Boston “Life, Love & Hope”

originally posted on Saturday, 11 January 2014

I’ve mentioned this before on occasion, but Boston is one of the first two bands I ever listened to. Van Halen is the other of the two. So needless to say, I’ve had a soft spot for both bands my entire life. It just helps that both bands have made such terrific music. Boston always had a unique and somewhat difficult journey in making their music.

If you look at the time between each album; their debut album came out in ’76, then their follow-up Don’t Look Back came in ’78, Third Stage in ’86, Walk On in ’94, Corporate America in ’02 and their most recent album Life, Love & Hope released last December. With the exception of their first two albums, there were some pretty significant gaps between albums, and some major line-up changes that came with it. The bands first two albums are the only ones to feature the same musicians. After that, band leader and guitarist Tom Scholz decided no musician, other than lead vocalist Brad Delp, was good enough to be in the band and not only started changing the line-up over and over again, but he also started playing most instruments on every album starting with Third Stage.

At first, this Tom Scholz fuelled Boston seemed pretty well. Third Stage is a terrific album, and Walk On, at least I think, is a tremendous guitarist’s album, despite not featuring Brad Delp on vocals due to his temporary commitments elsewhere (Fran Cosmo did a hell of a job filling in though). It was the album Corporate America that I just felt something wasn’t right. Perhaps it’s because it’s the only album that features a healthy amount of songs, four to be exact, that weren’t written or co-written by Tom. I don’t want to go long into it, so I will end my discussion of Corporate America by saying with the exception of a few songs; there was a lack of magic and a bit too much production put in to it.

After the tragic death of Brad Delp, many fans, especially myself, pretty much wrote off Boston from ever doing anything again. We should have known better because eventually, Tom Scholz put together a new line-up featuring some familiar people, such as keeping guitarist Gary Pihl who now remains the second longest serving member of the band. As well, Tom added a few vocalists, one of which being Tommy DeCarlo, who was lucky enough to have been discovered on YouTube and was suggested to Tom that he join the band. I’ve seen this line-up perform. Believe me, it is pretty good, and I’m not just saying that because it’s the best you’re probably going to get.

So that brings us to this past December, when Tom Scholz did the unthinkable and released their sixth album, Life, Love & Hope. I just had to get this album to see if it was worth the wait, and frankly it was what I expected. (My expectations weren’t too high, but they weren’t low either). The album opens with a pretty good track, Heaven on Earth, sung by guitarist David Victor who embodies an exceptional Brad Delp element to his voice. The song has great melodies, and the guitars sound as full as ever with that patented Boston tone. The problem is the drums, just like on Corporate America, they are played by Tom Scholz and sound VERY electronic. At this point though, the drums aren’t a problem.

The album has a few songs re-mastered from the Corporate America album. Really this was just an excuse to get Brad Delp’s voice on the album, so I won’t complain with the decision. Especially because Tom chose some of the few songs from Corporate America that I truly like such as I Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love and Someone (re-titled “Someone [2.0]). There are some differences in the mastering of the songs, but frankly if you have the Corporate America album, you don’t need these songs. The same goes for You Gave Up On Love (2.0), which was slightly re-recorded to feature some of Tommy DeCarlo’s voice.

Brad Delp’s voice is luckily featured on one previously unheard song on the album, Sail Away. This song, which follows the two-minute instrumental Last Day of School, is probably the best moment on the album. Yes that reason is mostly because we get to hear Brad’s voice, but at the same time, the song is pretty great musically. It has a build up at the beginning that reminds me of something that you’d have heard on Third Stage and features both the power and beauty in Brad’s voice. The song isn’t a ballad, and it’s not a hard rocker. It’s just a powerful song.

Tommy DeCarlo’s vocals don’t sound out of place on the album at all. The title track, Life Love and Hope is a good performance on all accounts except for the drums. The drums just really ruin the song’s potential, but luckily Tommy’s well put effort doesn’t go unnoticed. Someday is a good upbeat song, this time around the drums don’t ruin the track, but the sound still somewhat annoys. However, as an all around song, instruments, vocals and all, I feel the song is one of the most standout songs on the album.

Former bassist/vocalist Kimberly Dahme has a lead vocal spotlight on the album as well (not including other moments on the album when she provides back-up vocals). The song If You Were In Love could only have been better if Brad sang it. Kimberly’s voice fits the song very well on this track regardless. Another unique lead vocal appearance on the album is by Tom Scholz. Tom has never had a lead vocal on a song before. He’s had moments where his voice is heard on the previous two albums, but Love Got Away is when we finally hear what his singing voice can do. The song has a similar structure as many songs to this point; it starts off slow and sweet, almost like a ballad, but then it picks up a bit (with that same drum beat). This song does have some good acoustic parts, and I love the sound of the organ, which I feel isn’t heard nearly enough on the album compared to past Boston albums, and the best guitar solo was saved for this song. Tom’s voice isn’t the best, but he can sing. I’m thankful this is the only song he sings.

The album ends with the only true ballad, The Way You Look Tonight, sung by Tommy. The song is probably the nicest sounding song on the album, but is yet again sort of ruined by the drums, so much so that the song kind of sounds the same as many other songs on the album, but if it weren’t for the drums, this would be a very special song and a good closer for the album.

I want to say Life, Love & Hope is good. I really do, but I can’t. The truth is, the songs are all really good and they do sound different enough from each other, but as I mentioned time and time and time again, that electric drum sound playing practically the same beat in well over half of the songs is just so unfortunate. The heavy fluctuation of singers on the album gets confusing, just like it did on Corporate America. It is likely that this is the last album we’ll ever see by Boston, and I find it to be a rather anti-climactic ending to one of my favourite bands and one of the most underrated successful rock bands in history.

ALBUM HIGHLIGHT

Heaven on Earth” –­ The opening track to the album has a good way to reminding listeners how good Boston can be at making beautiful and powerful sounding songs. Most aspects that make Boston such a special band are present here, from the tone of the many heard guitars, to the melodic vocals.

 

FINAL RATING

7.5 (Out of 10)

 

Track List:

“Heaven on Earth” 3:37
“Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love” 5:13
“Last Day of School” 2:02
“Sail Away” 3:42
“Life Love and Hope” 3:57
“If You Were in Love” 4:10
“Someday” 3:44
“Love Got Away” 4:28
“Someone (2.0)” 4:00
“You Gave Up on Love (2.0)” 4:05
“The Way You Look Tonight” 3:52
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