Thanks to the meticulous approach Tom Scholz takes when recording Boston albums, every album since their second one, 1978's Don't Look Back, has taken nearly a decade to see the light of day. It's no different with 2013's Life Love & Hope, which follows cold on the heels of 2002's Corporate America. Using a crew of vocalists including longtime collaborator Brad Delp (who tragically committed suicide in 2007) and cleanly processed layers of guitars, keys, and drums much the same way he always has, a majority of the album plays like vintage Boston -- especially the tracks that feature Delp, like the aching love song "Didn't Mean to Fall in Love," which borrows heavily from "More Than a Feeling," and a new version of Corporate America's "Someone." Another male vocalist on the album, David Victor, sounds a lot like Delp and does a fine job filling his shoes on the album's best song, "Heaven on Earth." When these songs click, it's almost like a time machine trip back to the late '70s. Sometimes they don't click, though, and that brings the record down quite a few notches. Some of the songwriting is clichéd and a little trite lyrically, the vocals a little overwrought, and -- most damningly -- the overall sound isn't as full and rich as a '70s Boston album, with the drums sounding curiously tinny and the mix oddly unbalanced. The guitars mostly sound amazing and exactly like one would expect Boston guitars to sound, but quite often the vocals are too far out front, the drums are buried, and the mix feels slapped together. The album sounds more like a GarageBand demo than it does a studio album that someone spent ten years slaving over. Even though it fell short of being a good Boston album, at least Corporate America sounded like a finished product. Life Love & Hope doesn't, and hearing it might lead a devoted Boston follower to believe that, despite the few moments when things come together nicely, maybe Scholz has finally lost his touch. Check back in another decade for further developments.
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