The music of Boston might be thought of as “comfort music.” Like comfort food, comfort music is the mac and cheese of the music world—nothing particularly exotic, but straight-ahead music that can be counted on to pick you up when you’re sad, lonely or feeling a bit ill.
Boston is more a rock orchestra than a band. The players are interchangeable, (Wikipedia lists 21 current and/or former members) but the conductor remains constant: Tom Scholz. Scholz is a notorious perfectionist: In 37 years, Boston has released exactly six studio albums. Their latest, Love, Life & Hope is the first in a decade.
The album explores no uncharted territory, and doesn’t break new musical ground. All the classic Boston trademarks are there: The soaring vocal harmonies, the multi-layered guitar solos; no doubt the results of hundreds of hours of overdubs, mixing and mastering. About the only unexpected, refreshing twists are brief acoustic guitar solos in Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love and You Gave Up on Love, and a rap intro to Sail Away by vocalist Kimberley Dahme. Speaking of vocals, Scholz tries his hand at singing lead on Love Got Away, and his efforts, while serviceable, won’t make anyone forget Brad Delp, which brings up an interesting aspect. Three of the songs on Love, Life & Hope feature Delp on vocals, but in the promotional materials distributed to the media, no mention is made that these are posthumous recordings (Delp took his own life in 2007). Why no mention of this is a question that probably only Scholz can answer, but it is nonetheless an unsettling and disturbing point.
Another unusual twist is Delp sound-alike vocalist Tommy DeCarlo, who’s story is straight out of the movie Rock Star. DeCarlo was a huge fan of Boston who posted karaoke versions of himself singing Boston songs on a MySpace page he created. Eventually, those songs found their way to Scholz, who invited DeCarlo to join the band.
How Love, Life & Hope will be received should be interesting to watch. Hardcore fans of Boston will probably add it to their collections; for everyone else, it will probably remain a curiosity piece that will be listened to a few times before being quietly filed away.