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If one can imagine gruff Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance relaying a mid-70s fantasy ad for the Massachusetts band, then it would probably go thus: “First we took a JOURNEY via the river STYX, then on to KANSAS on a REO SPEEDWAGON – now we have BOSTON on a mission to rock the planet…” – this tells us at least who was in their corner. From the initial raucous riffs and screams of their anthemic debut platter, `More Than A Feeling’, and on to a string of “spaced-out” albums (as depicted on their cosmic cover sleeves), BOSTON paved the way for a new breed of cosmopolitan arena rock combos such as FOREIGNER, ASIA and EUROPE.
Formed in 1975 by technical whiz kid and musical genius, guitarist Tom Scholz, who’d set-up his own basement studio in er… Boston, for many years since he was a teenager writing songs, he finally upgraded musically. Signed to Epic Records on the strength of some home-crafted demos, 27-year-old Scholz and singer/guitarist Brad Delp assembled a crew of musician friends: Barry Goudreau (guitar), Fran Sheehan (bass) and Jim Masdea (drums) – the latter duly ousted for John “Sib” Hashian – and set about creating their first opus.
Quintessentially mid-70s, yet one of the most enduring AOR tracks ever recorded, BOSTON’s debut single, `More Than A Feeling’, gave the band almost immediate Top 5 recognition upon its release in August 1976. With its powerful twin lead guitar attack, softened with flawless harmonies, the song set a blueprint for their eponymous BOSTON {*8} album. While the record contained nothing else quite as affecting (`Peace Of Mind’ and `Long Time’ were also hits), it was all well written stuff and highly listenable if one ignored the cliched lyrics. Inevitably, the album sold in its millions and the pressure was on to record a follow-up. Notoriously perfectionist in the studio, Scholz was unhappy with a mere two years to craft DON’T LOOK BACK (1978) {*6}. While the title track was top drawer car-stereo material, the formula was sounding tired, and the bulk of the album (including `It’s Easy’, `A Man I’ll Never Be’ and `Feelin’ Satisfied’) didn’t lend itself to repeated listening. While Scholz complained that its relatively disappointing sales (still in the millions!) were down to the record being released prematurely, it was, after all, the height of the punk explosion, when sleeve designs of intergalactic guitars were not particularly appreciated by the kids (in Britain, at least).
It was to be another eight years before the faceless BOSTON returned with a follow-up. During this period, Scholz signed with M.C.A. and a legal battle ensued with former paymasters Epic/Columbia. In the meantime, BOSTON went on a sabbatical of sorts; the elusive third album shelved or obviously uncompleted. Goudreau released a solo album late in 1980 before, in ’82, he formed ORION THE HUNTER; for this project he was augmented by Scholz and Delp, while Hashian joined SAMMY HAGAR’s band
BOSTON re-grouped around Delp and Scholz, who drafted in guitarist Gary Pihl and the returning Jim Masdea. The boffin-like Scholz also found time to invent the “Rockman”, a device that amplified guitar sound at low volume for home recording. THIRD STAGE (1986) {*6} boasted another air-brushed space fantasy cover and another set of reliable melodic rock songs; `Amanda’ reaching No.1 in the singles chart, the album itself achieving a similar feat (but only Top 40 in Britain). Yet again it quickly sold over a million copies but the BOSTON concept reeked of staleness, even if it yielded big hits `We’re Ready’ and `Can’tcha Say (You Believe In Me): Still In Love’. Early in 1990, Scholz (aka BOSTON) won $million lawsuit against his former corporate bosses.
After another interminably long lay-off in which Delp and Goudreau – aka RTZ – served up `Return To Zero’ (1991), an album that featured Top 30 hit, `Until Your Love Comes Back Around’ (and minor ones `Face The Music’ and `All You’ve Got’), Scholz’s BOSTON came up with WALK ON (1994) {*4}. In Brad’s place was former ORION THE HUNTER member Fran Cosmo (vocals, guitar), with others such as Gary Pihl (guitar), David Sikes (bass, vocals), Doug Huffman (drums), Bob Cedro (rhythm guitar, effects) and Tommy Funderburk (backing vocals), making up the numbers. Unsurprisingly, the album – featuring one hit `I Need Your Love’ – reached only Top 10 status and stalled outside the Top 50 in Britain; Scholz had clearly tested his fans’ patience once too often.
After another interminable lay-off when most people had probably forgotten the band ever existed, BOSTON returned in 2002 with CORPORATE AMERICA {*5}. Anthony Cosmo (guitar, vocals) and the returning Brad Delp (vocals) had superseded Cedro; Curly Smith had replaced Huffman and female vocalist Kimberley Dahme had also been added. Despite the implications of its title, the Top 50 record was, as usual, more centered on Scholz’ painstakingly crafted, classic rock creations than topical analysis. There were few surprises here, except maybe that the man’s creative trajectory was as uncannily straight as it ever was; examples `I Had A Good Time’, `Cryin’’ (OASIS, anyone?) and the soft `You Gave Up On Love’.
Tragically, Brad Delp committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on March 9, 2007, but in a way of a tribute, Scholz/BOSTON retained his vox on a handful of subsequent tracks; Sikes and both Cosmo’s were replaced by, in turn, adding vocalists David Victor, Louis St. August, Tommy DeCarlo, Beth Cohen, Jude Nejmanowski and Jeff Neal. And this was the line-up for 2013’s LIFE, LOVE & HOPE {*4}. 37 years since their greatest hit `More Than A Feeling’ was giving a life-line to hard-rock fans, the same couldn’t be said for the derivative but dated `Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love’ and `Heaven On Earth’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD-BG/MCS // rev-up MCS Jul2015

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