Key Tracks: “Heaven On Earth” “Sail Away”
Bands continuing on after the death a key member is no strange thing. Queen stumbled when they added Paul Rodgers, while Alice In Chains is continuing with a surprising successful replacement singer. These things happen, and whether you want to give the band the benefit of the doubt or not is dependent on the situation. Sublime should’ve stopped, while AC/DC only got bigger. But this feels different. “Life, Love & Hope” isn’t Boston moving on, it’s them remembering the life of Brad Delp. Delp was almost unmatched in rock – his voice was meteoric, screamingly loud and high while always gorgeous. And his style worked alongside Marc Bolan is ushering in rock’s glam phase. When Delp was found dead in his car in 2007, it was a crushing blow to a band that was already fading into the limelights. This album, through all it’s faults, serves as a parting piece for those of us that loved Delp. And Boston fans will want to give it the benefit of the doubt.
So let’s focus on the negatives first. There’s eleven songs on this album – eight if you don’t count reworked versions of “Someone” “Didn’t Mean To Fall in Love” and “You Gave Up On Love.” Of those eight, three have ‘love’ in the title ( that’s 5/11). There’s a lot of downtime on the album. Ballads galore, with plenty of acoustic and piano bits. Lyrically, it’s corny, it’s really corny. It’s called “Life, Love & Hope,” and my AP style insides are screaming. The glam scene that Boston had an early cog in was a largely corny genre altogether, so it’s expected, but it’s still a little over the top. And most of the album isn’t very memorable. While it isn’t bad, it’s best suited as background music and little else.
That said, Boston had one of the most definitively unique sounds ever, and this is Boston. The opening to the first song, “Heaven On Earth,” is a quick guitar slide that promises the listener that Tom Scholz has never turned his pedals off. It doesn’t have the energy of earlier releases, and there’s few (if any) solos on the album, but they still sound the same. Vocally, the album is all over the place, but it’s alright. Delp’s voice shows up on three songs, although two are previous recordings from reworks of songs on “Corporate America.” The other singers on the album, of which there’s five, simply aren’t as strong. The clever track listing lets Delp jump in at the right moments. But the addition of other singers, which include current lead singer Tommy DeCarlo, feels like a tribute instead of a fault. The album’s rough assemblage of new and old songs acts as a strong tribute to the fallen singer.
There is one new song on the album that Delp recorded after 2002’s “Corporate America.” It’s called “Sail Away,” and it’s in response to the government’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina. It’s easily the best song on the album. Concise and a little more intuitive than earlier songs, “Sail Away” is a great example of how a band can still be on top of things years later.
It’s hard to believe that this is only Boston’s sixth album in thirty-seven years. I was co-runner of an embarrassing Facebook page in high school called “Boston should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (that has since been removed). My music tastes have grown and are completely removed from what they used to be, but I continue to love Boston. Maybe because they’re named after my home city, but something always draws me back to them. And while “Life, Love & Hope” has many faults, it serves as a fitting tribute to the late Brad Delp, and as a positive notch in the history of a very interesting band.
-By Andrew McNally