Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Great Albums: Boston - "Boston" (1976)

Years of overplay on classic rock radio basically killed Boston for many, but now that nobody listens to the radio it's time to rediscover one of the greatest debut records ever recorded. I mean, there's a reason this stuff was played to death. One-man-band Tom Scholz's custom guitar equipment and production perfectionism led him to create a truly distinctive guitar sound: sweet as candy, but overdriven with distortion and multi-tracked into the stars. To be fair, there were other people in Boston, most notably lead singer Brad Delp, but the band was primarily a studio project, and Scholz's baby the whole way.

Boston is one of a rare few records where literally every song is not only great, but a potential radio single. If you're too young to know "More Than a Feeling", pull that up on YouTube right now. It's the band's sonic manifesto: electric guitar driven, optimistic good-times anthems, with acoustic guitars to add a hint of nostalgia, married to a never ending flow of ear-wormy melodies. The perfect sound for a kegger, a road-trip into outer space, or (in my case) a long night of pinball at an arcade or bar somewhere in America.

And the "deep cuts" on the album (kind of funny, given that they're all radio hits) shake things up nicely. "Foreplay / Long Time" has the requisite epic organ solo and multi-part structure to prove "heavy rock" credentials. The boogie of "Smokin'" flat out rocks, and while the myth-building lyrics of "Rock and Roll Band" are utterly cheesy, that's part of their charm.

"Let Me Take You Home Tonight" is the AM-radio ballad of the bunch, notable now for how sleazy every 70's love song sounds to modern ears. But my favorite track of all is "Hitch a Ride", a declaration of adventure-seeking that climaxes with Boston's most beautiful instrumental passage... and a single manly tear from yours truly.

Boston were the rare hit-makers that made record producers reach for their wallets, but who had real heart, soul and artistry behind the glossy surface. "Boston" the album is one of the all time greats, and few hit records from the 1970's have aged as well. May new generations of fans continue to discover its charms!

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