Which album invented AOR? For most people the genre starts with BOSTON’s debut album. They were the first band to combine vocal melodies and harmonies with the power of traditional hard rock, all wrapped up in a slick, layered production. It went on to become a phenomenon, selling 17 million copies in the USA alone.
Brad Delp’s voice, melodic and with a great range, set the template for future AOR, but the real mastermind of the band was guitarist and main songwriter Tom Scholz; a technological wizard, his perfectionism created a immaculate, radio friendly sound.
Imagine the excitement of putting the record on in 1976 and hearing that quiet intro to ‘More Than a Feeling’ burst into life as Delp lifts his voice to reach the higher notes and a guitar break leads into that big chorus with its handclap style effects. To this day, along with ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ and ‘Hold the Line’, it is probably the most played AOR song. Yet in my view the second song ‘Peace of Mind’ is even better with massive vocal harmonies as well as the equally melodic twin guitar breaks of Scholz and Barry Goudreau.
Longer rock outs like ‘Foreplay/Long Time and Smokin’, with its very DEEP PURPLE-like organ work, still have a typically seventies feel. On the other hand, vocal harmonies are more prominent on the softer rock of ‘Hitch A Ride’ and ‘Let Me Take You Home Tonight’, where the acoustic and electric guitars also combine particularly well.
‘Rock and Roll Band’ is an autobiographical anthem, and ‘Something About You’ another gem late in the album with more harmony guitars and some great mass vocals on the bridge after the chorus. There isn’t a weak song on the album and indeed every number is still played on American classic rock radio to this day.
It is an AOR milestone but more than that, as it is rightly listed alongside MONTROSE and VAN HALEN as the best debut albums of all time in any rock genre.