Spotlight Album Review #14

Reviewed on this page:

The early success of the band Boston is well known to fans of classic rock. Their self-titled 1976 debut album made a huge commercial splash with its turbo-charged, technically sophisticated arena rock anthems. Every track on that sonic rollercoaster of an album is familiar to listeners of classic rock radio -- even the listeners who don't own a copy. But during the decades that followed, Boston albums were few and far between, and leader Tom Scholz earned a reputation as rock's ultimate studio slowpoke. (This was back in the days when it was very uncommon for a well-known band to go on a decade-long hiatus). After Boston's sophomore album Don't Look Back was released in 1978, there were consistent eight-year gaps between Boston releases. Their much-delayed third album Third Stage arrived in 1986; the fourth album Walk On appeared in 1994; and the fifth album Corporate America came into existence in 2002. Scholz was even truer to his reputation than usual when the sixth Boston album, titled Life, Love & Hope, was released in 2013 -- ten years after work had begun on the album! Although that last album did feature vocals by Boston's usual lead vocalist Brad Delp on three of its tracks, Delp sadly did not live to see the album's completion. In March 2007, Delp took his own life.

During the long stretches between Boston albums, Delp often worked on side projects with the band's former guitarist Barry Goudreau, who left Boston after the second album. Delp took part in Goudreau's self-titled 1980 solo album, and in Goudreau's band called Orion The Hunter, which issued a self-titled album in 1984. In 1991, after Delp temporarily left Boston, he and Goudreau formed yet another band called RTZ, short for Return To Zero. Their self-titled 1991 album Return To Zero is out of print.

Return To Zero consists of arena rock that is similar to the Boston model, but without Tom Scholz's overpowering production values. Fortunately, the quintet is served well by the comparatively subtle arrangements, and they display admirable strengths instead of shortcomings. Although Return To Zero does not have the immediately gripping power of a Boston album, it has an appeal of its own that becomes more apparent over time and repeat listenings. Delp's vocals are still penetrating without being punched across in the Boston way; Goudreau and the other three instrumentalists (keyboardist Brian Maes, drummer David Stefanelli, and bassist Tim Archibald) all sound skilled and engaged. The album's best-known song is actually one of its weaker tracks: the surprise Top 30 single "Until Your Love Comes Back Around" is a rather formulaic power ballad. But RTZ impresses with harder-rocking tracks such as "Livin' For The Rock 'N' Roll" and "Devil To Pay". This CD loads most of its better songs towards the end instead of the beginning. The best track is almost saved for last: "Hard Time (In The Big House)" is the equal of almost any song that Delp and Goudreau did with Boston. The album is inevitably dated; in fact, it sounds more like a late-'80's recording than one from the early '90's. Still, Return To Zero is certainly worthy of some respect. (Note: a second RTZ album called Lost surfaced in 1998, but it consisted of leftover tracks from the 1991 sessions, not of new recordings).

Track Listing:

1. Face The Music
2. There's Another Side
3. All You've Got
4. This Is My Life
5. Rain Down On Me
6. Every Door Is Open
7. Devil To Pay
8. Until Your Love Comes Back Around
9. Livin' For The Rock 'N' Roll
10. Hard Time (In The Big House)
11. Return To Zero

See also Orion The Hunter


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#8: Distractions - "Nobody's Perfect" (1980)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)