In 1991, Fear propelled Santa Barbara’s Toad the Wet Sprocket to the height of fame. The melodic pop of “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean” combined to make the album a bestseller and radio favorite. A few years later, the group released Dulcinea, followed by In Light Syrup, a collection of rarities and B-sides. Toad’s final LP came in 1997, and the group disbanded shortly afterwards. P.S. came in 1999, a greatest hits collection spanning the group’s entire recorded output. Such would be their story, except now, like many bands before, Toad have released a posthumous live album from the vaults of Columbia Records.

The timing seems somewhat appropriate. The voice of Toad, Glen Phillips, established himself as a skillful songwriter on 2001’s sweet Abulum and 2003’s Live at Largo. More recently, he joined forces with bluegrass group Nickel Creek to form the well-received Mutual Admiration Society. The rest of Toad, together in a band called Lapdog, reunited with Phillips in 2003 on a Toad the Wet Sprocket reunion tour. The tour spurred renewed interest in the ’90s band and left marketers with a window to present a live album.

Recorded at the height of their popularity, Welcome Home: Live captures 1992’s Toad the Wet Sprocket playing Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater. Present are most of Toad’s staples and Philips’s pleading voice. Guitarist Todd Nichols produces crisp guitar leads that complement Dean Dinning’s folkish bass lines and Randy Guss’s simplistic Americana drumming. The dead-on backup vocals that helped define the band’s friendly sound are impressive. But like too many live recordings, the album adds nothing new to the band’s legacy.

“Hold Her Down” captures Toad’s mix of pop and country charm with a hint of punk. The assertive admonition of rape, however, seems somewhat lighter when put into a concert setting. “Brother” is a little easier to swallow, a sweet love song imbedded deep with admiration. The hits “All I Want,” “Fall Down” and “Walk on the Ocean” are each well-represented in lively versions that reiterate the allure of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

However, Welcome Home: Live doesn’t add anything that hasn’t been heard. The album comes across as a distant memory of what was. If released a decade ago, perhaps there’d be reason to celebrate. But times have changed, and what was once fresh has become yesterday’s news. For those wanting to reminisce, take a listen, but for the rest, Welcome Home: Live is better left forgotten.

 

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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