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Boston: Boston - Album Of The Week Club review

Boston's debut album was mostly recorded in band mainman Tom Scholz’s basement in Massachusetts, yet went on to shape the studio work of a generation

Boston - Boston
(Image: © Boston)
Boston - Boston

(Image credit: Boston)

1. Foreplay
2. Long Time
3. More Than A Feeling
4. Peace Of Mind
5. Foreplay/Long Time
6. Rock & Roll Band
7. Smokin'
8. Hitch A Ride
9. Something About You
10. Let Me Take You Home Tonight

During the making of his masterpiece, over five long years, Tom Scholz famously led a dual life. Between shifts as a design engineer for Polaroid, he’d be locked away in his home studio in Boston. “It was my escape from the world,” he said. But the music he created would find an audience of millions.

All but one track of Boston’s debut album was created in Scholz’s basement. It’s a classic, landmark album, immaculately crafted and full of great songs: Peace Of MindSmokin’, the epic Foreplay/Long Time and, greatest of all, More Than A Feeling, Boston’s definitive statement and one of the beautiful rock songs ever written.

Remarkably, the album made by boffin Tom Scholz in his basement was the biggest-selling debut of all time until Appetite For Destruction a decade later. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

In August 1976, Epic Records launched Boston’s self-titled debut album with a bold advertising slogan: “Better music through science.” Tom Scholz, the group’s leader, thought that was bullshit.

Scholz was no ordinary rock musician. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was still employed as a product design engineer for the Polaroid Corporation when the Boston album was released. He had created the album in a basement studio that he had built himself, using new recording technology that he had invented. He worked mostly alone, obsessing over every detail in the music. And he did this for more than five years before the album was complete.

What Scholz had created was a groundbreaking album: hard rock elevated to a new level of melodic sophistication and state-of-the-art production. But he hated that slogan. “I thought it was a terrible reflection on the album,” Scholz says. “I can’t argue that I put my technical background to work when I was trying to make the record. But the music itself had nothing to do with science. Music was my escape from that world.”

Other albums released in August 1976

  • Good Singin', Good Playin' - Grand Funk Railroad
  • Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music - Hawkwind
  • No Reason to Cry - Eric Clapton
  • The Roaring Silence - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • Honor Among Thieves - Artful Dodger
  • Jaco Pastorius - Jaco Pastorius
  • The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers
  • Second Thoughts - Split Enz
  • Viva! - Roxy Music

What they said...

"A landmark of Seventies hard rock, from the not-so-mean streets of Watertown, Massachusetts. Tom Scholz, an MIT-educated Polaroid engineer, spent years in his basement studio, devising the perfect sonic formula. He found it, which is why Boston has remained in constant radio rotation ever since." (Rolling Stone)

"Boston could hardly have gotten off to a better start – of course, the very reason they happened at all is because they got off to such a strong start. Even if they never quite matched the ambition, skill, and passion that went into this project, the commercial and critical glory this debut received was enough to outdistance Boston from the rest of the crowd and prove their talent to the rest of the world." (Sputnik Music)

"An absolute treasure of melody and architecture. It has the immediacy of pop, but also the deliberate intricacy of prog rock; it has California pop’s attention to zealous sweet harmony, yet it also has some of the heaviest and most memorable guitar riffs on the planet." (Observer Music)

What you said...

Tom O'Brien: One of those rare albums that can be played from first to last track without skipping any songs. Great musicianship. The layering of musical instruments was unlike anything else being played at the time and so it stood out even more. Fortunate enough to see them (with Sammy Hagar opening) on Don't Look Back tour and the songs were even better live.

Philip Qvist: When I was at high school, all the kids around me were walking around with Boston written on their school bags and carrying their first two albums; and I was left wondering what the big deal was all about - I hadn't even heard of the band.

A couple of my mates then played a few of their songs to me, such as More Than A Feeling and Don't Look Back, which I recognised (and liked), but it wasn't until the early 80s that I listened to their first two albums in its entirety - and, to quote their second album, I have never looked back.

Enough has been said about Boston's debut and most of it is true. Classic and masterpiece are two overused words in music, but not in this case - this is a 10/10 masterpiece, with no duds on it.

The biggest compliment that I can say about this record is that both Don't Look Back and Third Stage (both bloody great albums in their own right, and both worth at least 9 stars) sound inferior to Boston.

