Boston – “Life, Love & Hope”


bostonlifelove_600Boston is an American rock band from Boston, Massachusetts that achieved its most notable successes during the 1970s and 1980s. Centred on guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, and producer Tom Scholz, the band is a staple of many classic rock radio playlists. They have sold over 31 million albums in the United States, of which 17 million were for their self-titled debut album and 7 million were for their second album, Don’t Look Back. Altogether, they have released six studio albums. The debut album, Boston, released on August 8, 1976, was an enormous success. The record ranks as the best-selling debut album in U.S. history with over 17 million copies sold. Over the years they have had members depart and even return (Curly Smith ) and several labels later, and now we see the return of the band with Life, Love & Hope which includes on lead vocals from Brad Delp, Tommy DeCarlo, Kimberley Dahme, David Victor, and Tom Scholz. Work on the album started back in 2003. Delp died at the age of 55 in March of 2007. Though Boston itself is not a ‘Christian’ band but some of its members are.

Boston’s 6th album was released on December 3, 2013, by Frontiers Records, entitled, “Life, Love & Hope”. Boston’s musical style has always been considered by most to be hard rock, whilst including elements of progressive rock into their music. Brad Delp former lead singer was well known for his extended vocal ranges and has been often credited for helping to create Boston’s sound with his signature vocal style. From 2008 till about 2011 Michael Sweet of Stryper was a member of the band. In 2012 Tracy Ferrie from Stryper joined the band on bass. Guitarist and primary song writer Tom Scholz’ has often blended musical styles, ranging from classical to 1960s English pop, in so doing has resulted in a unique sound, most consistently realized on the first two albums (Boston and Don’t Look Back). Their sound has been characterized by multiple lead and blended harmonies guitar work (usually harmonized in thirds), often alternating between and then mixing electric and acoustic guitars. The band’s harmonic style has been characterized as being “violin-like” without using synthesizers. Scholz is well-regarded for the development of complex, multi-tracked guitar harmonies. This in turn has always placed the group with music that has managed to carry itself over several decades without growing tired or old and have cut themselves a niche that keeps them coming, with many hits under their belts, Boston is a band that certainly has tested time and come out kicking strong on their latest release only magnifying their already classic status appeal.

So getting down to the album, Life, Love & Hope is the sixth studio album by American rock band Boston. It was released on December 3, 2013 by Frontiers Records, making it their first studio album in eleven years. Life, Love & Hope is the first Boston album to be released following the death of lead vocalist Brad Delp. Delp recorded vocals on the songs “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love”, “Sail Away”, “Someone”, and “Te Quiero Mia”, the last of which being a re-arrangement of “I Had a Good Time”

On this release we find Tom Scholz producing the album and he also wrote all of the tracks. Kimberley Dahme makes a vocal performance on several songs too, of which adds to the overall strength of the album with her warm vocals. As characteristic of Boston with having several people come in on vocals, we find the album also features new vocalists, David Victor, Louis St. August, Tommy DeCarlo, and Jude Nejmanowski. Also to be noted it’s also the first Boston album to feature Tom Scholz on a lead vocal (“Love Got Away”). He does a pretty good job of it too.

In its first week of release, the album charted No. 37 on the Billboard 200, with 16,321 copies sold. However, the album’s sales fell rapidly after the first week, and it exited the chart after three weeks.

A vinyl double album, limited to 1,000 copies, is in the works, but its release has been said to be delayed until February 10, 2014. As yet I find no further news on that. The question I asked myself before reviewing the album, remembering its been 11 years since their last album, and ultimately it was their first album that put them on the map is there any way it can possibly live up to expectation? Being a fan of the band, that bar was relatively high set from immediately receiving the album to review.

First off one need to realise the magnitude of reviewing a band like Boston, its immersed in a great history and much success, especially in its early years. Boston, like Queen, Rush, Styx, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and a few others are treasured bands, bands that broke moulds, set trends and ultimately are classics. Their debut release moved the goal posts of the music industry, and rock music to a larged extent got changed through that, bringing monumental hits like, “More Than a Feeling” and “Peace of Mind”. It has been 37 years following the release of their self-titled debut, and Boston are back with their sixth studio album “Life, Love & Hope.” It’s been a staggering eleven years since their last offering, 2002’s independently released “Corporate America”. But here they are, and Tom Scholz armed with that awesome guitar tone, shows in many ways again some defining qualities that made the band Boston, what is today to many, a part of rock’s elite. Over all the fans have been waiting expectantly for the release.

