Don't Look Back
Epic Records, 1978
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/05/2001
When Tom Scholz was locked in his battle with Epic Records back in the '80s, he claimed he was being rushed into creating Boston records by his former label, and he wasn't about to put out something substandard.
Too bad he didn't take such a stance with Don't Look Back, the 1978 follow-up to Boston's self-titled mega-smash. The formula sounds old (after just two years between albums), the songwriting sounds forced, and the overall picture is that the success Boston had might have been a fluke.
Have you ever wondered why "Feelin' Satisfied" and "Don't Look Back" are the only songs you ever hear from this disc on the radio, while almost all of Boston is played to death? Simple - these are the only two songs worth their mettle on Don't Look Back. Even there, it sometimes feels like Scholz and company are re-treading on sacred ground; "Feelin' Satisfied" sounds similar to "Rock & Roll Band" in more than one way.
Yet there is something about these two songs that does make them stand out - namely, they are well-written and suggested that Boston might have been on track to another smash album... that is, had they taken the time to get it right. The rest of the disc runs from forgettable to crap you won't be able to scrape off your shoes.
C'mon, let's be honest - had Scholz been given free rein to make an album with no time restraints, would a song like "Party" ever have made it onto an album? Hell, no; he'd have been erasing over that like Nixon's secret White House tapes. This is a half-baked song that has every indication it was a rush job.
Meanwhile, "It's Easy" is a failed attempt to capture the Boston magic (hey, there's a name for a new sports franchise... no, wait, Orlando's already using it), down to the intro piece "The Journey". (Hmm... anyone thinking sequel to "Foreplay" / "Long Time" from Boston?) "Used To Bad News" and "Don't Be Afraid," which close out the disc, are castaways that never develop into anything special.
There is one spectacular failure on Don't Look Back, meaning Scholz was starting to experiment with the formula. And had he been given some more time, "A Man I'll Never Be" probably would have been a great track. As it sits here, it doesn't feel complete, but at least it shows that Scholz was willing to take chances with his music. So while I might not like this song, I'm willing to take my hat off to Scholz. (He would eventually get the power ballad right with "Amanda" from Third Stage.)
The world would not hear from Boston again for almost a decade, while Scholz kept honing his craft and fought to have the right to release an album on a different record label - a fight he would win. And while people joke about the time it takes between Boston albums (and I count myself in this group), Don't Look Back suggests there's more than a little method to Scholz's madness. If this is what we get when he's rushed, then take all the time you need, Tom.