01. Don't Look Back
02. The Journey
03. It's Easy
04. A Man I'll Never Be
05. Feelin' Satisfied
07. Used to Bad News
08. Don't Be Afraid
Produced By: Tom Scholz
Engineered By: Tom Scholz
Mastered By: Wally Traugott
Mastered At: Capitol Records
Cover Illustration: Gary Norman
Design: Tom Scholz
Look Back in Grandeur
By David Wild
When Boston touched down with their second album Don't Look Back in 1978, much was made by earthbound rock writers of the two years that had elapsed in-between the band's wildly successful first musical visitation and this new dawn arrivin'.
In any case, Don't Look Back turned out to be - by any fair standard - well worth the wait. If some folks at the time were ever so slightly disappointed, it may have been simply because it turns out that you really can't lose your virginity twice.
In truth, Scholz's approach has always been a time-consuming and surprisingly homespun one. "Because of the way I worked, I never really left the basement," he explains. "When I moved I built a new studio in a new basement and I've never ended up recording in any recording studio for all the Boston albums. We were the one multi-million-selling basement band that never left the basement."
The second time around for Boston, things were different. Now the world - and the record company - were waiting, and not always patiently either. Fortunately, Scholz still had a bit of back catalog of songs to call upon - including "Don't Look Back," the song that would lend its name to Boston's second musical statement.
True to Scholz's then-growing reputation as a mad scientist/guitar god, Don't Look Back emerged as an impressive variation on the debut's successful formula - one that the M.I.T. grad had apparently whipped into shape in his basement lab in his off hours developing products for Polaroid. Reviewing the album for Rolling Stone, Ken Emerson astutely noted, "Don't Look Back isn't a departure from, but a consolidation of, the sound introduced on Boston's dazzling debut album. Once again, mastermind Tom Scholz has marshaled a Mormon Tabernacle Choir of guitars, reworking almost imperceptibly his rich weave of ringing, acoustic tones, piercing electric notes and low-register but high-voltage riffs."
Overall, Don't Look Back offered its own high voltage mix of musical déjà vu and just enough of the shock of the new. Like the Boston album, Don't Look Back kicked off with a beautiful barnburner in the proud tradition of Boston's classic "More Than A Feeling," followed by an instrumental bridge to another pop-rocking gem - this time, it was the suitably searching "The Journey" into the joyous "It's Easy," as opposed to Boston's "Foreplay" into "Long Time."
After this suitably rousing start, Don't Look Back takes an interesting and slightly darker turn. Whereas Boston had spoken almost mythically to the hearts and minds of teenagers with its sunny celebratory spirit, "A Man I'll Never Be" was a slowburning power ballad reflecting real grown-up concerns and lived-in reality. Also, by the end, it really rocks. In his Rolling Stone review, Emerson even compared the seven-minute song to another extended masterpiece, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" - as high as high praise gets in the realm of rock and roll.
Boston's high-flying vocalist Brad Delp contributed a similarly adult song to Don't Look Back in the form of the subtly fab-tastic "Used to Bad News" - another stunner that makes one wish we had heard more songs from Delp's pen over the years. This is not to say that it was all somber - in fact, Delp also co-wrote another song with Scholz here - the much more characteristically upbeat anthem "Party."
Over the years, Scholz has expressed some mixed feelings regarding Don't Look Back. Feeling rushed by the record company, he felt like he wasn't given the time to finish the album to his own exceedingly high standards. Fore the record, the album went all the way to #1 on the Billboard album charts - something even Boston didn't accomplish - although it ultimately sold fewer millions of copies. Considering that Boston remains one of the most popular albums of all-time, that remains an impossible standard.
"I really didn't look back on Don't Look Back for years, but I had to sit down and carefully listen to the album again for this remastering and I was kind of surprised that I really enjoyed it," Scholz explains today. "The thing is I didn't think the album was done - it was too short. Truthfully, the album should have had one more song. As it was, Don't Look Back definitely got pulled out of my hands, but for what it is - which is an album that was short one song - I'm actually really happy with it now. There's some stuff on the album I still really like. 'The Journey' in particular is one of my favorite little ditties and I have always liked the title song. So now I can look back on it more fondly."
While I am not a musical genius like Tom Scholz, let me say that more than a quarter century later, Don't Look Back still sounds damn good to my ears - a sonic blast from the past that leaves me feelin' satisfied.
One last technical note: as a young Boston fan from New Jersey, I remember studying the Don't Look Back album cover and sleeve notes and somehow being impressed that despite the truly state of the art sound, Boston made a point of letting the listener know that there were "no synthesizers used" and "no computers used." And so taking a cue from Scholz, I think it only right that I let the world know that although I did use a computer, absolutely no synthesizers were used in writing these liner notes.
WHO PLAYED WHAT WHERE...
Vocals, Lead: All songs, The incredible Brad Delp
Vocals, Harmony: All songs, (still incredible) Brad Delp
Drums: Almost all songs, Sib Hashian (The Journey has no drums!)
Lead Guitars, Don't Look Back: Barry Goudreau: virtuoso intro, ending leads, plus slide, Tom Scholz: chorus and middle leads
The Journey: Tom Scholz, including effects gone wild
It's Easy: Tom Scholz
A Man I'll Never Be: Tom Scholz
Feelin' Satisfied: Tom Scholz
Party: Tom Scholz
Used To Bad News: Barry Goudreau
Don't Be Afraid: Barry Goudreau: cameo and middle wah slide leads, Tom Scholz: intro, verse cameo, verse intro leads
Rhythm Guitars, The Journey: Barry Goudreau
Don't Look Back: Tom Scholz
It's Easy: Tom Scholz
A Man I'll Never Be: Tom Scholz
Organs: All songs, Tom Scholz
Piano: A Man I'll Never Be: Tom Scholz
Bass Guitar: Don't Look Back: Tom Scholz with cameo appearance by Fran Sheehan
All other songs: Tom Scholz
Hands n' Cans, Percussion: Tom, Cindy, Gloria, Rob, Sib, Fran
No Synthesizers Used, No Compute..er...well,
No Synthesizers Used!
PRODUCED, ENGINEERED, AND ARRANGED BY TOM SCHOLZ
Recorded and Mixed at Tom Scholz's Hideaway Studio, except piano on "A Man I'll Never Be" recorded at Northern Studio, Maynard, MA, engineered by Dave Butler
Assistant Mix Engineers: Rob Rosati, Dennis Coscia and Eric Carr
Remastered in 2006 by Tom Scholz, Bill Ryan and Toby Mountain at Northeastern Digital, Southborough, MA and Hideaway Studio II
All songs written by Tom Scholz, except "Party" written by Tom Scholz and Brad Delp, and "Used to Bad News" written by Brad Delp
Original Art Direction: Tony Lane
Cover Concept: Tom Scholz
Cover Artist: Gary Norman
Reissue Art Direction & Design: Joel Zimmerman
Photography: Ron Pownall
Art and Design Consultants: Kim Hart, Tom Scholz
Original Management: Paul Ahern, Left Lane, Inc. (1978)
Current Management: azoffmusic management (2006)
Special Thanks to Bill Ryan, Kim Hart, Gary Pihl, Toby Mountain, Tim Barrett and Jim Collins for their dedicated help. Also to Steve Simon and Maggie Lange, and to Cindy Scholz whose unfailing support in 1977 made the original recording possible, to John Boylan for his guidance, and to everyone who helped assemble and bail out Hideaway Studio I.
Extra Special Thanks to John Baruck at azoffmusic management
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