George Starostin's Reviews



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Bob Josef <> (03.01.2006)

A friend of mine referred to this as the first "proto-generic" album. Which means that Boston, in a sense, pioneered a certain formula which has all of the elements a rock band such as the Who had -- overcranked guitars, classically influenced keyboards, and an overemotive tenor singer - but so superpolished and superproduced that accusations of a lack of real passion were leveled left and right. But it indeed sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time - Boston was original at being unoriginal, if that makes any sense. The hooks were there, and I remember how massively popular this thing was in the fall of 1976, especially the first side (oops, the first three tracks, for those of you young'uns who don't know vinyl), all of which ended up as singles. There are dopey songs on the other side ("Smokin' ", "Rock and Roll Band"), but it's indeed a guilty pleasure (a surprise Christmas present this year). I'm convinced that it had a huge influence on bands such as Foreigner, Kansas, Styx and Journey to give up some or all of their prog ambitions and go for the formula, as well as spawning bands during the 80's (Loverboy -- bleah) that were truly vile.

By the way, you're a little hard on John Candy, I think. Try Only the Lonely -- very nice film.

Breck Brizendine <> (13.01.2006)

To me, Boston is exactly what the cover of the first album promises: tired, done-to-death riffs (the 20th century city -get it?) dressed up with "spaceship" -cheap and pointlessly flashy guitar and keyboards. Is there a redeeming anything on the disc? I dunno... the instrumental has some neat changes... You sure can't get "More Than A Feeling" out of your skull once it's there... But I will not mention the guitar tones. To me they are just empty, glossy noise. And what truly kills me is that this overblown, mediocre band sold millions of records when a real, truly imaginative and diverse band -Be Bop Deluxe- (which featured real virtuoso guitar work curtesy Bill Nelson) struggled to get by... Alas, this was one of the true art crimes of mid-70s rock.

Galen Niles <> (22.02.2006)

The music of Joe Walsh and The James Gang had an obvious influence upon the music of Tom Sholtz - Listen to "More Than A Feeling"; then listen to "Tend My Garden". That "James Gang Rides Again" vibe is ever present throughout that "Boston" album. To say that Tom's music was "derivative" of the music of many talented individuals who came before him would not only be accurate, it would also explain the tremendous mass appeal which it still has today. Those royalty checks just keep on rollin' in...

Cooper Adams <> (13.03.2006)

The "Jellyfish" in outerspace on the cover of Boston's first album are actually giant upside-down guitar spaceships, thought you'd like to know.


Mark Booker <> (28.06.2006)

The Best song on the Album I would say is A Man I will never be...not party, party is just a shallow mean nothing song?

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (22.07.2006)

