Third Stage by Boston

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Third Stage by BostonTom Scholz is a figure unlike any other in the history of rock n roll. A natural inventor, Scholz studied at M.I.T. as a mechanical engineer. After graduating, he worked at Polaroid, where he learned the basics of audio engineering and began experimenting with his own sounds. Starting in 1969, he recorded and re-recorded the music that would comprise the debut album Boston, a masterpiece that was finally released in 1976 (Classic Rock Review will look at that album in December). After the phenomenal success of their debut, the band produced the follow-up Don’t Look Back in the relatively short time of just two years. Released in 1978, Scholz never felt like it was quite “done” and swore that he’d not rush out another album. It would be eight solid years before the next album, Third Stage would see the light of day.

This wasn’t intended to take so long. In fact, the first side was written and recorded between 1980 and 1982, but technical difficulties and an eventual lawsuit by the record company CBS slowed the whole process down. To Scholz, the successful completion of this third album turned into an obsession. He claimed to have pushed the record button over 1 million times and filled over 100 reels of tape with music. He decided to use separate 24-track tapes for music and vocals and synchronize via a new digital machine. But it turned out that the high tech machine “was a lemon” and so an engineer was hired to “use his thumbs” to keep each machine running in sync. Further, Sholz refused to use any orchestral instruments, synthesizers or MIDI synchronization on Third Stage – making his job as producer infinitely harder in the process, but preserving the sound’s integrity. The only deviation from the sound of the 1970s albums, was his own invention The Rockman, which he developed over the long course of this project and which would prove to be a much more lucrative product than the album ever was.

Once the CBS lawsuit was settled in Scholz’s favor, he was free to sign with MCA and release Third Stage in late 1986. It would go to become the most successful album commercially and spawn the band’s only #1 hit.

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Third Stage by Boston
Released: September 23, 1986 (MCA)
Produced by: Tom Scholz
Recorded: Tom Scholz Hideaway Studio, 1980-1986
Side One Side Two
We’re Ready
The Launch
Cool the Engines
My Destination
A New World
To Be a Man
I Think I Like It
Cancha Say / Still In Love
Primary Musicians
Tom Scholz – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Percussion
Brad Delp – Lead & Harmony Vocals   Jim Masdea – Drums

Although portrayed as a band, Boston was more like a duo with Scholz providing on the music, production, and performing most of the instrumentation and Brad Delp doing all the lead and harmonized vocals. The result is musically excellent but a bit weak lyrically. There is also a bit of disparity between the album’s earliest tracks on side one and the more recent material on side two, especially when it comes to Delp’s vocals.

“Amanda” was the very earliest song written for the project in 1980. A sweet and beautiful love song, with excellent, harmonized guitars, the song immediately reminded fans of the immense talent of Boston and, in turn, it became the band’s first and only #1 hit. “We’re Ready” follows as a nice compliment to “Amanda”, with it’s moderate, deliberate riff and beat, that does pick up at parts, but always manages to come back to earth and ease into the mood of the song.

The band then “launch’s” into the experimental and very majestic intro to “Cool the Engines”, in keeping with the their tradition of intro pieces. The song itself is musically superb with many areas of creative stop-and-start throughout. The lyrics do have a tinge of preachiness that may be a bridge too far for casual fans.

This brings us to perhaps the downside of “Third Stage”, the concept itself. Apparently coined by Scholz, the “third stage” is supposed to be that age of enlightenment beyond childhood and adulthood. It is portrayed most vividly in the song “My Destination” – a variation on the tune of “Amanda” that ends the first side and contains the lyric;

It’s not who you can be, it’s what you can see that takes you there, your destination…

In all, the theme comes off kind of new-age-y and forms a slight chasm between band and fan, especially during some of the more forgettable songs on the album’s second side, especially “To Be a Man” and the dreadful “Cancha Say (You Believe In Me)”.

However, the second side does contain a few highlights; the smooth and straight-foward rocker “I Think I Like It” and the pleasant closer “Hollyann”, which bleeds nostalgia for the 1960s and contains an interesting little organ solo in the middle, accompanied by little more than a strumming, acoustic guitar.

In the end, Third Stage would prove to be Boston‘s commercial peak. It would take yet another eight years for the band’s fourth album in 1994, Walk On (a project which, ironically, Delp “walked off”) and another followed near the end of the century. But Boston would never quite reach that sound again.


1986 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration anniversary of 1986 albums.


11 thoughts on “Third Stage by Boston”

  1. Wow. This is a pathetic review. There’s absolutely zero mention of any of the instrumental tracks. Some may deem instrumentals unimportant, but Boston instrumentals are other-wordly.

    1. Boston I grew up listening to this music and I think this is one of the best albums to ever grace the airwaves of FM radio sad you don’t hear anything from this band anymore but with Brad delps passing it’s not hard to see why rock on Mr scholz

  2. I remember buying the album in 1986, I like many fans was curious as to quite how it had taken that long to make and I suppose I kind of expected something that would be akin to perfection and eclipse the first two albums.
    Apart from ‘Amanda’ and maybe a couple of others from the first side, the album falls flat on its face, I remember fast forwarding most of the songs and playing the last couple. It was soon forgetten in my record collection, it was a total mystery to me how it managed to do so well commercially, I think many people went out and bought it out of curiosity.

    1. Totally agree with your comment. Except for Amanda, I was totally disappointed with the 3rd album and all of their stuff after that. There were so many great kick-ass songs on the first two albums featuring great guitar riffs and that awesome organ sound. I was really disappointed that Tom S. and Brad D. could never again recreate that rare triad of interesting songs with high energy and great harmony. It’s very frustrating because they already had the perfect sound “locked down” after the first 2 albums. Maybe Tom should have hired a writer to help out if he was running out of ideas for new songs. Oh well, at least we got the first two albums, and I think that they were so great that Boston deserves its place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on just that work by itself.

    2. Damn if you don’t like this album you have a problem!!! It is their best!!!You just didn’t get it at all

  3. So maybe it wasn’t there best, (Third Stage) but it was still put together well, with alot of heart and emotion, I never forgot this album at all, it brings back alot of memories for me, also it’s the last album with that nostalgic Boston sound, not every song can be great, but for it’s time it was enough, I say “way to go” Tom Scholz, for this amazing and classic production of it’s time !!

    1. So its 2019. And i found this album “Boston: 3rd Stage” at a thrift store. Like many people back in the 1980’s I purchised it out of curiosity, and I must say I am very impressed. See, I was born in 2000. But my heart lies in the 1980’s. My music choices, gaming chooses, clothing choices, all 1980 – 1990 oriented. This was a spectacular album and it bleeds passion. So many years later. Beats some of the best like AC-DC and Led Zepplin in my opinion. I’m in awe.

      1. I was born in 2001. I love the music and the style from the 70s, 80, & 90s. I wish I could find the Third Stage album at my local thrift store!

  4. Eu conheci o Boston por este disco e um comentário da Rock brigade,o disco é bom no geral e sim tem umas musicas um pouco maçantes,mas resume se ao fato do estilo que o Boston tem e que fica preso nele,nao da para fazer muitos virtuosismo no Pop ainda mais em musica que vai tocar em rádios,Tom Sholz é um gênio,mas dentro do seu estilo e como apareceram muitas bandas influenciadas por eles,nada do que fazem pode parecer novo porque ja foi feito por outros.

  5. I think it’s a good album with more good tracks than bad. I could do without the rocket sound effects though. For my money, “Amanda” is one of the best songs of the 80s but it’s one flaw hangs over the whole album: The dated production. The drums sound funny and where’s the bass?!?

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