It’s hard to believe sometimes that in the 37 years since their self-titled debut BOSTON are only up to their sixth studio album. Long known for taking almost a decade between releases, Life, Love and Hope is out now via Frontiers Records. I honestly had no idea what to expect in the eleven years since Corporate America, a very lackluster effort. A lot has happened since then; members have come and gone, not to mention the sad and untimely death of singer Brad Delp in 2007. The one constant has always been guitarist and original mastermind Tom Scholz who singlehandedly changed the way we listen to, record, and play guitar, and at the end of the day BOSTON is his baby. So at the very least I was hoping for that cool signature sound of his.
And I certainly got it on album opener “Heaven On Earth” which also features those trademark lush harmonies made famous on the debut and Don’t Look Back. But there are a few problems. My first issue is with the drums. Tinny doesn’t even begin to describe this programming mess. It sounds like a kid in the 80’s experimenting with his first set of Synsonics Drums he got for Christmas. Man alive, the sound is awful! The other problem, for me anyway, is the vocalist-by-committee approach for the songs. It really adds to the unevenness of the record, and also takes away from the music.
But it’s not all bad, not at all. I was definitely into cuts like “Sail Away” featuring vocals by the late Mr. Delp and bassist Kimberly Dahme as well as the title track sung by Tommy Decarlo who joined in 2008. I like this kid’s voice, I really do, and I have to wonder what the album would have been like with him singing lead on all tracks. Luckily, he handles lead duties again on “Someday” which is another album highlight. Delp makes another appearance on a reworked version of a Corporate America song aptly titled “Someone (2.0)” that is light years better than the original. Even the drum machine cooperates on this tune.
“You gave Up On Love (2.0)” is also a nice song, but Tom Scholz’s lead vocals clutter up what is a very good dynamic between Decarlo and Dahme. And when he takes the mic for “Love Got Away” it’s pretty bad. But fear not, Mr. Decarlo is there to steer us home for closer “The Way You Look Tonight”, and while it doesn’t attain the lofty heights of past works it is still a pretty damn good BOSTON song, drum machines be damned. Overall this is NOT a bad record. But the awful drum sound and the vocals being way too high up in the mix really do take away from a mostly good collection of songs. And it certainly doesn’t sound like something that we’ve come to expect from a perfectionist like Tom Scholz. I guess we’ll see what happens in another decade or so, huh?
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Heaven On Earth”, “Life, Love, and Hope”, “Sail Away”, “Someday”