My Dad told me something once, many years ago that struck me as kind of deep. We were talking about racist comedians and I asked him how he felt about the way British TV portrayed Black people when it first got going, I mean really going, in the late 50s and early 60s. I remember being surprized by him laughing at a joke he heard about a Black tie salesman being referred to as a "tie-coon" which I didn't think was funny at the time {I still don't. But that's coz it's a shit joke}. He said to me that he was never so offended by something that he couldn't see it's entertainment value and therefore be entertained by it. All these years on I'd like to say that that was a heap of crap....but I can't. I'd also like to be able to agree with it......but I can't. Coz I can see what he meant in his own strange way and I've found myself laughing at things that in another era would've angered me. But at the same time, there are some things that I just cannot laugh with or be entertained by. But in his own way {and this was a man equally at home with Communism, the British colonial rule and Nigerian independence, as bizarre a cocktail as I've ever drank} he was advocating a kind of flexibility, one I occasionally have problems with, but one which, in the right context does have some value. And music falls well within this remit. So often, we put all kinds of stances in the way of our enjoyment of certain bands or kinds of music. Bands like Boston for example, are pilloried because of the kinds of "tactics" employed in the creation of their songs. DON'T LOOK BACK seems an almost ironic title coz in a way, they did just that, almost tried to replicate the style of their debut. But loads of bands and artists have done that without one tenth of the flak accorded to this lot. In their early days, the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and scores of others wrote songs that they regarded as commercial, that they figured would sell. And they did. In droves. Of course, they went on to really push the envelope but they didn't start that way. And in truth, we can be rather instantly cynical {I know I have been at times} of what they call "classic" or "arena" rock bands and their "churned out", robotic, unemotional pap.......Nowadays, I tend to think, well, maybe Tom Scholz, the main composer, mover and shaker in the group {it was after all, his brainchild} did actually believe in what he was producing, did like the music, did feel that he invested emotion and feeling and more importantly, maybe this was where his musical niche lay; perhaps this was the only kind of stuff that he could write. Making music was obviously not the only important thing in his life, which possibly explains why there were such ridiculous gaps between Boston albums and why their discography is so small. The other reason is that he's a notorious perfectionist {apart from the vocals and drums, he did virtually everything on the "band"'s debut} and in fairness to him, this album probably wouldn't have seen the light of day until 1983 if Epic records hadn't pressured him for a follow up {after this album, many years were spent in courtrooms, Epic saying they took too damn long to produce albums ! They had a point}. But all my Dad's theories, critics' panning and whatnot aside, I really like tihs album. I don't believe in "guilty pleasures", I'll just come right out and say it ! I like the music of the Monkees, the Osmonds, the Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy & the Partridge Family and a host of other pappy pop acts from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I guess coz I grew up digging these sounds, I don't think of them negatively and Boston are the same. On this LP I have to take my hat off to Scholtz and to a lesser extent, Delp, for the way they craft these songs and to Barry Goodreau, Fran Sheehan and Sib Hashian, the faceless support team, for their playing. I don't know why, but they've been under my skin for over a quarter of a century. Funnilly enough, other bands of their kind of ilk like Foreigner, Journey and REO Speedwagon never did a thing for me, but I had alot of time for Styx and Roadmaster. PARTY is musically very tasty but lyrically I can't stand this type of "let's party" thingy. Basically it's a sex and drug song that is couched in such accessible metal {you could say, metal with the rough bits filed smooth} that it wouldn't have drawn any complaints from anyone with any kind of authority. Stick this lyric onto a rap backing and it would be a different story ! Mind you, the penultimate line about men not being the only ones to like regular sex was pensive. I ain't listened to music radio since the mid 70s so I don't know what "radio-friendly" is, but I imagine that this is the kind of thing people mean. Brad Delp's USED TO BAD NEWS sounds pretty depressing from the opening notes....and it is ! But it's also taken at a spritely pace with some cheesy but glorious organ trills and another high quality lead guitar solo. It's not really guitar by numbers. The lyric reminds me of so many youngsters I've known who seemed to flit from one disasterous relationship ending to another. And DON'T BE AFRAID seems like the flip side, or should I say, the reply and it would be quite a positive message {all is not lost - there is a love somewhere in this world for you } were it not for the fact that the comforter is really on the make ! It reminds me of LET ME TRY by the MC5, although it's musically light years away. I love that precise wah-wah guitar solo. I find Brad Delp's vocals are such that it's easy to get into the sound of them and not pay attention to what he's actually saying. Actually, his singing is as fundamental to the overall sound as the way the instruments mesh together. His harmonies are part complex, part simple. The title track really brings this out, lovely singing, neat ringing guitars, clever bass playing that is easy to miss in the overall effect, quite sensitive words that seem in part a massive bit of self realization, in part a barbed swipe at their critics