CD Review: Boston – Life, Love & Hope
All Access Rating: B+
|Boston - Life, Love & Hope 2014|
It's no wonder then that each successive Boston album sounds more pristine than the last, clean almost to the point of being antiseptic. And while he knows how to make those transcendent melodies sparkle, relationships, on the other hand, aren't so easy for him to control.
Life is messy, as evidenced by Brad Delp's suicide and the always-simmering tensions between original members of Boston, including the prodigal Barry Goodreau. The product of months and months of writing and recording, Life, Love & Hope, released via Frontiers Records, is the first studio album from Boston in a decade, and it finds Boston struggling to retain its signature elements and, at the same time, evolve into something new. Even for Scholz, that's a long time between records, but, of course, a lot has happened in that time, starting with the tragic loss of Delp, one of classic-rock's most angelic singers.
Not surprisingly, for all its maturity, production clarity and graceful artistry, Life, Love & Hope is missing some of the pop euphoria of Boston past, although opener "Heaven On Earth," the title track and "Someone (2.0)" are the kind of grand melodic fountains of soaring rock guitar, breezy synthesizer harmonies and vocal weavings that Scholz and company patented so long ago. And they, along with the brilliant burst of silvery power-pop that is "Someday" rescue Life, Live & Hope from adult-contemporary hell, which is where it's headed with mid-tempo schmaltz like "You Gave Up on Love (2.0)" and "The Way You Look Tonight."
Shoved to the front of the mix like never before, even at the expense of Boston's trademark electric guitar hooks, the singing on Life, Love & Hope is spectacular, as Scholz combines his lead vocals with those of bassist Kimberly Dahme, David Victor, new sensation Tommy DeCarlo and Delp, his contributions provided posthumously. A record that is both familiar and unnervingly different, meditating deeply on heartbreak, loss and the belief of better days ahead, Life, Love & Hope at times feels emotionally heavy, especially on exquisitely crafted, if somewhat overwrought, ballads "If You Were in Love" and "Love Got Away" and the elaborately constructed "Didn't Mean to Fall in Love."
Lush strings, rich Spanish acoustic guitar plucking, compressed-air keyboards and found sounds, such as the black helicopters portending a sinister conspiracy in the clunky, lifeless "Sail Away," are integrated seamlessly throughout Life, Love & Hope, as Scholz seeks to broaden Boston's palette to accommodate a more progressive, even contemporary, approach. There is still a place for earnest, big-hearted arena-rock anthems in Boston, though, with Scholz building multilayered sonic orgasms for aging ears. But this is a new Boston, grappling with adult issues while holding onto to the last vestiges of its youthful naivete.
– Peter Lindblad
– Peter Lindblad