Boston's Life, Love & Hope (and 10 of the best Classic Rock albums)
Back in the early 70s when Tom Scholz began recording demos for what would become Boston’s eponymous debut album, few would have imagined it would become the best-selling debut in history, with over 17 million copies sold to date.
37 years later and after a number of break-ups, line-up changes, lawsuits and lengthy periods of inactivity, today Boston release album no.6, Life, Love & Hope, their first since the death of vocalist Brad Delp in 2007. Replacing a singer is never easy for a band and anyone who is familiar with Delp’s voice will also be aware that Boston’s task here is a formidable one – finding a male singer that can match his vocal range is a challenge in itself, but his voice is as much a part of Boston’s sound as Scholz’s multi-layered approach to production.
Their chosen solution in this case is sharing vocal duties between Tommy DeCarlo and David Victor, as well as bassist Kimberley Dahme and Scholz himself. However, Life, Love & Hope does not, at any point, attempt to reinvent or re-imagine Boston sound, in fact Scholz has been quite deliberate in his attempts to do the opposite, even using the same guitars, amplifiers and other equipment from their early records in order to be as faithful to the sound of their debut as possible.
Boston re-defined what a ‘classic rock album should sound like on its release in 1976. So what are the ingredients of a classic rock album? We put together a list of our Top 10…
(Remember: No Prog, Metal, Alternative, Punk, Grunge etc.)
10. Van Halen – Van Halen
You could argue that Van Halen are a metal band, but we would counter that while their debut doubtless influenced the metal scene of the 1980s – for better or for worse – this is very much a classic rock record. Highlights include ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love’ and Eddie van Halen’s finger-melting shredding showcase, ‘Eruption’.
9. The Doors – L.A. Woman
A return to their best form following the poorly received The Soft Parade, L.A. Woman continued The Doors’ journey down a blues-influenced path that had begun with Morrison Hotel. This is a record worthy of its place in our Top 10 for ‘Riders on the Storm’ alone.
8. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
This is a bit of an oddity on this list, but by the early 70s The Rolling Stones had moved away from their R&B roots and graduated to making full-on rock. Even so, while you could certainly argue they are a classic rock band, Exile on Main Street is notable more than anything for its range of influences. Traces of everything from Blues to Gospel can be heard on this record, recorded largely in a blitz of substance abuse at Richards’ Nellcôte mansion. Still regarded by many as one of their best, we just had to put it in our top 10.
7. Queen – A Night at the Opera
Not everyone’s cup of tea, Queen, but their unique sound is showcased better here than on any of their other records. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ appears at or near the top of every ‘best ever songs’ countdown we’ve ever seen, and with good reason. It is rumoured that the song was intended to be even more complex than the version that made it onto the album, hampered only by the technological limitations of the time (the band recorded so many vocal tracks the tape was beginning to wear thin). Love them or hate them, Queen’s unique approach helped make this an absolute classic.
6. Cream – Disreali Gears
Before Hendrix arrived on the scene, Eric Clapton was alternatively known simply as ‘God’ for his extraordinary abilities with his instrument, but teamed with bass player and vocalist Jack Bruce and the terrifying Ginger Baker on drums, Cream were unstoppable. Disreali Gears is their finest hour and both ‘Strange Brew’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ are all-time greats in the classic rock genre.
5. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
When Jimi Hendrix arrived in London in London in 1966, it was obvious to anyone who witnessed his early shows that the goalposts defining what made a great rock guitarist had been moved forever. Electric Ladyland was his final studio effort before his tragic, premature demise in 1970, but in those four years he advanced the art of guitar-playing to new levels that have arguably never been matched. Picking one of his albums from the next was tricky, but for anyone who doubts Electric Ladyland’s right to be here, we have four words: Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).
4. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
No strangers to drama following the departure of the supremely talented but highly unstable Peter Green, by 1977 Fleetwood Mac were involved in a multi-way love tryst that nearly destroyed the band. Instead, Rumours is a kind of therapy session committed to tape, its lyrics laying bare the band’s internal strife. Fortunately, history shows that heartbreak makes for great songs, and this album is no exception.
3. Guns ‘n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
When L.A.’s Guns ‘n’ Roses burst onto the scene with their debut in 1986, they were labelled ‘the most dangerous band in the world’, which may seem like hyperboly now, but GNR were the raw antithesis to the big-hair-and-make-up scene that surrounded them, also possessing two of the genre’s most unique talents in singer Axl Rose and the top-hat-wearing, perpetual-cigarette-smoking guitarist, Slash. Right from opener ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, this is a record that means business.
2. AC/DC – Back in Black
Much like Boston, Australia’s AC/DC were faced with the problem of replacing their singer Bon Scott following his tragic death in February 1980. They nearly didn’t continue, but were persuaded to by Scott’s mum of all people. Lucky for us she intervened, because they recruited Brian Johnson and released the record of their lives. Even though every song has almost exactly the same drumbeat, with tunes like ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, who cares?
1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
Led Zeppelin arguably invented the classic rock template with Led Zeppelin II, but some 42 years after its original release, the 4th album from Led Zeppelin is a masterpiece. From opener ‘Black Dog’ to the iconic rhythm of ‘When The Levee Breaks’, every one of its eight tracks is a classic in its own right. For us, it’s as good as the genre gets.