FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 54: Boston – Boston

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 54: Boston - Boston

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 54: Boston – Boston

This is the fifty-fourth entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.

I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.

If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.

This time I’ll be talking about the 2nd best selling rock debut in the US, Boston’s Self Titled album. Usually before I get into the record itself though, I spaff on about its genre for a bit.

The genre for this is a tough one. I don’t remember reading what it was. I’m not sure what it is. I mean, is it just Classic Rock? If so it’s a bit late to the game, all the biggest and best bands there started between 1968-1972. I guess, based on the linear notes, Boston actually had been going at the right time but just got signed late, so, maybe.

If so, hey, I’m up for that. I like Classic Rock a lot. I’ve got all the early Kiss, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Heart, Hendrix, Queen, Rainbow, Deep Purple and what have you. I’ve tried out some more obscure stuff like Sir Lord Baltimore, Captain Beyond, Leafhound and Primevil too. I’ve messed about with Blackfoot and Skynyrd who do the trick a lot but I still need something that little bit more consistent. Skynyrd’s live album is absolutely on fire, but I’d love a few studio albums that were both that consistent and that energetic. I tried ZZ Top for that but it isn’t working for me. I tried a lot of Foghat and Mountain too, but they were miles too inconsistent for me. An album full of ‘Honey Hush’ and ‘Fool For The City’ sure, shame they only did about two of those quality tracks per album. Thin Lizzy are kind of the same, they’d make a superb greatest hits record but listening to each individual record doesn’t yield as much barnstorming rockers as I’d hope. Van Halen are proving promising for me but they’re so all over the place its hard to get used to. I was also looking for a classic rock band who played the hard stuff all the time. Y’know, instead of two rock songs per album and then a bunch of folk, prog, blues and jazz? I mean, Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock’ is kind of the closest thing, and Kiss did a fairly good job, but I just crave some album where every song is as good as the best stuff.

The other option is like, AOR. Are they a Rabin era Yes or an 80s Kansas? Are they a Styx, Asia, Foreigner or Journey? I’ve never heard of any Prog tendencies in relation to Boston. What are Chicago like? Boston, Chicago, Kansas ? We got our selves a road map here.

To be fair, I’ve never heard anything about them other than More Than A Feeling’s guitar tone is highly sought after. I heard that song a bit as a kid and a lot when it was in that credit card advertisement. The only other Boston bit of trivia in my brain is that a character wears a Boston t-shirt in the movie Grown Ups (which incidentally is not a movie I’d recommend really. In fact its one I’d actively avoided for a while, until I watched it with someone with that sort of sense of humour. I’d certainly pass up the chance to see it again and definitely wouldn’t ever buy it for myself…not my cup of tea) that being said however, even though I didn’t like that movie it was actually that t-shirt which made me go on amazon and buy a copy for 99p. I mean, I wanted to anyway, but it was that actual day that I pulled the trigger. Odd. Weird advertising success story.

Hey, even if it sucks, ‘More Than A Feeling’ is good, and buying that alone on iTunes’d be 99p anyway.

According to the linear notes that came with the CD, Boston spent years in obscurity before hitting it big with an instant overnight success (sort of like The Darkness). They apparently copped a lot of criticism for being boring, sell out corporate-rock, which the linear notes claim to be false due the band’s experimental compositions, years in obscurity and battles/deceptions with the record labels and business people. Apparently their success and easily digestible clean rock sound did influence a host of soulless corporate-rock bands, but they were people copying the characateur and missing the details.

I don’t know about that yet, I’ll weigh in after I’ve heard it.

Side Note: When you see the artwork up close and not just as a thumbnail, the spaceships are actually in the shape of guitars, I never noticed that before. Also there’s a city skyline (presumably Boston’s skyline) inside the spaceships, but I could make that out already.

Side Note: Side note, the linear notes makes waaaay too many ‘More Than A Feeling’ puns. Like, a good 5-8. Two would be the maximum. This is crazy.

[Play]

The album opens up with the aforementioned big hit ‘More Than A Feeling.’ It starts with some acoustic arpeggios, given a bit of soul by the bass, the drums start in all clickly but soon the stick hits the snare and not the rim. A lead line. Then the chorus. I don’t actually recognize the other bits, just the prechorus lead, and the chorus. I don’t feel as though I’ve heard the other bits. I never noticed the hand-claps in the chorus before either. When the solo comes in, it sounds a bit Irish. It reminds me of Thin Lizzy at the start and Queen at the end.

Yeah, the song structure is kind of like Queen. It seems straight forward and commercial, but its actually got a sneaky amount of depth and nuances to it.

Good song. I liked it.

Next up comes ‘Rock N Roll Band.’ Sounds like Kiss. Like ‘Room Service’ in particular. The vocals are very enjoyable. When the chorus comes it kind of looses that Gene Simmons bass boogie, but there’s a tail that brings it back. This is a good song, it’s the kind of thing that would be on quietly in the background of a film during the fun bit. The solo reminds me a lot of Queen’s ‘Brighton Rock.’ There’s a second solo or sort of soloy end that really reminds me of Foghat. Good song, I liked it.

