Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Boston-Life, Love & Hope

Frontiers Records

It's funny, but literally one day after I first sat down to listen to the mp3's for "Life, Love & Hope" for my review a CD copy of the album showed up in my mail. How very strange that is I must say. Very strange indeed. Possibly not as strange as the musical direction of Boston's latest release, but strange nonetheless. 
So anyway, this is Boston's sixth studio album overall and their first new release in some 11 years. It's the first one since 2002's "Corporate America" from which several cuts have been taken. Those tracks include "Didn't Mean To Fall In Love", "Someone" and "You Gave Up On Love". So technically-speaking this isn't an entirely "new" release, but eight out of eleven isn't all that bad right? Then again seeing as there is/was a Best Buy version that offered the bonus track "Te Quiero Mia" (which is a re-arrangement of "I Had a Good Time" with a Spanish chorus) it does seem as if there should have been more new material from the band's sole-driving force these days, Tom Scholz. That's right, these days it's just Tom Scholz calling all the shots for Boston and in addition to arranging the music at hand and playing the majority of the instruments on "Life, Love & Hope" he also engineered and produced the band's latest release. As he's always been his own biggest critic (or is it worst enemy?) everything about "Life, Love & Hope" falls on him whether it's good things like the Brad Delp-lead "Didn't Mean To Fall In Love" (Which reminded me in parts of Dire Straits while it also retains a little bit of the trademark Boston sound of old!) or bad things like the tiring "Love Got Away" which finds Tom looking to go at it almost completely alone. Not the strongest vocalist, Tom is better served when he steps away from the mic and let's other people sing lead like David Victor (opener "Heaven on Earth", which also features Louis St. August of Mass fame, shines with the combination of David's mic work and Schotz's guitar playing) and the late great Brad Delp ("Someone 2.0" and the oddly arranged "Sail Away").  Meanwhile the album also features lead vocals from Tommy DeCarlo (yes) who sounds good on the title cut and one Kimberley Dahme (eh, no!) whose voice seems to drag down every track she's involved with! Sorry if that sounds like a harsh criticism, but she takes what might otherwise be decent AOR numbers ("Sail Away" and "If You Were In Love") and turns them into atrocious elevator music! Those are the type of songs which drive normal people to the brink of madness where jumping in front of a moving train seems like a better option then having to endure mindless drivel! And speaking of mindless, one does have to wonder if Tom took a leave from his senses in regards to the album's use of drum machines! I'm sorry, but for a band like Boston, which the promo material rightly points out has been staple of U.S. Classic Rock Radio thanks to such gems as "More Than a Feeling", "Peace of Mind", "Foreplay/Long Time", "Rock and Roll Band", "Smokin'", "Don't Look Back" and "Amanda", to ditch the use of a live drummer for a piece of digital technology is wrong on so many levels! You would think that there has to be at least one session drummer out there who could have meet Tom's expectations right? So why use a cheap-sounding drum machine then? Why I ask??? Tom, if for some reason you actually read this, listen my friend. The music of Boston (especially your first two albums) was classic rock in it's finest. Even on "Third Stage" (which saw the arrival of drum samples) it was still high-quality rock and roll. So why change all of that? Even if Boston did evolve, which I am trying not to fault them for as many bands change the course of their music over the years to keep themselves fresh and feeling invigorated, taking away the use of live drums cheapened what could have still been pretty solid-sounding AOR. Unfortunately though the drum machines utilized on Boston's latest release stick out like sore thumb and, along with the off-kilter female vocals of Miss Kimberley, make a lot of this release sound remarkably weak and limp! So, while Tom Scholz is trying to steady the boat on one hand with his classic rock skills (again, check out this album's opener which find Tom's guitar playing rekindling some of the magic of Boston of old!) the rest of the vessel is taking on water at an alarming rate due to all the holes (bad drum machines and backing vocals) that have been drilled there with Tom's other hand! It's counterproductive to say the least! Even if you were able to make your way past the fact that this sappy album has five, yes count them folks, five tracks total (!) with the word "love" in them you would still have a heck of a time getting past some of the major flaws of "Life, Love & Hope"! And I'm not even going to start on the production side of things either! It's sad to listen to a release like this and then realize that despite being over 10 years in the making it still sounds as if it was hastily put together with little thought other then the option of re-using previous album tracks as well as (seemingly from the sounds of things) leftover/filler tracks from abandoned projects! Given the fact there are more rejects here then real rockers there's no way I could rightly justify this one to Boston fans or for that matter regular AOR fans!

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I read the same thing on another blog - with all the remakes, it didn't feel like a full album, and what was new wasn't the best they could produce with eleven years to work on it. What a shame.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

Sadly Alex this seems like the last nail in the coffin of what was once a classic rock band. There is nothing wrong with reinventing yourself and changing gears mid-career to shake things up. But, when those changes don't even amount to decent music within said genre (in his case moving from classic rock to AOR)then it's just time to close up shop and move on. For an album eleven years in the making it is a total waste...

4:49 AM  

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