Hearing the opening chords of “Heaven on Earth,” the first track on Boston’s new Life, Love & Hope, a listener can be forgiven for thinking it’s 1976 all over again. That’s by design.
Boston main motor Tom Scholz has made no secret that his sixth release was intended to emulate the classic Boston style, even using the same amps, instruments, and analog equipment he’s worked with for the past 35 years. While many artists now produce their work in home studios in the same fashion Scholz pioneered, what everyone else can’t replicate is the extremely recognizable Boston sound best remembered in hits including “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” “Smokin’,” and 1986’s “Amanda.” If you liked that type of pop rock, Life, Love & Hope is the very sort of CD you should pop in the player while you’re cruising down the road. Odds are, you’ll be bouncing your head in time with the catchy hooks and lyrical clichés that have been so distinctive all these years.
One difference between Life, Love & Hope and previous collections is the range of the seven lead vocalists including the late Brad Delp (on three tracks), Tommy DeCarlo, David Victor, as well as Scholz’s first lead on a Boston album, “Love Got Away.” Two of the Delp songs, “You Gave Up on Love (2.0)” and “Someone (2.0)” are remixed versions of tracks from the 2002 Corporate America release, an album of songs Scholz claims didn’t get their due the first time around.
New material includes the instrumental “Last Day of School” with the strutting drama of a prog rock anthem, appropriately leading into the theatrical “Sail Away.” Some numbers not only evoke the Boston of old but the era as a whole, as with the title song with its subtle guitar quotes from “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” The tone briefly shifts with the sixth song, “If You Were In Love.” Suddenly, the voice of Kimberley Dahme offers a melody sounding very much like a track lifted from a Broadway show. No, it’s not the Boston you remember. But fear not. The rest of the set features the layered guitars and harmonies typical of everything Boston has ever done on songs like “Someday,” “Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love,” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”
While it’s been over a decade since there was a new Boston album, Life, Love & Hope can’t fairly be described as any sort of major event. There are no creative breakthroughs, no knock-out hits beyond “Heaven on Earth.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Scholz’s tight craftsmanship is present in every track. The musicianship of all the players and singers is cleanly and clearly mixed in a very pleasant batch of rock nuggets.
The press kit claims “A beautiful full-color booklet with notes from Scholz and detailed song credits accompanies” the disc, but this wasn’t part of my review package. So, to get the inside story, get Life, Love and hope. It’s more of that same old feeling. It was, and is, a pretty good feeling, after all.