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Don't Look Back

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  • My review for the remastered edition of the first Boston release, Boston (1976/r. 2006) is very similar to this one. Really, most people would consider Boston (1976) and Don’t Look Back (1978) as an inseperable set. When put together they barely make the capacity of a standard compact disc (80 minutes). And, they are more alike than the slightly more exploratory Third Stage (1986).

    I must begin this review with the same sentiments as I did the other one: If you don’t like the band, nobody’s asking you to listen to them. But in the name of God show some respect for the people who do. We don’t go and badmouth your music; leave ours alone.

    That aside, there is no need for me to go through each of the songs. After all, when one totals the sales of the first two Boston albums, one reaches an impressive 24,000,000 copies sold. There are artists today who will never sell that many albums if they released twenty different titles! Boston’s albums were among the first to be transfered to the (then new technology) compact disc format. And it was a Boston album that became the first compact disc format release to reach the Gold (500,000 copies) standard. This just stands to prove the undying legacy of this band and these albums, as well as the reason I don’t need to describe the songs. If you haven’t heard them yet, you have simply not been on planet Earth for the past thirty years.

    Which makes the fact that these albums haven’t been remastered in 21 years very hard to believe. But then, Scholz always was notorious for taking his sweet time with things (remember the lawsuits for breach of contract?). I guess he just figured he would out-do himself in that department with these remasters. Actually, Tom himself hadn’t even been consulted on the matter. He was rather upset at this, but rather than throwing things at the executives, his agent (and presumably his lawyers) asked Sony records very politely if Tom could make some nice 24-bit digital transfers of the first two albums and then handle the remastering himself. Obviously they agreed, and the fine item you are considering at this moment is one half of the result.

    Don’t Look Back (1978) was one of the most anticipated sophomore albums ever released. In all (to date) seven million copies have flown off the shelves, and though most people consider it slightly inferior to the first release, it has still received a great deal of airplay, and it has stood the test of time. Perhaps you already own some incarnation of the album (album, eight-track, cassette tape, or the original 1985 compact disc release), or maybe this will be the first copy you will be buying. In either case, my verdict stands: BUY IT NOW! DON’T HESITATE!

    The remastering is what makes this album special. The original release is well-known for its substandard sound quality, and Tom Scholz himself is on record as having said that he couldn’t listen to that edition of his album. Now he was finally granted a chance to craft the audio just as he brilliantly crafted 90% of all the songs and instrumental parts of Boston’s music.

    And he has risen magnificently to the task. His work on this and the Boston (r. 2006) release is stunning. And yet, as I said in my other review, the word that best describes the difference in sound between this release and the original release of Don’t Look Back is subtle. It doesn’t jump right out at you, but there is definitely an improvement. It might be hard to put into words just what’s different, so I’ll try and do that for you.

    Having listened to the original releases of this and the first Boston album literally a few thousand times each, I can point out the major differences. Most noticible is the increase in overall volume that all new remasters enjoy. Nonetheless, it’s very welcome. Next is the clarity and presence of the vocals: Brad Delp has never sounded better. No longer does his voice sound like it’s underwater, or like it’s had all the midrange frequencies notched. His words are clear and understandable, yet warm and pleasant. Typically high-range male vocalists suffer from poor remastering, and Brad was no exception. On Tom’s remaster, however, you hear Brad as he was meant to be heard.

    Overall, the bass frequencies have been tightened and cleaned up considerably, the midranges are vibrant and mellow yet distinct, and the high ranges are nice and clear without losing the warmth of a vinyl recording. Gone is the plethora of tinny, nasty treble that plagued the original edition of this album. Tom really knows what he’s doing, because normally I would have found something wrong with the audio for which I would correct. I would not change a thing about what Tom did.

    The final and most welcome change is the removal of all the artifacts from the original issue. All the piercing cymbal crashes, the siblants, and the painful Hammond organ percussive attacks (most noticible at the end of “A Man I’ll Never Be”) are utterly gone. The entire flow is smooth and rich as maple syrup.

    Overall, this is a must-have supplement to Boston (1976/r. 2006). If you own every incarnation of this album, or if you’ve never bought it before, this remastered edition is for you. Don’t think, just buy this and the Boston (1976/r. 2006) album at the nearest outlet (or, of course, from Amazon).

    What are you still reading this for?! Get out there and buy!

    P.S. I’ve heard quibbling about the lack of bonus tracks. While most new remasters include them, I wouldn’t worry too much with this one. According to Tom, the live cuts Sony had on hand were very poor recordings. Tom has all the good ones, and he plans on releasing an entire live disc, complete with his signature remastering prowess. Just take heart in this and you’ll be fine!

    P.P.S. Since this review appears as a Spotlight review, it will be more visible than my other reviews for various albums. Therefore, I have to say the following out of respect:

    R.I.P. Brad Delp, lead and harmony vocalist of one of the greatest classic rock bands ever. NOBODY will ever forget your talent or your contributions to music in general. You were one of my absolute favorite vocalists, and I consider you an inspiration. Many people do. More than you will ever know.

    Posted on February 1, 2010