After an 8 year courtroom battle with Epic Records that Boston had won, The band, or Tom Scholz brainchild with the epic singing of Brad Delp, released the third Boston album Third Stage. While it wasn’t as massive of a financial success as the albums as Don’t Look Back (1978) and their hit-infused singles debut album (1976), Boston hit their highest music mark with Third Stage.
Comprised of ten stellar tracks, the album centers on the portion of a person’s life known as the “Third Stage” which, even though the exact age range is not given, is somewhere between 30 to 50 years old more than likely. As this album was written between 1980 and 1984, by the time of its release, The band was in their mid to late 30s (they released their debut album in their late 20s).
By the time of Third Stage’s release, Tom Scholz and Brad Delp were the only original members in the band by the time of the album’s release. Gary Pihl joined as lead guitarist for the song “I Think I Like It”, Sib Hashian provided drums, and Jim Masdea was credited with writing the short instrumental “A New World”.
The album is mostly made of ballads such as “Can’t Ya Say…”, “Amanda”, and “Hollyann”, with the former beginning with piano and the latter two beginning with 12-string acoustic parts. “Hollyann”, I feel, is a very overlooked Boston song, with the 12-string guitar portions of the song underlying the soft vocals of Brad Delp and creating a very calm and romantic atmosphere, similar to the lyrics themselves discussing the love of the 1960s during Woodstock. Then the song builds to a climactic chorus, and the singing becomes evermore romantic and powerful. During the buildup and the chorus thereafter, I usually imagine a thousand lights springing up into the air, with thousands of couples each holding the line of light while a ballad reaches thousands.
I would describe “Can’t Ya Say…” and “Amanda”, but those songs are already iconic ballads within the Boston discography.
On the flipside of the ballads, however, songs such as “We’re Ready”, “Cool the Engines”, “I Think I Like It”, and the instrumentals show off the greatest part about Boston; the ability to switch between soft ballads and happy rockers while still being able to switch comfortably between the two like in the song “To Be A Man”.
The intro song to “Cool the Engines” known as “The Launch”, in particular, has a hard rock and spacey feel to it. I especially love when songs try to evoke an atmosphere separate from love ballads, and while I love the ballads on Third Stage, I tend to listen to the harder rocking material more than the ballads.
All-in-all though, for me Third Stage remains Boston’s magnum opus. It’s with this album that all the years of analog innovation and the creative mind of Tom Scholz came together in an album of unending beauty, philosophy, and that classic, savory Boston guitar tone. Alongside the equally airy and massive vocals of Brad Delp, Third Stage takes to the skies and reaches its destination, or “My Destination”, if you wanted the pun there.