A superb album, which every household should own

Bill Griffin: Boston is not only one of the best debut albums of all time, it is one of the best albums of all time period. It was heavy enough for the rockers, inventive and melodic enough for the proggers and commercial enough for the pop fans. The perfect antidote for the burgeoning disco scene.

My second concert was the band's second round of North America in support (with Nils Lofgren and Starcastle opening). Even with two new songs (which remain unreleased) and two more new ones that appeared on Don't Look Back, they still didn't have enough material to satisfy the crowd and had to repeat a couple songs.

Richard Price: Scholz is a bona fide genius. Never tire of hearing this album front to back- all killer, no filler! Only wish I’d seen the original line up (inc the astonishing Brad Delp) live.

Tito Lesende Galán: It seems just impossible creating an album like this in those given conditions. You can't touch Scholz. He's a mastermind!

Jonathan Novajosky: A true masterpiece. I seriously cannot think of any other album where every song gets radio play. The songs are instantly recognisable thanks that classic guitar tone and Brad Delp's amazing vocals. Some of the organ solos here stand among the best in rock history - going toe to toe with the likes of Jon Lord or Rick Wakeman. The solo on Smokin' is truly ridiculous.

My favourites have always been Rock & Roll Band, Foreplay, and Something About You, but every song is enjoyable. I can't imagine the level of skill and ability it took for Scholz to create this album while working a day job at the same time. There are maybe around twenty albums that I would give a perfect ten to, and this is one of them. Boston is the perfect debut album. 10/10

Keith Barry: An album that defined a new genre. And is yet to be beaten in that genre. More consistent than its contemporaries, brilliant production that still sounds sharp, great arrangements & harmonies and a distinctive sound that can't be mistaken for anyone else. They never got near it again, but neither did any of their rivals. Foreigner 4 and Escape are the other AOR standout albums but this beats them in virtually every aspect.

Chris Downie: True game-changing albums are few and far between in music, debut albums even more so. In an era where bands routinely received multi-album deals and actually had the requisite time to build a career (many greats like Deep Purple, Rush and Judas Priest took three or four albums to really hit their stride) Boston unleashed a true masterpiece.

There is little I can add to the well-deserved accolades it has received over the years. However, there is one crucial counterpoint to all of this; it proved to be an albatross around their necks. Never again did they reach such heights and their every subsequent musical endeavour was held up against it, but ultimately fell short.

While their place in history is a solid one, they are ultimately seen (like Montrose) as a band who peaked too early. I often wonder that if Don't Look Back had been released first and the debut second, we would be talking about two bona-fide AOR classics, then what would their legacy look like today?

Joe Cogan: I know I'm probably going to take a lot of abuse for this, but I always regarded this as one of the main albums that made punk rock necessary. Soulless, sterile, slickly produced fluff, with all the substance of cotton candy, Boston is clearly influenced by bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to Yes, if both bands had their collective balls cut off. 

They weren't a corporate rock band per se (far from it, as subsequent lawsuits would make clear), but they did unwittingly invent the particular genre stylistically, and, as such, are also responsible for bands like Foreigner, and inevitably, over time, for records like Def Leppard's Hysteria, about which literally every criticism I made of Boston's debut above could just as easily apply.

Shane Reho: This is hard for me to listen to, not due to the music (most of which is very good), but due to radio overkill. However, I can't hold that against the album. Great music is great music. Now, to the album itself. More Than A Feeling starts things off on a high note, introducing you to Boston the right way. 

Peace Of Mind is a great rocker. Foreplay sounds like something you'd expect on a late 60s album, but it bleeds into Long Time perfectly, resulting in the best song on the album. I've never been a big Rock & Roll Band fan, it just feels like a run of the mill song to me, even though I do admire the deception with the fake band history. Clever. 

Smokin' is the most fun song here, just a great jam, made even better when it was used in South Park a couple years ago. Hitch A Ride is a good song to chill to. Something About You's verses are good, but the choruses are pretty generic. Let Me Take You Home Tonight has a good tune, but the lyrics could've been better. Overall, it isn't perfect, but it isn't a classic for no reason. 8.5/10.

Andrew Bramah: This and Frampton Comes Alive remind me of summer '76. Boston is a ground breaking album on many levels. Some of the best guitar and vocals ever recorded at that time. I remember reading an interview with Eddie Kramer who was asked to produce Boston's first album and Kiss Alive. He listened to the Boston "demos" and thought it was ready to release with minor tweaks. He listened to Kiss and thought "these guys need serious help". The rest is history.

