Epic Records, 1976

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


First opener: You think steroids are a problem in baseball? Consider the steroidal growth of the electric guitar between 1966 and 1976… from the tinny strums of early Yardbirds to the cavernous, electrifying, interstellar-rocket-engine-buffed-to-a-crystalline-shine tone of Boston.

Second opener: I blew my daughter's mind with this one just the other day in the car. "Peace Of Mind" was blasting away and she, a 15-year-old acolyte of Green Day, Maroon 5, et al, was bopping along. "Nice guitar sound, huh?" said I. "Yeah!" exclaimed she. "This album came out 29 years ago," said I. "…..!....." said she. (So young, yet so eloquent.)

Third and final opener: Everybody thinks of Boston in terms of huge riffs and pristine production. What's always made them special to me, though, is the weird juxtaposition in much of their material between larger-than-life music and introspective, sensitive-guy lyrics.

I mean, sure, lead vocalist Brad Delp could have been the guy standing on the back of the couch belting it out at the top of his lungs at your high school party. But Boston's composer/guitarist/producer/mastermind Tom Scholz would have been the guy sitting by himself in the corner staring at the lava lamp. Except instead of spacing out, he would have been drawing a schematic of the thing in his head while trying to get up the nerve to talk to the equally shy girl sitting in the opposite corner of the room.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The backstory of this band is the stuff of rock and roll legend… at least, among the pocket protector crowd. Scholz was working on his master's in mechanical engineering at M.I.T. when he started tinkering with demos for some of these songs, working in his basement with a 12-track recording unit. Upon graduating, he was immediately snatched up by Polaroid and installed in their product research and development shop.

Meanwhile, he kept writing and playing and was eventually drafted into guitarist Barry Goudreau's band to play keyboards. Within a matter of months, Scholz was playing guitar and leading the band, which by then included Delp on vocals, Fran Sheehan on bass and John "Sib" Hashian on drums. A four-track demo the group recorded in Scholz's basement studio landed the band an instant contract with Epic.

It's not hard to see why. This disc starts strong, opening with the single that broke the band, and never looks back. "More Than A Feeling" is classic Scholz, a number that starts out gentle, then steadily gains momentum until the soaring solos achieve escape velocity -- all in support of a somber, contemplative lyric. "When I'm tired and thinking cold / I hide in my music, forget the day / And dream of a girl I used to know / I close my eyes and she slips away," goes the key verse. Yes, Virginia, Boston is the introspective guy's air-guitar band.

The next two cuts are equally classic. "Peace Of Mind" features the propulsive pairing of acoustic rhythm and electric lead guitars, a dynamite melody line, and an upbeat, philosophical lyric you can sing along to. As for "Foreplay/Long Time," if you've never listened to this one while blasting down an empty road with the top down, you really need to make it happen sometime. The opening section, a throbbing two-minute instrumental, segues gently into a sunburst of a guitar solo that leads to a powerful verse, a doubly powerful chorus, and eventually to two more solos, each packing more punch than its predecessor. I could -- and did -- listen to this one over and over.

Later on, Scholz gets playful with "Smokin'," featuring some of his best organ work and a finger-snapping lead vocal from Delp, and bangs out a decent piece of guitar pop in "Something About You." To be fair, there is some lyrical cheese here, notably in the self-laudatory and mostly fictional "Rock & Roll Band" and the lounge-quality seduction piece "Let Me Take You Home Tonight."

But even with a fall-off in songwriting quality in the second act, you can't mark this disc down much. It is simply a milestone in rock, and side one (those first three cuts for you young 'uns) constitutes one of the great slabs of '70s guitar rock ever recorded. If you've ever played air guitar in your life -- especially if you were alone and wearing dorky-looking headphones at the time -- this album is a must.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.