Tobin Sprout has never been as versatile or dynamic a songwriter as his former Guided by Voices bandmate Robert Pollard (the two probably connected at the hip for posterity), but he has probably been the more consistent one, avoiding most of the pitfalls, potholes, cul-de-sacs, and half-baked experiments, even if he has never quite scaled the same creative peaks or achieved the often spectacular melodic highs. That consistency has resulted in a catalog of songs remarkable for its sturdy, workmanlike, even-keeled craft, and much of the best of it is present on Live at the Horseshoe Tavern, recorded at the cozy club of the title located in Toronto. In fact, the recording might be thought of as that time-honored, classic rock extravagance -- a Best of (Live) album. Sprout Comes Alive! Unlike some of the double-length behemoths of the '70s, though, Sprout's consummate skill as a writer very nearly sustains Live for its entire two-CD playing time. The selection re-airs most of the artist's finest work and is split roughly evenly between solo material and the stellar contributions he made to GBV, with a few songs from his Eyesinweasel combo and, for good measure, a tune from his one-off collaboration with Pollard, Airport 5. The set ends by introducing demos of three new songs. It's all good stuff, of course, and while none of the readings of past highlights here are revelatory, the band is in fine form throughout, and it's nice to hear these songs gathered together in the same place for the first time. It'll do the trick until a proper compilation of the best of the singer/songwriter's studio recordings finally hits the market, as it should.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2