Roland Bearne: Very very few artists have managed to find that serendipitous blend of music, performance and songs to produce a near perfect album. Arguably Michael Jackson with Thriller and Def Leppard with Hysteria. Boston proved it was possible with this extraordinary album. But it would be a minor insult to invoke serendipity to loudly, yes there is an element of musical zeitgeist involved but here we have a Swan! Apparently all grace and power but below the surface a huge amount of work is being done. 

This, along with other two albums cited convey atmospheres of joyous ease, but in all cases the sheer amount of work and dedication gone into producing is probably beyond the ken of most mortals. Boston is quite simply flawless. Listening to it in HQ format with really good headphones helps reveal the beautifully crafted layers within each track, oh you might be able to play the patterns in More Than A Feeling but then what. 

The musical delight ranges from guitar lines of infinite taste which never overstay their welcome to keyboard textures worthy of Jon Lord to Brad Delp's soar away vocals gently inviting the guitar to take flight. The songs are just foot tapping, sing along slices of cream cake deliciousness. In '85 I had a girlfriend from the US who couldn't believe I didn't have the album and bought me the cassette. Played to stretch warbling! Recently I've only played Third Stage which is musically even more sumptuous, but not quite this. It will always remain one of the absolute essentials. Hitch that ride!!

Tim Kaufman: If you wanted to get someone into 70s classic rock, this is one of the few albums that should be labeled as part of the "Starter Kit." This album belongs in the tier 1 class of 70s classic rock. This is a quintessential classic rock album. Tom Scholz channeled in his inner Brian Wilson when creating this album because you could tell that the production was done by someone who's a perfectionist and he succeeded. 

Brad Delp has such an incredible range especially on More Than A Feeling. The tracks More Than a Feeling, Peace of Mind, and Foreplay/Long Time are staples on classic rock stations and rightfully so. There are multiple reasons why this is certified 17x platinum

I gave this a 9.25/10 and what was missing from making this a perfect 10 is the little things. I thought they were running out of lyrical ideas near the end of Smokin' where they just tried to reword what was said in the first verse. Hitch A Ride I would say is my least favourite because the subject sounded too familiar to Foreplay/Long Time and the lyrics tried to be too mysterious. 

Lastly, Let me Take You Home Tonight seems like a song an 80s hair band like Bon Jovi or Poison would write. But, this song is great because Boston was able to make it entertaining with their instrumentation and Brad Delp. What's a damn shame about this band is that they never duplicated their success on their next album because, and I listened to the album after this, the themes were too similar to this masterpiece. 

They came back in the late 80s but they "sold out" in my opinion with Amanda. In conclusion, this album will be iconic for generations to come. I'm 22 and I will make damn sure that this album is remembered.

Aaron Kaufman: One of the top five albums of all time and my favourite. With only eight songs they did something most artists should do, less is more. But Tom Scholz perfectionism was their undoing as the record company wanted more albums than he was prepared to produce resulting in a vicious lawsuit, something that happened a lot with artists. Brad Delp is an underated singer as is the group's harmony and instrumentation.

Brian Anderson: Even though I’m familiar with a lot of the songs here I’m new to this album as a whole. Listening to any of the songs isolated I think ‘yep, that’s good’. However, stick them all together and what do you get, a 38 minute album with one song spanning both sides. I really cannot separate one song from another, and that’s because there’s no musical diversity here (tempo, timing, & keys). While each individual song is AOR, the album as a whole certainly isn’t, musically it’s classic prog rock. Great individual songs, one big yawn as an album.

John Davidson: I had More Than A Feeling as a single but never bought this first album, (despite having feasted on the follow up Don't Look Back for months).

There are some excellent songs on this album, from the world dominating More Than a Feeling, through the guitar love affair that is Fore Play/Longtime and the warm melodies of Hitch A Ride, but as an album it does lack variety.

It would be hard to say that Boston invented AOR, but they were certainly at the forefront of it and as purveyors of feelgood summertime party rock there were few finer proponents.

They also get bonus points for those memories of the spring of '77, dancing with my big sister's pals at her 16th Birthday party while sneaking drinks of cider ( I was 13 at the time).

Good to hear it again, but I still prefer the second album.

Nigel McGarry: Fantastic debut album. Everyone gets hooked on More Than A Feeling, but delve deeper and there is much more on offer! Great production coupled with great song writing ensures this is a timeless masterpiece. Superb.