and that riff ! It's so small and weedy ! But i couldn't imagine the song without it. I read somewhere that it was a shameless attempt to recreate MORE THAN A FEELING but the more I think about it the less it wears well. I honestly think that this kind of song was their bag, so rather than everything being "son of MORE", it's just the pool that they were drawing their water from, a bit like Status Quo in their classic phase. Growth comes in different guises. And sometimes it's hard to detect. Sometimes it's not there at all. In retrospect, it's a good thing they weren't releasing albums each year coz there's only so much of this kind of stuff one can knock out.......THE JOURNEY is a beautiful electronic tone poem, made up of guitars, organs and synths and I suspect that it's Tom Scholtz on his own though I can't prove it. It's not far removed from the sort of soundscapes that could be found on some jazz fusion albums, though not irritating like some I could mention. It segues into the bouncy IT'S EASY. The drummer, Sib Hashian, keeps the pace, time and beat well throughout the album but I can't think of one outstanding thing he does or any song that he changes because of his drumming. That's not a criticism, just an observation; he's the faceless drummer par excellence. The bassist Fran Sheehan, on the other hand, is as crucial a component to the bands' songs as Brad Delp's multi faceted vocals. He's steady enough to mesh as a vital segment of the rhythm team with Hashian; he's also rocking and groovy enough to play melodic counterpoint bass. He really reminds me of some of those great 60s bassists like James Jamerson and Carol Kay from the Motown fold. On many of those great singles from say, '64 through '69, there was this bouncing, bubbly melodic bass style. The bass parts were good enough to follow on their own {try, for example, I WAS MADE TO LOVE HER, YOU KEEP ME HANGING ON, WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED and some of those great Jackson 5's like I WANT YOU BACK, ABC or MAMA'S PEARL} and were like little tunes within the tunes, yet they were rhythmic and steady enough so they never took away from the song but enhanced them big time. When we look back at the development of the bass guitar in rock, not only is it synonomous with rock {unlike the guitar and piano/organ, it's virtually the same age}, Motown's bassists are a vital, but often untold chapter in the volume of the book. In some ways it's Sheehan's playing that makes Hashian seem so ordinary. When I was actually learning the bass, the bass part of IT'S EASY was one of the first basslines I really took notice of and it must have had some effect. The song in question is a good one though the lyrics are pretty shitty. I'm often left wondering if men really say things like this to women. Not so much the sentiment {Ted Nugent does one like this called SPIT IT OUT; there's loads of songs with this sentiment} but the words ! As I said earlier, I really like the album and there are two major highlights among the treasures. One is A MAN I'LL NEVER BE, the other is FEELIN' SATISFIED. Though the former is obviously directed at a woman in the death throes of a stultifying relationship, it's universal enough to apply to just about any situation between people; as a late teenager, it was a song that resonated so strongly with me. It was an uncanny representation of how I felt about my Dad in particular and many people I knew in Nigeria in general. Songs can be comforting at the best of times. Musically, it is beautiful, as tear jerking as USED TO BAD NEWS and you can't help but feel sorry for the guy in the song. The riff played by the lead guitar is absolutely appropriate and the cute piano licks that crop up add real feeling. This is one of those timeless pieces that build incessantly and the climax is so AAAARRGHH that the final piano is a bloody relief. Brad Delp was one heck of a singer when the occasion demanded it. FEELIN' SATISFIED is brilliant but the lyrics are in the "Party" vein for me. Usually I can't stand these "rock and roll is everything" type lyrics. Ha ha, but I'm never so offended by something that I can't be entertained by it..........just joking ! But there are alot of these kind of songs {maybe that's generic !} and I can really sing wildly to them coz they just happen to be couched in great songs-as is this one. It's words remind me of something Lemmy of Motorhead said about rock, how it was designed to take people away from the boring humdrum of their lives. I think that's a minor part, not the whole deal, coz rock or any other kind of music is just not the be all and end all. Life has more meaning than that, methinks ! Great song though, with all the Boston ingredients; lyrics that scan well regardless of meaning, emotive vocals, great harmonies both in the voice and guitar, neat balance between acoustic and electric, rhythm and lead guitars, something that engages the listener further {in this case the handclaps}, singable melody and bouncy bass aided by beefy drums. There's a lovely little arpeggio on the guitar just as the song has all but faded out and there you have it. I don't really care if it's arena rock - arenas were around in rock 14 years before starting with the Beatles; I'm not interested if it's corporate rock- I laughed when I heard Sholtz say there's no way someone who had been in as much litigation with the corporations as him could play corporate rock; I'm not bothered if it was cynically put together to sell- I am, after all, a consumer and didn't Beatle John admit to exactly the same thing ? He referred to most of his pre-Yoko songs as "songs for the meat market" and "having no thought whatsoever but to create a sound-it's the sound and the hook we were going for...". But that doesn't sound like this album, not at all. Funniest thing, DON'T LOOK BACK rocks harder than Led Zeppelin for their last two albums and Deep Purple for their last two {at the time}, almost impossible to imagine just three years earlier.


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