Sunday, April 21, 2013
Track of the Week: Boston, "Hitch a Ride"
I have many rules of thumb, one of them being that bands named after geographic places are really lame. Don't believe me? Well witness this: Europe, Asia, Chicago, and Kansas. For the longest time I would have included Boston on that list. Brad Delp's vocals were ridiculously high, the lyrics paint by numbers, and the records produced within an inch of their lives. The band was basically undone by the studio perfectionism of guitar savant Tom Scholz, who took eight years between 1978 and 1986 to complete their third record. This is not the kind of spontaneous, joyful noise rock and roll was intended to be, but an engineering project. It's only fitting that their album covers featured spaceships, rather than human beings.
That all might be true, but there are some moments of real beauty to be found in Boston's sound. Back when I lived in Michigan, I had a half-hour car commute where I usually listened to the local classic rock station. It was during that time that Brad Delp died, and the station played a lot of Boston songs in tribute, including many I'd never heard before in my years of listening to classic rock radio. One that really put its hooks into me was "Hitch a Ride," from the debut album. It starts with a beautiful, ringing acoustic guitar line, and while it builds up to an electric opera, it does so with less of the over the top bombast that marks songs like "More Than a Feeling." It takes its time getting there, luxuriating in the mellow, sun-drenched sound of 70s studio rock. The solo at the end, backed by an armada of mutli-tracked guitars, is pretty mind-blowing, but it gets its power from the fact that it's not unleashed until the last moment. It's a lesson in the use of crescendo and dynamics that most hard rock bands in the 70s seemed to have missed.