Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Album: THIRD STAGE
The majority of rock fans from my generation probably know every note of Boston’s 1976 debut album by heart. It was a perfect record from start to finish which I previously discussed in my Great Out Of The Gate series. After a sophomore effort (1978’s Don’t Look Back) which was excellent but not quite in the same league as its predecessor, they entered a legal battle with their record label that put the band on indefinite hold. In an era when artists still released at least one album a year, it’s hard to imagine a band picking up right where they left off after an 8-year hiatus. Not only did Boston manage that feat with 1986’s Third Stage, their patient fans rewarded them with a multi-platinum Number 1 album and two Top 10 singles, one of which topped the charts. By this time the only remaining band members from the original lineup were guitarist/songwriter/mastermind Tom Scholz and singer Brad Delp, who I previously described as having a “seemingly limitless vocal range.” In spite of an arduous recording history over several years, it’s a cohesive record and there’s no mistaking the distinctive Boston sound.
The first single was the chart-topper “Amanda,” an ideal choice to reintroduce the band after their extended absence. Follow-up single “We’re Ready” was nearly as successful and it rocks a little harder than its predecessor. The FM radio hit “Cool The Engines” is the most driving song on the album and the mini-suite “Can’tcha Say (You Believe in Me)/Still in Love” combines a rocker & a ballad with a melancholy mood throughout. That sense of melancholy actually pervades most of the album, giving added emotional resonance to much of the material. “My Destination” is the perfect example of this; a somber keyboard-and-voice song with the same melody as “Amanda.” “To Be A Man” is another touching ballad, and album closer “Hollyann” manages to be both wistful & uplifting. Nothing they do can ever come close to matching the creative, critical & commercial success of their first album, but Third Stage proved that they still had a lot to say a decade after they first took over the airwaves. This is one of those records that sounds like a product of its time so it’s not surprising that 30 years have passed since its release, but I still have the same emotional connection to it that I did back then.