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Boston Eight Years After

October 05, 1986|STEVE POND

"THIRD STAGE." Boston. MCA.

When Boston recorded the hit single "More Than a Feeling" a decade ago, leader Tom Scholz seemed to be some sort of eccentric commercial genius. A mechanical engineer from MIT, he engineered the most unstoppable hit-making formula in years and gave his band the fastest-selling debut album ever.

The lucrative approach was dubbed a combination of Led Zeppelin and Yes, but it was really the apotheosis of corporate rock: Polished, dense, melodic and guitar-laden, Boston's hard-rock sound took ordinary sentiments and melodies and gave them unimaginable grandeur and pomp.

Boston released a second album two years later, but the third comes after a mind-boggling eight-year silence. After all this time, though, the 1986 edition of Boston sounds like the 1976 and 1978 versions. All the trademarks of the band's sound are intact, from Scholz's screaming layers of guitars to the frequent instrumental overtures to Brad Delp's high, wailing voice.

That sound can still be surprisingly persuasive, as when what sounds like a couple dozen guitars rev up for the climax of "Can'tcha Say." The sound adds weight to Scholz's well-intentioned but commonplace songs: The lyrics may mostly deal in pat terms with a journey toward love and fulfillment, but the music is so grandiose you figure the songs must have real import.

Most of the time, though, they don't. This is grandeur in search of a catchy melody or a probing lyric or a good rock 'n' roll riff or something, but most of the time the grandeur has to go it alone. Scholz, it seems, spent so much time figuring out how to make his guitars sound like violins or chimes or synthesizers that he forgot the rock basics.

A couple of questions: Did Boston really need eight years to come up with an album that sounds about as current and timely as "More Than a Feeling"? And is this progress?

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