Saturday, May 30, 2009

Better Music Through Science

Some serious dudes! Boston weren't glum on record, delivering 8 track car cruising jams to the World.

...was the marketing tag line that today's featured band hated. Now that we're into my Top Four favorite albums of all time, we're hitting discs by my favorite bands of all time. This entry is the mega successful debut record of Boston, released in 1976 and was the best selling debut album of all time until Whitney Houston came along. I heard about Boston through a book of Rock Bands I had in the early 80's and loved the mystique of this forgotten group (at the time it was 1983 and their last album released was 1978). My neighbor had a way cool poster of Boston that I hadn't seen before or since.

This led to me buying their second album Don't Look Back on a trip to vacation in Lake Tahoe. I thought this tape was the greatest thing since sliced bread, playing it endlessly. Don't Look Back was so great, I bought the debut record. The cool sci fi look of the album covers with the flying guitar spaceships were awesome! For years I liked Don't Look Back more than the first, but as time has passed I find I play and listen to the first more now. Listen to the record!

Number 4: Boston - Boston (1976)

1. More Than A Feeling

The first single that paved the way for their whole career, "More Than A Feeling" instantly set the Beantown band up as one of the premier Arena rock bands of the day. With a marching hand clap beat that would be copied by other bands for decades ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" anyone?), the power of those high flown vocals and twin guitar work could not be matched. And because I used to drink a six pack of soda a day, I thought the lyric in the verse was "When I'm tired I take a Coke." Epic wasn't just this group's record label, it was a way of life. One of my favorite songs in high school to chill out to in my beanbag chair in my room. After hearing Brad Delp instantly arrive as an amazing singer, it is truly sad that one of the great voices of Arena rock chose to take his own life.

2. Peace Of Mind

Bandleader / Guitarist / Bassist / Keyboardist / Songwriter / Producer Tom Scholz said he had a thing for classical music. That influence shows in the dynamic rise and fall of The Eagles-on-speed number "Peace Of Mind". An odd juxtaposition of laid back lyrics about chucking climbing the corporate latter against thunderous, tightly wound arrangements makes the song stand out even more. The words about "I understand about indecision and I don't mind if I get behind" pretty much summed up how I felt about having a career when I was a teenager. Brad Delp's mulittracked vocals are glorious and impressive considering the number of overdubs Scholz requires for his music. And the twin guitar solos leading to the give and take between Scholz and Barry Goudreau was magic. Take a look ahead!

3. Foreplay / Long Time

I know I said this before, when this was just a song title to me before owning the record I expected this to be a nasty song about Sex. Instead, "Foreplay" is a prog rock dream with winding boogie grooves and splashy organ playing leading up to the thumping mid-tempo beat of "Long Time". A great song about feeling good and struttin' your bell bottom cool, I'm just taking my time I'm movin' on, you'll forget about me after I've been gone. I'll take what I find I don't want no more, it's just outside of your back door. That was the magic of Boston, feel good songs about relaxing with the most pumped up guitars imaginable. Below is a clip of the band playing in 1979, listening to it reminds me of what a great lead player Barry Goudreau was. Although other good guitar players would join later, for Boston there is no better lead player than Goudreau.

4. Rock And Roll Band

One of the ironies of Boston is that they were perceived as a band more than a studio creation. This was a group that would literally spend years in the studio, album releases would be spread six to eight years apart in most cases. So this song was important in building the myth making that this was a band that came up from the streets and not the studio and what a beautiful myth it is. Hard charging whooshing guitars and kick ass drum breaks fuel the fire as Delp's stratospheric singing carries on about playing in Hyannis and gettin' a record company contract. And as a teen I didn't know any of this backstory stuff so I took it at face value and thought it was freakin' sweet.

5. Smokin'

In the 80's high school students were forced to watch anti drug movies that were made in the 70's (and considering how education is funded, kids today may still be watching these movies). One of those movies, in between interviews of brain damaged kids, highlighted this song as a chief culprit in getting kids to do drugs. The camera slowly zoomed in on the spinning record as it played this song. A heavy trip to lay on my peeps. Still, I can say from experience that Boston is not a gateway drug (experience meaning I've never done drugs) and the lyrics were clever enough to make it about a hot playing band instead of, well, the drug use it alludes to. Boston always had a hippie heart which I think is great.

6. Hitch A Ride

That hippie heart means you gotta thumb your way around. The mix of acoustic and electric guitars are well placed, particularly at the end where the two guitarists again trade solos backed by another hand clap beat. A good place to mention that Barry Goudreau has been attributed to helping build the classic Boston sound by other former members of the group, which explains why he keeps coming up with new groups that sound like Boston minus the 6 to 8 years of overdub production. Scholz used to say on many guitar parts you're actually listening to hundreds of overdubs to get that thickened tone. Can you imagine playing the same guitar parts over and over for half a decade? As impressive as it is crazy.

7. Something About You

Used to be my favorite on this album, loved listening to this on my walkman during the hour long school bus ride each day. I liked the dynamics of it, how the guitars and overlapping vocals would stack on top of each other. I got to got to have you! Followed by whooshing guitars. Three minute magic if there was one.

8. Let Me Take You Home Tonight

The official Producer of this album was John Boylan (Little River Band), though there is no doubt that Scholz set up the bulk of this project. "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" was reportedly the one song Boylan produced with the band sans Scholz who was finishing up the rest of the album at home. This song sounded like it had a touch of steel guitar twanginess as the tune starts off slow and builds to a racing finish. What guy didn't want to say this to a girl when they're a teenager?

Boston would have more success, combined with Don't Look Back and Third Stage form a nice trilogy of fired up peace and love. Looking at it in the present, the debut album had the best material and a certain innocence that would be lost amid a constant flurry of law suits in the decades that followed. Happy, pot smoking free lovin hippies with giant sized afros (well, just one of them had the 'fro) who could blast through arrangements tighter than a squirrel's ass. That was the pure awesomeness of Boston in a nutshell. No synthesizers were used in the typing of this post.


Jeannie said...

I freakin' love Boston.

I love the YouTube clip, BTW. Very cool. And though my favorite song from this album for years had been, "More Than A Feeling", "Something About You" has definitely topped it- for every reason you listed.

Nice post, hon.

Anonymous said...

Mike, thanks for all the kudos for BOSTON but you have a lot of your facts wrong. Please see for the backstory on the band and check out the latest BOSTON GREATEST HITS from Sony Legacy (in eco friendly green packaging) for the correct lyrics and for who played what on the recordings.

Keep Rockin' Boston Publicist

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks Honey! We both like Boston a lot :)

Hi Boston Publicist thank you for reading my post, it's appreciated! I'm actually really flattered and enjoyed the link. Thanks!

Arsenette said...

Can't count myself a HUGE Boston fan but the fact that I recognized more than half the list is a testament to the fact that I have listened to.. know most of the lyrics and didn't shut it off for something else :) So yeah I like Boston :D And for some unknown reason.. I would actually confuse this band with Toto.. why? They don't even SOUND alike..

Mr. Mike said...

That's true, Boston and Toto are not similiar but often get lumped in the same category along with Foreigner and Journey. One word bands that were popular around the same time playing generally inoffensive rockers and ballads with a regular guy image.

Arsenette said...

When I told hubby about the blog and my comment he agreed. Same time frame and since I didn't really know both.. I still lump all of them in the same bunch.. though.. I tended to like Journey and not Foreigner as much.. still like them both though.