I’ll never forget walking into a record store in Lake Havasu, Arizona as I waited for the mechanic to finish my oil change and spotted what I was certain was a hallucination…a brand new Boston album! I had heard rumors for YEARS they were recording a new record, but c’mon! How many times can you keep hearing the same ‘rumor’ and STILL believe it? I was beginning to believe that Boston was finished as a group…but there it was, right in front of me! ‘Third Stage’ made its debut in October of 1986…and as I sat there looking at the display at the store I suddenly realized something truly shocking to me: I was FLAT BROKE. Talk about a monumental paradox. I wasn’t about to steal it, so it was a while before I was able to actually buy it and savor my first taste of one of my favorite bands after so many years of listening and re-listening to their first two albums. Let’s leap-frog ahead a few years…I am now in radio and I manage to actually get PAID to have fun and listen to music I love (including Boston…) and I STILL love this CD. Is it as good as their first release? No WAY! But is it a great CD??? Without A DOUBT. Each track has something to offer in its own way and I have to hand it to Dave for doing such a great job on the arrangements and anyone who doesn’t view Brad Delp as easily one of THE GREATEST Rock & Roll singers has got rocks for brains! Talk about a crisp and clean voice with a range that would make Pavarotti jealous…just check out ‘Cool The Engines’, ‘We’re Ready’ and ‘Can’tcha Say (You Believe In Me)’ great stand-out tracks aside from the incredible radio airplay of ‘Amanda’, which is a superior song, but not necessarily MY personal favorite on the record. Sure these guys take a LOOOOOOOOONG time in-between album releases, but if that’s what it takes to produce an incredible album like ‘Third Stage’ I anxiously await the next release sometime just before Haley’s Comet reaches earth again…HIGHLY recommended.
Japanese only SHM-CD (Super High Material CD – playable on all CD players) pressing. Universal. 2008.
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Most Boston fans would agree that Scholz takes much too long to put out an album – 8 years on average. However, if it were not for this fact, Boston’s Third Stage (released in 1986) would probably not have been the great album that it is. Here’s my reasoning:
Tom Scholz’s song writing ability was probably depleted by the beginning of the 1980’s. Most of the songs on the Third Stage album were conceived of during Tom’s “period of creativity”, which spanned the entire decade of the 70’s. For example, Amanda was really an old song, first conceived of in late 1978. Likewise, most of the songs from the debut album were written years before their release date as well.
Therefore, although the album was a “modern” 1986 work of art, it still sounded a lot like the “old” Boston of the 70’s. The only thing that changed at all was the electronic tone of Tom’s guitar (still the best sound in electric guitar history). Of course, we’ll ignore the fact that the only other original member of the band that was left was Brad Delp.
So, what we have are old songs that took eight years to record. This is a good thing, because once Scholz starting writing material in the mid 1980’s, it is clear that he had tapped out his well of musical creativity.
Just look at the Walk On CD (his last gasp) and the latest Corporate America CD (mostly written by other people).
I look at Third Stage as the final sequel to a great Trilogy. Good things seem to come in threes.
It’s a shame it had to end there, even though Scholz’s “Boston” is still alive and kicking.
I guess original members like guitarist Barry Goudreau were pretty important after all, eh Tom?
For those who would like to hear an example of the importance of the original members, check out Barry Goudreau’s solo album from 1980 “Barry Goudreau”, which features the entire Boston line up, minus Tom Scholz and see if you think Tom was the “sole” creative force behind Boston.
It’s hard to believe that Third Stage came out almost 20 years ago. I remember listening to it on cassette in my ugly red Horizon going to high school. It took Tom about 8 years to finish this album after 1978’s Don’t Look Back. But it still went to #1 thanks to the single Amanda (which also went to #1). The other singles were We’re Ready and Can’tcha Say, both of which charted well too. Third Stage has the trademark soaring harmonized guitar lines that Boston became known for and Brad Delp’s vocals are as powerful as ever. There is not really any song on this album that I dislike so I can always listen to it from start to finish. My favorite songs are The Launch, I Think I Like It, and Hollyann. The reason I give it 4 stars is because there are not as many standout tracks as on the first album. Also, the production is a bit too grand on some of the songs. But Third Stage is a good album despite some of the criticism heaped on it.
After releasing Don’t Look Back in 1978, Boston took eight years to release its follow-up, Third Stage. I don’t know how it took eight years to make this record as it sounds like their first two, but that’s a good thing. The album is full of major power chords, big hooks and roof raising vocals. The album kicks off with the power ballad “Amanda”. The song is a perfect a power ballad that was ever released and Brad Delp gives a tremendous vocal performance. The band was rewarded with their one and only number one song. “We’re Ready” was another top ten hit and is a driving rocker. “The Launch” is another chance for Tom Scholz to show off his MIT degree as it is amalgamation of guitars that produces a symphonic sound. “Cool The Engines” is a great song and “Cant’cha Say You Believe In Me/I Still Love You” is an epic song. Third Stage showed that Boston still could be a force on the charts even after an eight year disappearance as the album hit number one in late 1986.
