Released: 2006 (Originally Released 1976)
Out of Print
01. More Than a Feeling
02. Peace of Mind
03. Foreplay/Long Time
04. Rock and Roll Band
06. Hitch a Ride
07. Something About You
08. Let Me Take You Home Tonight
09. Smokin' (Live)
10. Foreplay/Long Time (Live)
Original LP Liner Notes
If you're looking for something to tell you that the band in question is composed of nearly notable former members of various bands, or how many jam sessions the drummer sat in on with rock superstars who are now dead or disabled, or retired, forget it. Unless the names Mother's Milk, Middle Earth, or the Revolting Tunes Revue ring any particular bells, where the people who make up this band called Boston came from is irrelevant to who and where they are now.
Better Music Through Science
It's been such a long time since 1976, but even all these years later, it is significantly more than a feeling that Boston remains a breathtaking rock classic. The album you have just purchased - or perhaps re-purchased - is one of the more stunningly accomplished and enduring debuts in recorded rock history, as well as the single most commercially successful debut album from any band, period. More than seventeen million satisfied customers could have been wrong, but in this case, they weren't. Now that three decades have passed since Boston first touched down in such high and profitable style, it's worth remembering the open secret behind all the commercial success. Boston was - and somehow still is - a thoroughly mind-blowing piece of work.
As one of the original impressionable teenagers whose young mind this album thoroughly blew - with the help of a pair of totally boss Koss headphones, a blessed bar mitzvah gift - I can personally attest to the fact that Boston arrived like some dazzling sonic equivalent of the space age mothership on it's front cover. Right from those gorgeous, haunting opening chords of "More Than a Feeling" straight through to the spirited ending of "Let Me Take You Home Tonight," Boston was a spectacular audio revelation. For those of us there to greet Boston's big landing, it was as if some more advanced civilization was bringing us gifts of prodigious riffs and melt-in-your-mouth melodies. Unlike, say, War of the Worlds, Boston's song cycle represented an altogether pleasant musical invasion - a blissed-out blast of sonic force that for many defined the aural spirit of '76 - 1976, that is. Full of grand romance and harmonic convergence, Boston is glorious music for coming of age, falling in love for the first time or just playing air guitar behind closed bedroom doors until the opportunities of adulthood knocked.
For a band that sometimes battled a bum rap as bloodless "corporate rock", Boston was in fact something else entirely. History suggest Boston was first and foremost a dream-come-true for an unlikely but wildly talented rock genius - namely, an M.I.T.-educated guitar hero named Tom Scholz. Having earned a Masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Scholz went on to get a job dreaming up new projects for Polaroid. Yet ultimately Scholz spent much of his time dreaming up something altogether different - a brilliant rock band that combined the sonic palate of progressive hard rock with the melodic grace and songcraft of the Beatles.
The recording history of Boston's debut is complicated and still somewhat mysterious. Despite Scholz's lyrics to "Rock and Roll Band" - a charming bit of group self-mythology which suggested Boston was your garden variety garage band situation - it now appears that recording-wise, the band was in some ways more of a two-man show, combining the musical ingenuity of Tom Scholz, the group's main songwriter, and the vocal gifts of Brad Delp, Boston's solitary singer. This is not to suggest that Boston's other band members - guitarist Barry Goudreau, drummer Sib Hashian and bassist Fran Sheehan - didn't contribute both live and in the studio; they did. But as subsequent history would indicate, Scholz clearly maintained an unusual amount of hands-on control. Producer John Boylan was impressed enough by Scholz's original demos to allow Boston to be built at least partially around Scholz's basement tapes. By some accounts, the recording even included a little deception - like having the rest of the band in Los Angeles recording "Let Me Take You Home Tonight" (written by Delp) while Scholz secretly tinkered away on the tapes back in his Boston bunker . Suffice to say, whoever played what, they sure did one hell of a fine job.
A few words about the man singing to you here: In all the discussion of Scholz's enigmatic genius as a guitar player, songwriter and producer over the years, it's easy to forget it was Brad Delp who gave the Boston sound a tremendous amount of heart & soul, singing all vocals - lead, harmony, backup - on the first three Boston albums. Delp effectively split the difference between Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company fame and Carl Wilson from the Beach Boys. While Scholz was brainstorming for Polaroid, Delp had been punching a clock at a factory making heating coils for Mr. Coffee machines. For whatever reasons, these two balanced each other perfectly, with Delp grounding Scholz's orchestral guitar-driven flights of fancy into something fantastic yet earthy.
Thirty years later, there continue to be a million reasons to love Boston - for instance, the utter majesty of Barry Goudreau's lead work on "Long Time," the lyrical, almost classical beauty of the instrumental "Foreplay," the vaguely ZZ Top-ish boogie beginning of "Smokin,'" the almost Byrds-y jangle of "Hitch a Ride" and the power-poppy pleasures of "Something About You." The individual parts are all wonderful, but do yourself a favor and try and listen to Boston all in one sitting for maximum impact.
It's ironic to recall the lyrics to "More Than a Feeling" are about the power an old song can have in your life. Thirty years on, the songs on Boston are now golden oldies yet somehow they still retain a little shock of the new.
Like politics, music history makes strange bedfellows.
Boston is not generally been thought of a forefather of the grunge movement - indeed Boston's spick-and-span sound now seems anything but grungy. But I am here to report that the grunge revolution might not have happened the way it did without a little unintentional help from Boston.
It's early 1991, and by now I'm some reasonable facsimile of a grown-up writing for Rolling Stone. Having just moved to Los Angeles, I got to lunch with Geffen Records A&R man Gary Gersh. When we got back to his office on the Sunset Strip, he plays me some new songs from artists with whom he's been working. He turns on an intense, utterly inspired song from some Seattle band called Nirvana. He says the title is "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Later Gary will tell me that I was one of the first people ever to suggest that Nirvana had, against long odds at the time, come up with a massive hit song. For a time, I falsely believe that I am a visionary. Then one day I happened to slip Boston on my car stereo. Suddenly I had more than a feeling Kurt Cobain had heard Boston too. As Cobain would later acknowledge, he was trying to write the ultimate pop song at the time. The one he ultimately wrote - the masterpiece that brought grunge to the masses - did all that with a central riff that had what might be termed a decidedly different strong Boston accent. Take another listen to "More Than a Feeling." Now put on "Smells Like Teen Spirit." You can't miss it.
The point here is not that Boston was the first great grunge band or that Nirvana did anything remotely wrong. Hell, they both were borrowing a little from no less a rock standard than "Louie, Louie." In the end, it's all good - or in this case, it's all great. No, my real point is that the best popular music never really leaves us. Instead, it continues to reverberate in unexpected and sometimes magnificent ways. The music on Boston was of its time, a snapshot of teen spirit as it felt in the Seventies. Yet like all great albums, Boston is now timeless and eternal. That, ladies and gentlemen, is more than a feeling - that is a fact.
1. More Than a Feeling (T. Scholz)
Tracks 1-8 originally released as Epic 34188
Other titles available by Boston:
Original LP Credits
Produced for Reissue by Bruce Dickinson
Project Direction: John Jackson
Art Direction: Howard Fritzson
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