Don't Look Back (Boston album)
|Don't Look Back|
|Studio album by|
|Released||August 2, 1978|
|Studio||Tom Scholz's Hideaway Studio|
Northern Studio, Maynard, Massachusetts
|Genre||Hard rock, arena rock, progressive rock|
|Singles from Don't Look Back|
|Christgau's Record Guide||B–|
Don't Look Back is the second studio album by American rock band Boston, released in 1978 on Epic Records. The album reached No. 1 in the US and No. 9 in the UK, and the title track is one of the band's biggest hits, reaching No. 4 in 1978 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album sold over four million copies in the first month of its release, and was certified 7x platinum by the RIAA in the US.
This album also marked the beginning of the band's legal fight with its record label, Epic. Guitarist, producer and primary songwriter Tom Scholz claimed that Epic executives pushed him and the band into releasing the album before they felt it was ready. He also said that the album "was ridiculously short. It needed another song". Their next album, Third Stage, was not released for another eight years, by which time the band and record label had parted ways and were fighting a courtroom battle that Boston ultimately won.
Don't Look Back's two-year gap marks the shortest between two Boston albums to date.
Don't Look Back was recorded during 1977 and 1978 at Scholz's Hideaway Studio, except for the piano on "A Man I'll Never Be", which was recorded by engineer Dave Butler at Northern Studio in Maynard, Massachusetts.
Don't Look Back was originally to be titled Arrival, but Boston members discovered that ABBA had already released an album by that name, so Don't Look Back was chosen instead. The album was listed erroneously as Arrival in the cassette inserts of some other CBS releases at the time promoting albums available from the record company and its associated labels.
Billboard described the album as "an equally superior effort [to their debut album] that further refines this group's ability to play hard rock underlined by a sweet, melodic base". Ken Emerson of Rolling Stone said that the album consolidated the sound of the band's debut album but was less pretentious than Bruce Springsteen's 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. Emerson noted a theme of Scholz expressing his anxieties, particularly with making this album, as evidenced by lines about being unsure about measuring up as man in "A Man I'll Never Be", and the line "I've been used/But I'm taking it like a man" in "Used to Bad News".(NOTE: "Used to Bad News" was written by Brad Delp) Emerson also pointed out contradictions between the lyrics of certain songs, such as the line that "I'm much too strong not to compromise" in "Don't Look Back" versus the line in "A Man I'll Never Be" that "I can't get any stronger", or the line "Emotions can't be satisfied" in "A Man I'll Never Be" versus the title itself of "Feelin' Satisfied". Brad Chadderton of The Ottawa Journal praised the album for its heavy, innovative and melodic guitar lines; for Brad Delp's vocals; and for lyrics that contain philosophical meaning, calling Don't Look Back an improvement over the debut album.
"Don't Look Back", "A Man I'll Never Be" and "Feelin' Satisfied" were all released as singles, reaching No. 4, 31 and 46 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100.
"The Journey" is a short instrumental track that links the opening title track and the third track, "It's Easy". In 1987, Scholz cited it as his favorite song on any of Boston's first three albums, but wished that it were longer. He described it as, "I'm floating through space, cruising in an airplane over the clouds". Billboard writer Paul Grein cited "The Journey" as an example of science fiction-like music on Don't Look Back that is consistent with the guitar-spaceship cover art of the album (and single). Grein referred to it as having an "almost religious" tone, anticipating that some listeners would find it "pretentious" but stating that he found it an effective interlude between the harder rocking songs "Don't Look Back" and "It's Easy". Emerson said that the organ sounds church-like and that the guitars sound "ghostly", making the track sound "eerie and alienated". He compared "The Journey" to David Bowie's work during the late 1970s. According to Scholz, the song had being lying around for years before he found "the right theme to match the music". It took him just three days to record. The song was the only one on the album without a drum track, and so it was the only song on which drummer Sib Hashian did not appear. Barry Goudreau, who played rhythm guitar, was the only musician on the track besides Scholz. "The Journey" was released as the B-side of the "Don't Look Back" single.