‘Peace Of Mind’ comes on next and sounds really enjoyable right off the bat, it sounds like a classic, it sounds the same way ‘More Than A Feeling’ does, then it unexpectedly turns into a simultaneous cover of ‘Strutter’ and ‘Nuthin To Lose’ by Kiss. The brilliant, summery melodies which follow make me really happy. They sort of don’t match the Kiss sounds, but it’s a nice contrast. He’s a great singer. That chorus sounds even better when it comes back. Then they throw in this heavy Rush sounding bit with lots of drum rolls. Unexpected. Then back to the boogie, with a mix of Skynyrdy solos and this big clean, slow, sort of neoclassical sounding one. Songs all over the place, but its pretending its straight forward. Hmm. That Rush bit comes back. I’d swear I’ve heard it before. Is it in ‘Circumstances’ ? They do one of those dynamic cut outs that I love. I’m totally sold on this song. And then they throw in an extra guitar solo, thanks guys. Yup. Good song again, I like it, a lot.

‘Smokin’ comes in next. Apparently it was a big hit. It has a sort of ZZ Top ‘La Grange’ feel, it also reminds me a lot of Foghat… like maybe a bit like ‘Trouble Trouble’ or ‘My Babe.’ Its definitely a Boogie song. There’s also a very Deep Purple sounding key solo that reminds me of ‘Lazy.’ Oh and I guess it reminds me of Van Halen’s ‘Ice Cream Man’ too. This song is good. It should be cheesy, but its got the right attitude and sort of clean power to pull it off. This solo goes on for minutes on end, taking different speeds and directions and its just a very interesting enjoyable way to keep the essentially one-part song interesting. Oh. They vocals towards the end sound like David Coverdale briefly. This singer is very talented indeed, apparently he committed suicide though. That’s kind of sad.

‘Foreplay/Long Time’ comes on next, opening with a triumphant, powerful and grand hard rock sort of opening that really reminds me of ‘2112’ by Rush, and then its also got this bubbling key thing going on underneath that gives it a sort of ‘Karn Evil 69’ vibe too. It then hangs these long keys over distortion like a live Deep Purple jam would. Then moody almost-silence. Where is it going? Slowly rising feedback. Then oh. A sort of camp stomp and a bright little lead. Hmmm. Unexpected. It takes a few different twists and turns, including an incredibly Queen sounding acoustic bit with hand-claps, then a very In Through The Out Door bit with a brief solo. The vocals are very soulful. A kind of mixture of Freddie Mercury and Coverdale. This is a decent song. Just a shame it wasn’t on its own, with that heavy intro being the intro to a heavy song. Oh wow. When the solo comes in on this one, its blazing shred, very impressive sounding. Then some powerful building up. The actual song is like a slower ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ meets ‘Maybe I’m A Leo’ and ‘My Fairy King’ but the rest of it is all really cool. And even with in that, sometimes the vocals remind me a bit of Hendrix’s ‘Them Changes’ in a good way. There’s this occasional heavy riff that’s really cool, and towards the end it gets energetic, lots of solos, handclaps, the sound gets loud and confusing and saturated, then it all fades out.

Wait a minute, I’ve been listening to this on shuffle. Woops.

‘Hitch A Ride’ comes in next, or is supposed to anyway. Its got a sort of Queen II vibe about it. It’s a bit softer and more feminine sounding, but with this disjointed unpredictable loose structure. Then boom, it throws out this great energetic Hard Rock bit with a key solo, a quick riff that sounds like More Than A Feeling, then it sort of trips over, has a brief guitar solo and goes soft again. Jeez, this is all over the place, its hard to even keep up with. Then a slow Queeny solo, that goes on for ages and is very entertaining indeed. It goes a bit Van Haleny at one point, it sounds like the solo on ‘Women In Love’ to me a bit. Hand claps. Boy this band sure love hand-claps. It fades out on that solo.

‘Something About You’ comes in next. Its got both that Sheer Heart Attack thing about it and that Dressed To Kill thing about it too. It actually has a bit that sounds like ‘Plaster Caster’ off of Love Gun too.
Then a hugely Brian May influenced solo. Its got this sort of summertime waterpark feel to it. You could use it to advertise swimming pools or Butlins. I like it a lot now, but I can tell that I’ll have probably forgotten it in a year.

‘Let Me Take You Home’ opens up with this very Jethro Tull rhythm, but a sort of Van Morison sound, then whiffs of ‘More Than A Feeling’ creep in too. It reminds me of Ron Burgendy et al singing Afternoon Delight too for some reason. There’s an enjoyable little Zeppelin III-y slide solo. This song really reminds me of Freaks And Geeks. If they made more episodes, this would be in it. Also there’s a bit here where it goes ‘so mamma let it be’ with three musical stabs. I don’t know who it reminds me of, but it reminds me so hard. Someone else has did that nearly exactly same thing.

At the end, it kicks off like a Gospel church band getting into a Jesus based rock out. That fades out in about 3 seconds and the album is suddenly over.

And so that’s the whole album over then. What did I think of it? Was it worth it?

Yeah. I liked it. Over half of it is actively good and all of it is at least decent. There’s no out of place slow blues, no 75% folk to rock ratio and its all fairly bright and happy sounding. I think it could’ve done with a stronger ending for sure though. Maybe they should’ve ended the album with ‘Foreplay.’

Otherwise yeah, pretty decent. Not the best thing in the world but good.

I’m hesitant to say I really, really enjoyed it but I’m not sure why. It had less Filler on it than the Thin Lizzy and ZZ Top albums I’ve been listening to. It had less of the shlock than some of the Van Halen. It was a bit proggy and interesting, but not to the point of being over-complex and annoying. All positive things. Maybe it could’ve done with just a few more bangers though.

So yeah. I guess if you like Kiss and Queen check it out.

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