Sometimes, my ears surprise me.
It had been a long time since I had listened to Boston's fourth album Walk On. The first time I listened to it when it came out in 1994, and I thought it was the biggest pile of dog crap to ever hit the freshly mowed lawn. What was this - Boston without the vocal stylings of Brad Delp? Boston without Brad Delp to me was like, oh, I dunno, The Beatles without John Lennon... no, wait a minute...
Fast forward four years to me doing some spring cleaning in the Pierce Archives, when what should my wandering eyes glance but the now dusty cassette shell for Walk On. Ah, what the hell, I figured... it's been a while since I wrote a good old fashioned scathing review...
But while the music on
Walk On is definitely different than the songs that first put this band on the map, there are some flashes of past brilliance. Too bad there aren't enough to carry the whole album.
Tom Scholz is still the mastermind behind Boston, though some might wonder if his meticulous control over each note this band produces isn't just a bit of overkill. Keep in mind, this is a band that has only released four albums in over 20 years. Filling in behind the microphone are Fran Cosmo, David Sikes and Tommy Funderburk - problem is, it's impossible to tell who is singing on what track.
There are two problems with the nouveau Boston. First, when Scholz goes out and tries to copy the sound of 1977, the band turns into a self-parody. "I Need Your Love," the first single from Walk On, sounds like a studio outtake, and was a questionable selection. Second, I know how hard it must be to come up with an album's worth of materials in only seven years (this is called sarcasm, kids), but taking up damn near a third of the album with variations on the title track - including two reprises, for God's sake - is a clear sign that the batteries are running on empty. By the time that "Walk On (some more)" fades out, the question arises as to whether Scholz should have called this collaboration anything except Boston.
But just when I was ready to completely write off Walk On, there are songs that make the whole experience worthwhile. "Surrender To Me" seems to try to capture a whole new sound for Boston - and it works ! Likewise, "Livin' For You" and "Magdalene" capitalize on a different Boston sound - one not entirely dependent on Scholz's Les Pauls pumped through a Rockman. The guitar sound is almost more natural - boy, is that refreshing!
But with all the positives and negatives that make up Walk On, the question still remains if this should have been called a Boston album. In one sense, I guess it deserves the moniker - like the band's other works, it is both overblown and overdrawn, while maintaining some level of excitement.
But Walk On is still laden with weak performances, and ranks as Boston's lamest album. Still, the diehard fans will undoubtedly jump on this one. Guess P.T. Barnum was right all along.
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