The Phantom Tollbooth
glimmer of hope
Artist: The Echoing Green
Label: Flaming Fish
Length: 11 tracks/ 38:58 minutes

Pleasantly surprised by the sucess of last year's self-titled effort The Echoing Green are back with this limited release live album to thank their fans and keep the momentum up. It suceeds on both counts as the energy inherent in their self-styled "aggressive smile-pop" is more than obvious.

That energy comes out in a sound that is at times slightly harder edged than the band's last studio album.  The crowd, attendees of last summer's Tom Fest, responds well to the changes.  First track up is a new one, "Defender," with a strong driving beat over the signature keyboard sounds. Front man Joey Belville's vocals take a little while to warm up, but he quickly makes it apparent that he relishes the live stage and enjoys his music.

The audience greets guest appearances from Jyro Xhan (Fold Zandura) and Danneal (American Made) with approval. The latter makes his appearance strongly felt on "Freak Out" where he lends his rapping skills, but unfortunately this track feels out of place and slightly spoils the album's effect. Also a shame is the fact that the album fades out on the eleventh track, leaving listeners feeling as if they were forced to leave the concert early.

Not making this a general release was probably a wise move as it is not up to the quality of The Echoing Green.  The album catches the band "as is" with no overdubs or studio tweaks to fix mistakes or clean up the sound.  Fans always appreciate the inclusion of a live album in a band's catalog, though and from the feel of tracks like "Safety Dance", "Hide," and "Defender" this one will be no exception.  Glimmer of Hope is a a popular reminder of the live show, and a worthy introduction to it for those of us who have yet to experience The Echoing Green live.

By James Stewart (2/20/99)