Third Stage


MCA Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's almost considered career suicide for any band to wait an extended period of time between album releases. The fickle tastes of the consumer, plus the shifting alliances of the executives in the music industry, almost demand that groups keep material in front of people's faces in order to remain successful.

Tom Scholz, the brain behind Boston, looked at that rule and said, "The hell with it." He had rushed out Boston's second album, Don't Look Back, before he was perfectly happy with it, and the end result was indeed disappointing. So, against the demands of his label, he took his sweet time on Boston's third album.

Eight years - that's how long it took for Third Stage to hit the market. In that time, Scholz and Epic Records sued each other, with Scholz eventually winning his freedom from his recording contract and giving him the ability to sign with MCA Records. The band also saw its ranks shrink; by the time Third Stage was done, Boston was essentially only Scholz and vocalist/guitarist Brad Delp.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So was the end result worth the wait? Uh... I'll get back to you on that one.

There is no doubt that Scholz still knew how to write a powerful song. The leadoff single (and first track) "Amanda" is evidence that a ballad can be pretty and still have some teeth to it. The follow-up track, "We're Ready," is a powerful follow-up that shows the heart of Boston was still beating strongly. Yes, you could claim that it was a bit formulatic when compared to other Boston hits - but, then again, that's exactly what Boston's sound is, no matter how you look at it. The banshee wails and crunching guitar are essential to the picture.

The problem with Third Stage is that these two songs - plus "Can'tcha Say / Still In Love" - are the only real rock-solid efforts on this disc. And when a long-awaited album clocks in at just under 37 minutes, you expect each and every song to be well worth the wait.

If only that were the case. "The Launch" and "A New World" both seem like they want to continue the instrumental/rock song pattern that was laid out on Boston with "Foreplay / Long Time," and to be honest, that formula got real old real quick. I also have to wonder what Scholz was thinking when he combined "The Launch" with "Cool The Engines," a song which has to rank with "Party" as one of the lamest that Boston has ever done. And listen closely to "My Destination" - hear shades of "Amanda" in there? I don't know if the first side was supposed to be somewhat conceptual - at times, it does have that feel - but if it wasn't, then one has to question why Scholz relied on a key melody for two songs.

The second half of Third Stage makes one wonder why, after eight years in the making, things sound a little half-baked for Boston. Tracks such as "To Be A Man" and "I Think I Like It" just don't have any real punch to them like one would expect. Maybe it was just that expectations for this disc were set so high - even today, over 15 years after its initial release - that even Superman would have had troubles clearing those hurdles. That all being said, the album's closer, "Hollyann," is a beautiful piece of music which does seem like it tries to push the envelope when it comes to Boston's trademark sound. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something unique about this song which sets it apart from the pack.

In the end, Third Stage really isn't a bad album, though it doesn't seem like it lives up to the hype of having to wait eight years for it. Then again, I wonder if anything would seem like it was worth it if you had to wait that long.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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