a tour stop in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Hanson with Charlie Mars
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Northern Lights, 1208 Route 146, Clifton Park
How Much: $28 (doors); $25 (advance)
More Info: 371-0012, www.northernlightslive.com
“It holds a special place for those kinds of fans. . . . There’s definitely songs on that album that are also fan favorites that we don’t play as often, songs like ‘Save Me,’ which was a single off that record that we rarely play.”
The idea behind the Musical Ride Tour — which heads to Northern Lights on Wednesday night — stemmed from the release of last year’s “Shout It Out.” To launch the album, the brothers — including guitarist/vocalist Isaac and keyboardist/vocalist Taylor — played a five-night stand at the Gramercy Theater in New York City in April of 2010, performing each of their albums in chronological order, one per night. The band’s early independent releases, “Boomerang” and “MMMBop” the album, were not included.
After touring behind “Shout It Out,” the band wanted to take the “5 of 5” concept to a larger audience. “But playing five nights in every city didn’t seem like it was in the cards — amongst other things, that tour would last a full year,” Zac said.
To involve the audience, the band decided to let fans vote on the album to be played. But there’s a catch — the voting on the band’s website, www.hanson.net, is limited to only three albums per show, in order to give them all a fair chance at being played. For the Northern Lights gig, fans are voting on the band’s later albums — including “Shout It Out,” 2007’s “The Walk” and 2004’s “Underneath.”
“I think the thing we wanted to make sure happened was that there was still a variety, that the albums would continue to change, partly for us and also for the fans that do travel,” Zac said. “We have lots of fans that travel to show after show after show, and we wanted to make sure the same album didn’t win three or four nights in a row.”
Still sounds right
For musicians so young — Isaac is 30, Taylor is 28 and Zac is 25 — this kind of nostalgia might seem unusual. But at this point, it’s been 19 years since Hanson began performing a cappella as The Hanson Brothers in their hometown of Tulsa, Okla. Back then, Zac was only 6 years old.
“It seemed like this was a good time to look back, while still going forward and premiering the new album, to see how all of this fits together,” Zac said.
“I think we were happy and proud and felt really good about what that sounds like. Obviously, these are different records from different time periods of life, and they have their elements that aren’t exactly who we are now. But definitely, there is a fingerprint, a DNA to the way we write records. Even playing ‘Middle of Nowhere,’ the first album, when we play and sing those songs, it doesn’t sound like it shouldn’t be sung by a 25-year-old guy — it still makes sense.”
“Shout It Out” also finds the band looking back to its earliest influences, blending in upbeat R&B, soul and funk to the trio’s tight pop-rock sound. These elements have always been a part of the band, but they come to the forefront on such songs as single “Thinking ’Bout Somethin’.”
“When you hear, particularly the single ‘Thinking ’Bout Somethin’,’ there’s definitely a throwback to some of the artists and records that originally made us want to make music,” Zac said. “Maybe that sits with the whole idea of looking back, as we went in to record — looking back not at Hanson, but music in general, and feeling inspired by early influences.
“I think the mood of the record is defined by the title, ‘Shout It Out,’ ” Zac continued. “A lot of the songs fit with the idea of sort of rolling the windows down, driving fast. It’s a record that is motivated — not always happy, but coming to the conclusion of perseverance — you’re gonna make it through.”
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