What hits negatively on the album is that “Life, Love & Hope” includes three songs previously released on Boston’s last studio effort. The first, “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love,” has been remastered, but honestly bears very few differences to that of the original version. “Someone (2.0)” and “You Gave Up on Love (2.0)” are, as their titles imply, re-recorded versions of songs which similarly were included on “Corporate America.” The two songs do have the upper hand in some respects over their original counterparts, but for those whom are fans of Boston and have been waiting 11 years for something new and fresh from Boston, will find an album sadly compromised by familiarity.

“Life, Love & Hope” does have its golden moments however, and is not an entire loss with songs like “Last Day of School”, which reflects upon the mastery of Scholz as he takes ownership with this instrumental, making it a obvious stand out and highlight, adding at least some life and hope to an otherwise somewhat un-exciting release. Maybe my expectations where to high, or I have an onset of dementia, but I do find myself kind of a little disappointed in it, maybe I am taking it a little too personal, since they still remain as a highly rated band in my book, despite the negatives I have spewed on the release. Is it possible that age is showing on this release?

The album like I said carries a rotisserie of vocalists, and in that which it brings for a talent cast of vocalist, each a dynamic force on their own, would have on think it would save the album providing outstanding vocal melodies that would inherit an explosive applause. But alas other than for “Heaven on Earth”, most the album is covered in bland sounding harmonies that rarely excite the senses.

On the positive side, what attracts me to the album is the fact that it inhibits remnants of those early days in its sound. Giving it that classic rock feel and appeal that made this band great during the 70’s and 80’s. Their single and opening track and lead single ‘Heaven on Earth,’ shines with soaring harmonies. It immediately transports you back to vintage Boston, and effectively opens the album as it slowly introduces you to a more explorational Boston. “David Victor, taking up the challenge sounds a lot like Delp and does a fine job filling his shoes on the album’s best song, “Heaven on Earth”. It adds some much needed strength to the overall album. The song is in all respects a classic Boston tune, and Tom Scholz is right on form here. The album holds it’s self both as confusing and frustrating, as it delivers some classic Boston songs in a mix of lesser quality songs that in some ways depart from that classic Boston sound. Obviously the Boston finger print is throughout, Tom Scholz brings you Boston, though the insistence to go outside of its classic sound finds it bouncing up and down a bit, coming off a little as a rollercoaster ride, filled with many highs, but kept from ultimately being a great album by the lows.

I am impressed that Boston has released an album after 11 years, they have been going since the mid 70’s and still able to put something together after all these years, though one does wonder if the album rests on past laurels? The album misses the jackpot with its dull vocal harmonies and at times simplistic lyrics. It is without doubt and sad to voice that the album does not meet expectation. Remembering that we are talking about Boston here. The band that has met with classic star status in its early years already, not withstanding that this release comes out after over a decade in the making. It is with that and the fact of the who’s who in the band, and the skill attributed to each individual from many years of experience and gold rock status that we would be listening to something of a much higher level than what we hear on “Life, Love & Hope.” That all said, the album is still Boston and will hold a special place in the hearts of many of its fans despite the few disappointments, and still there is enough to like of it to make it and enjoyable listen. If you are a Boston fan then I recommend this to you, but if this is a first time lesson of Boston, I’ll urge you to start at the beginning with their first release and work your way up, and then you might find some appreciation and value in this release. In many respects this album is for those whom have been dedicated to the sound of Boston over the course of the bands existence.

Rating: 6/10

Written by Donovan de Necker

01. Heaven on Earth
02. Didn’t Mean To Fall In Love
03. Last Day Of School
04. Sail Away
05. Life, Love & Hope
06. If You Were In Love
07. Someday
08. Love Got Away
09. Someone [2.0]
10. You Gave Up On Love [2.0]
11. The Way You Look Tonight

“Boston” (1976)
“Don’t Look Back” (1978)
“Third Stage” (1986)
“Walk On” (1994)
“Corporate America” (2002)
“Life, Love and Hope” (2013)

Record label: Frontiers Records, Dec. 2013

Current members:
Tom Scholz – lead and rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals
Gary Pihl – rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Curly Smith – drums, percussion, harmonica, backing vocals
Kimberley Dahme – bass, guitar, vocals
Jeff Neal – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Tommy DeCarlo – lead vocals, keyboards, percussion
David Victor – guitar, vocals
Tracy Ferrie – bass guitar, backing vocals

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission
USA: Metal Helm

Weblinks: Facebook Website

Video below  “Life Love & Hope” EPK

Video below for ‘Heaven on Earth’


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