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.