Julie Plumpton: A great solid classic rock album. More Than A Feeling is a timeless anthem, used often and most recognisable, but there are other impressive tunes on here. Foreplay/ Longtime is more prog rock with essence of Emerson Lake & Palmer while Smokin' into has reminders of Tie Your Mother Down by Queen and more ELP style keyboards as it continues. Definitely an album worth giving your full attention.

Mike Bruce: I seem to recall that back in the day Sounds scribe Geoff Barton was fond of describing albums as "lovingly crafted". Boston's debut wasn't so much crafted as engineered. It's engineered and road tested with the top down for your listening pleasure. Like a lot of first time outings you get the feeling that the band have had time to polish the material to a showroom sheen, and it really gleams. 

While my tastes have changed and broadened since I first heard this album I've got to admit, listening with a critical ear, almost three quarters of it is damn near faultless. From the chiming opening of More Than A Feeling to the raucous Smokin' I'm transported. To these ears things lose momentum after that. The last three tracks are "nice" but don't really set the heather on fire.

Something else this seems engineered to be is played loud, proud and live. At least three tracks helpfully feature handclaps to remind you when to really enjoy yourself. Ironic then that when Boston visited these shores in '79 their PA had all the punch of a Winfield transistor radio under a pillow.

Can't take anything away from this though, top notch.

Brian Carr: I love the story behind Boston’s debut album. Scholz crafts this sonic masterpiece of an album in his basement (before seemingly every famous musician had a home studio), gets a record deal, but they tell him they need to re-record it with a producer. So they ‘pretend’ to be in an LA studio using a go-between to run interference with the record label while Scholz does a few tweaks at home. At least that’s what I’ve read about it.

You can tell the music business was reaching the point where the suits were overtaking things because anybody that would request a re-record of this really doesn’t know squat about music. Tommy’s war with the music industry was just getting started, but I find it somewhat ironic that in a way he contributed to the suits getting involved by putting together one of many 70s albums that sold boatloads of copies. There was money to be made, and a lot of it!

So why did this debut album come out of nowhere and become some of the most beloved music ever recorded? Melody, melody, melody. A handful of people might cringe at Boston for being sterile or lifeless, but you can’t deny there are melodic hooks galore on this record, both guitar and vocal in nature. 

Scholz has such a knack for building the seventies version of the Wall of Sound with his layers of soaring guitars and exquisite Brad Delp vocals. In this way, they remind me of an American counterpart to Queen (without the in-album diversity, of course). He even shreds on the organ! But it’s all melodic based, which will catch the ear of most people.

Boston is so melodic and well-crafted it manages to avoid my radio burnout factor. I don’t often grab them to listen to by choice, but I never mind soaring through space with them when they come on.

Matt Hoggard: As a musician, this album is stellar. The musical ability of Tom is showcased in the killer production. Brad Delp is unlike any other singer from that era. His range and power are amazing. If you don’t find yourself playing air guitar or jamming on an invisible Keyboard or singing along with the beautiful melodies and harmonies then quite frankly I question your love of rock n roll!

I first heard the entire album one night in the eighties. My buddy and I dropped some lsd and listened to it in a dark room with black lights on and that was a memorable trip!

Still one of my favourite albums!

Eddie Peuker: This is an excellent example of musicians with a deep understanding of the art of music and the motivation to use the tools of Rock and Roll; drums, cymbals, guitars, organ, piano, reverb and a cool pick string slide that was a new sound to me in the time of this release, This album is a solid listen so much so that in the last week my Spotify had these tunes on an endless loop. Calm collected rifts meeting crashing cymbals, pounding drums, and rifts of hot licks and that cool pick slide. 

Wow, It is a pleasure to listen to, indeed.  Just two knocks: I love this album and all of its tunes. When it hit the airwaves in my youth I thought it was a true ten. Then one day while rocking out to these tunes a co listener indicated her interpretation that this was bubblegum music. I was floored however even in my disbelief I opened my mind and yes, the lyrics are indeed somewhat bubblegum like. Okay, make it a nine. 

Then, while having this album on a continuous play for this week. I began to notice that even though I knew these tunes intently they sounded alike to a degree that left me unsure which tune I was listening to. Well except for Smokin' it is a truly unmistakable piece of rock'n'roll art. Then in the reviews I saw another comment about the similarity of the tunes. That makes this a final score of 8. However, it is one of the finest examples of well designed and jamming rock and roll fun you might ever stumble upon.

Final Score: 9.06 ⁄10 (465 votes cast, with a total score of 4213)

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