In the late 1970s, as a result of the success of their first two albums, “Boston” established themselves as one of the premier bands in the Rock industry. I would even go as far to say that with the momentum they achieved with their debut album “Boston” (still one of the most successful debuts in history) and “Don’t Look Back”, that they might become the successors in Rock’s line of royalty to Led Zeppelin (following the disintegration as a result of John Bonham’s death). However, the problems that would ensue would completely derail this road for Boston. The 1980s would see the breakdown of the original lineup of the band and legal battles that would delay any future work by the band. By the Fall of 1986, the band found themselves in a very different position – the comeback position. This comeback would mark the launch of Boston’s third album – “Third Stage”. For fans of the band who had waited 8 years for the album, they would not be disappointed. The band assembles a terrific concept album that doesn’t miss a beat.
For the most part, I consider Boston to be the partnership of guitarist Tom Scholz and vocalist (the late) Brad Delp. Boston had a stable lineup for their first two albums. In addition to Scholz and Delp were Sib Hashian, bassist Fran Sheehan, and guitarist Barry Goudreau. “Third Stage” would not include Hashian, Sheehan, or Goudreau. This was a result of a falling out the band had in the 1980s. Replacing Hashian on drums would be Jim Masdea (who played drums prior to the debut album) and Gary Pihl would pick up the void on guitars. However the partnership of Scholz and Delp was good enough to keep the Boston sound going. While Scholz often gets most of the creative credit for Boston, I really feel it is the unique vocals of Brad Delp that give Boston its edge. I always contend you can find another Tom Scholz on guitar, but there was only one Brad Delp on vocals. It was no surprise that “Third Stage”’s follow-up “Walk On” failed because Delp wasn’t on that album. It is no surprise that Boston’s career is currently in limbo (at the time of this writing) due to Delp’s untimely death.
The nice thing about “Third Stage” is that it does integrate a loose concept theme around most of the tracks. It uses an analogy of the setting sail on a spaceship to someone maturing by reaching thirtysomething in age. The album reflects the maturity that a man hits when he reaches his 30s. While not all of the songs use the spaceship theme, the songs in one form or another reflect this maturity in age. It’s not just the songwriting that is good, the musicianship of the band and powerful vocals of Brad Delp really are in top form.
One important note to make is that most of these songs were written in the early 1980s. The amazing thing is that Boston did not use synthesizers for this album. This is amazing for two reasons: 1) Even though it sounds like there is a synthesizer component, there isn’t (Organs, pianos, and the Hammond G-5 help to fill the gap left by the synthesizer); 2) The idea of abandoning the synthesizer was more of a late 1980s trend (i.e. 1987 onward), yet Boston conceptualized most of “Third Stage” in the early 1980s. One must give Boston some points in creative and innovative thinking in the music industry for going with this trend early.
The Spaceship concept occurs on tracks 2 through 8. On track 2, “We’re Ready” the spaceship might be getting ready to launch, but Boston actually is talking about one taking the next step in a relationship. Track 3 is an instrumental called the “The Launch” – it is divided into 3 parts (Countdown, Ignition, and Third Stage Separation). The music does sound like a spaceship launching. Once launched, on track 4, the spaceship will “Cool the Engines”, but this is referring to calming down from one’s younger days. On track 5, the spaceship arrives at “My Destination”. “My Destination” might be the most powerful track on the collection. Most people are familiar with the radio-friendly power-ballad, “Amanda” – which is the first track on the album. “My Destination” is a different spin on “Amanda” – and overall I find it a better song. Delp’s vocals are even stronger than “Amanda”. This song deals with arriving at “my destination … by your side” in a relationship. This again reflects maturity.
Tracks 6, 7, and 8 continue the spaceship theme. “A New World” is a very short instrumental, but refers to exploring the new world that the spaceship set sail to. Perhaps this is also the maturity of one in life. On Track 7, “To Be a Man”, the person who set sail now must prove he is a man in his new world. This can also be reflected to everyday life as well. Finally track 8, “I Think I Like It”, refers to the person enjoying the new world he set sail to, but also reflective of liking the changes in his life.
While Track 9 “Can’tcha Say”doesn’t fit into this theme of setting sail on a spaceship, it might be the best track. It consists of two tracks – the powerful, hard-rocking, “Can’tcha Say” with a segue to the powerful power-ballad “Still in Love”. The titles of these songs describe what these songs are about. Fusing these songs together really works. This “double track” is my favorite track on any Boston album. Delp’s amazing vocals contribute to the power of this track. There is also the tenth track, “Hollyann” – this is a nice track as well.
The liner notes contain not only the lyrics, but notes on each track and notes on the making of the album. This is a great album – not a bad track in the whole lot. Highly recommended.