Grein described the transition from "The Journey" to "It's Easy" as "appropriately jarring" due to the latter song's fast boogie guitar introduction. "It's Easy" contains the line "I believe what we achieve will soon be left behind", which Emerson points out appears to be sung to a girl with whom the singer is having a one-night stand, but may also be a self-reference to Boston's own music, similar to the band's approach on their earlier hit "More Than a Feeling". Emerson also noted a similar theme of nostalgia between "More Than a Feeling" and "It's Easy". Writer Derek Oliver included the song as one of several on the album that retained Boston's "signature sound" of "pristine production, humongous orchestral guitars and stupendous vocals" from the debut album. AllMusic critic Tim Sendra found this song "more reflective" than any of the material on Boston's debut.
"Party" was co-written by Delp and Scholz. It begins with a short, slow introduction before a surprising change of pace to the fast, harder sound that persists throughout the rest of the song, in much the same way as "Something About You" from the debut. The dual themes of "Party" are loud parties and teenage sex. Grein compared the "raucous bar band climax" ending of the song to Aerosmith. Sendra found the song to be a "storming rocker" in the mold of "Smokin'" from the debut. "Party" is another song cited by Oliver as retaining the band's signature sound. Billboard rated "Party" to be one of the best songs on the album. It is one of four songs from the album that were included on Boston's Greatest Hits album, along with the three singles.
"Used to Bad News" was written by Delp, making it the only song on the album on which Scholz did not receive a writing credit. Emerson described "Used to Bad News" as "a charming, rather Beatles-like song". Greil Marcus rated it as one of the three "masterpieces" on the album, along with the title track and "A Man I'll Never Be". As with "It's Easy", Sendra considered the song to be more reflective than anything on the debut. "Used to Bad News" is the only song on the album on which Goudreau is the sole lead guitarist. Scholz played all the other instruments except drums. It was released as the B-side of the "Feelin' Satisfied" single.
"Don't Be Afraid" closes the album. The song had an earlier genesis than other songs on the album, as it was originally one of the demos Scholz worked on before getting a record contract. Grein stated that it "comes to a crashing, concert-like crescendo", specifically citing Hashian's drumming. It was also released as the B-side of the "A Man I'll Never Be" single.
Compact disc releases
Don't Look Back was among the first commercially produced compact discs when the format was introduced in 1983, but because of ongoing legal issues between Scholz and CBS Records, the title was pulled after a small production run and did not reappear on CD until three years later. Inserts for the original CD pressings contained the "spaceship blueprints" from the original album dust jacket; those illustrations were not included in the 1986 reissue.
This album and the group's first album were remastered and re-released on June 13, 2006. The reissues were digitally remastered personally by Scholz after he heard indirectly that the remastering project was to be handled by Sony's team, which he felt was unacceptable. He took it on himself after negotiations with Legacy Recordings, saying, "I've always wanted to make those albums sound good on CD, and the chance arrived".
A small number of the Sony-remastered versions briefly went on sale in Canada on April 4, 2006 before being removed from sale. Those discs also included a live version of "Shattered Images" (mistitled "Help Me" on the packaging), an unreleased Boston original recorded at a 1976 concert in Philadelphia.
|1.||"Don't Look Back"||5:57|
|4.||"A Man I'll Never Be"||6:37|
|7.||"Used to Bad News"||2:56|
|8.||"Don't Be Afraid"||3:48|
Per liner notes
- Brad Delp – lead and harmony vocals
- Tom Scholz – lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, organs, piano, percussion, producer, engineer, arranger, digital remastering, cover concept
- Barry Goudreau – lead guitar, slide guitar, rhythm guitar on "Don't Look Back", "The Journey", "Used to Bad News" and "Don't Be Afraid"
- Fran Sheehan – bass guitar, percussion on "Don't Look Back"
- Sib Hashian – drums, percussion
|Chart (1978)||Peak position|
|US Billboard 200||1|
|Canada RPM 100 Albums||1|
|UK (The Official Charts Company)||9|
|Sweden (Hung Medien)||8|
|New Zealand (Top 50 Albums)||17|
|RIAA – United States||Gold||August 25, 1978|
|Platinum||August 25, 1978|
|4× Platinum||October 30, 1986|
|5× Platinum||January 29, 1990|
|6× Platinum||December 7, 1992|
|7× Platinum||April 11, 1996|
|RIAA – UK||Silver||1978|
|CRIA – Canada||Gold||Dec 01, 1978|
|Platinum||Aug 01, 1978|
|2× Platinum||Dec 01, 1978|
|3× Platinum||Dec 01, 1978|
|4× Platinum||Jul 01, 1979|
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