Thursday, 12 November 2015

Boston by Boston (1976)

Boston - More Than a Feeling single sleeve (1976) (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

When I was about seventeen, I worked with someone who had a contact in the local CBS factory and, for a price, they got me a cassette of Boston‘s first album when it was released. To fit the tracks equally on the two sides of the tape, the track listing is different to that of the vinyl, so it became what I was used to hearing. Later, when I obtained the CD, I had to resequence the playing order for comfort. The cassette order is what I have used for reviewing the album in this blog entry. The quality of the recording was and remains high, with Tom Scholtz‘s sharp production and the Dolby noise reduction on the tape. Nearly forty years later and the cassette still sounds good!

Boston’s greatest hit, More Than a Feeling, fades in with a gentle jangling guitar and Brad Delp‘s voice on the first verse, but soon steps up after the singer announces,’I closed my eyes and I slipped away.’ After which, Tom Scholtz plays a solo, the pace increases and the hand claps drive the song towards the first chorus. The pattern is repeated similarly for the second verse/chorus until Scholtz plays his solo proper. With the third verse and chorus, the track fades out. It seems a predictable pattern, but Scholtz’s crystal clear production and pure sounding guitar are superb, while Delp’s glorious voice is the revelation here. The song is about hearing a song and getting more than a feeling, such as the distinct memory of, ‘I see my Mary Ann walk away.’ One could say the same of this track and album; while it creates an agreeable feeling when listening, afterwards there remains an indelible impression of the whole collection.

Acoustic guitar, with a rock ‘n’ roll feel, opens Peace of Mind, becomes an electric guitar line and is followed by harmony guitars. Again Delp lifts the following verse/choruses above the ordinary with his fantastic phrasing, but Sholtz’s guitar parts and instrumental passages constantly change throughout the song. There are hard rock riffs a-plenty, with piercing notes cutting across them. Peace of Mind was the third single from Boston (the second being Foreplay/ Long Time) and was less successful than its predecessors, probably because it was heavier.

Smokin‘ is a straight rock ‘n’ roll track with some funky keyboards and tells of the band being lively and exciting, or it may be about listening to music while smoking marijuana. Something that Boston are very good at is incorporating biographical elements into their songs. At about halfway, Smokin‘ develops a strident keyboards/ guitar passage before the vocals return and it ends. Scholtz demonstrates his skill at using seemingly simple dynamics with complex playing. Let me Take You Home Tonight is the first slow-ish track and is about taking a girl home and hoping to show her a bit of ‘sweet delight’. What could be a bit crass, actually turns out to be beautiful with Delp’s yearning voice and Barry Goodreau‘s inventive lead guitar. His solo has some Allman Brothers‘ sounding guitar, plus a host of others.

Side two of the cassette begins with Rock and Roll Band, representing more of the autobiographical material, along the lines of, ‘Well, we were just another band out of Boston/ On the road to try to make ends meet.’ It is one of the best songs of its type and gives the impression that this is a real band that worked their way around the clubs, while perfecting their playing technique. Rock and Roll Band goes on to give an account of their signing by the men in suits, but avoids the particular details of the contract.

On Hitch a Ride, Brad Delp follows the guitar with his voice to give a background of the city, before the pace increases and he declares, ‘Gonna hitch a ride/ Head for the other side/ Leave it all behind.’ His chilly phrasing and the harmonies paint an effective picture of having to leave the cold of New York in the winter. Scholtz introduces another organ solo, before launching into harmony guitar solos. An impression is given of more than one guitarist playing across each other, but it is unlikely to be the case – it is all Scholtz. The handclaps also make a return.

Something About You has a number of lead and harmony vocal parts, all by Delp. Like Scholtz, he is able to appear as lead performer and a number of backing musicians. Foreplay is a lengthy instrumental passage of guitars and keyboards. Fran Sheehan plays bass and stands out, as does Sib Hashian‘s drumming. After a quiet keyboard passage at around two-and-a-half minutes, a sustained guitar note ushers in all the usual elements, Brad Delp’s delivery, multi-part harmonies, yelps, keys, and eventually plenty of soloing from Goudreau. In 1976, Long Time made a good closing song with Delp telling us, ‘Well I’m takin’ my time, I’m just a movin’ along/ You’ll forget about me after I’ve been gone.’ However, following his tragic death in 2007, he could not have been more wrong. The greatest American hard rock singer was gone forever.

Another irony is that Boston were not the established band they appeared in their ‘personal narrative’ lyrics and polished instrumentation. Scholtz and Delp signed a deal with Epic around the time their band split, so they quickly recruited Barry Goudreau on guitar, bassist Fran Sheehan and drummer Sib Hashian to create a group which could play the songs for a record company audition to finalise the contract. The label wanted Scholz to rerecord his demo tapes in a professional studio, but he reworked them in his own basement studio. Original drummer Jim Masdea played drums on the track Rock and Roll Band. Later, Delp added vocals and the album was mixed by John Boylan. It was only at this stage that the latter and engineer Warren Dewey suggested the name Boston. According to the Remaster 2005 notes, Sib Hashian played drums, Fran Sheehan played bass guitar on Foreplay and Let Me Take You Home Tonight, while Barry Goudreau added lead guitars to the same tracks and played rhythm guitar.

As with BOC’s Tattoo Vampire from Agents of Fortune, Boston’s Foreplay/ Long Time was to be reviewed as part of my ‘From the Alan Freeman Playlist’ series, but isolating one track from an album again seemed inappropriate. So, the whole album was swiftly reviewed in the available time over two days. I feel in my haste, I have done a disservice to Brad Delp, whom I consider to be the best American hard rock singer of all time. My intention is to later write an addendum to the blog entries up to that, as yet, uncertain date.


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