“Since Tom Scholz is such a slow worker, there were only four Boston albums between the group's 1976 debut and this Greatest Hits collection in 1997. That may mean that there isn’t much music to compile…but that doesn't matter for most casual fans” (Erlewine) merely interested in having songs like “More Than a Feeling to Amanda, on one compact disc” (Erlewine).
The biggest problem with this album is determining who it is for. “For the collector, the record isn’t quite as appealing, even if it contains three new songs as bait. These three songs simply don’t deliver the melodic punch or guitar crunch that distinguishes the group’s best work. It’s nice to hear original vocalist Brad Delp on Higher Power, but Tell Me is slight, and an instrumental version of The Star Spangled Banner is nearly an insult” (Erlewine).
For the casual fan, this assembles most of the familiar radio fare. However, this album exposes a problem with titling a collection Greatest Hits as opposed to Best of. The latter allows for more leeway, since it could be anyone’s opinion what the best of a band is. This collection might have more properly been called that and, if nothing else, the alliteration of the title Best of Boston would have sounded better.
However, by calling the album Greatest Hits, there is an implied commitment to gather those songs that charted the highest. Here is where the album falters. Between the pop charts and the album rock charts, Boston charted 12 songs from 1976 to 1997. Four of those songs are not here. Casual fans may not miss ‘I Need Your Love’ and ‘Walk On,’ from Boston’s 1994 album, but even the somewhat initiated Boston fan has to wonder where 1986’s Third Stage songs ‘We’re Ready’ and ‘Can’tcha Say/Still in Love’ are. The former was one of Boston’s four top 10 pop hits and the latter reached #20 on the pop charts.
Mind you, there are a couple of well-known songs here that didn’t chart, but have received plenty of airplay over the years. It would be hard to imagine this collection existing without Rock and Roll Band and Party. However, we certainly don’t need Livin’ for You and a second version of Higher Power.
Another note: some anthologies can get away with a non-chronological track listing; this collection isn’t one of them. With so much time between albums, Boston lacks continuity in sound (by the third album, 3/5 of the original members had left) and jumping around between eras can be jarring. The shortcomings of more recent material are never more apparent than when new song ‘Higher Power’ flows into ‘More Than a Feeling.’ Why not kick things off with the latter, the best known Boston song and one of album rock’s biggest songs ever? Leave the new recordings for the end, where the drop-off won’t be quite so obvious.
In the end, “Greatest Hits is a mixed bag” (Erlewine). It may gather enough to satisfy the casual fan, but one is better off buying the first two albums, which taken together practically make for a greatest hits anyway.