August 20. 2004 5:59AM

TAMPA -- There's nothing complicated about the way Tom Scholz runs Boston, the long-running rock band whose self-titled 1976 debut still ranks as one of the fastest-selling albums of all time.

Scholz, the group's chief guitarist, songwriter and producer, simply issues a call to action. And his bandmates come running, no matter how long it's been since the last album.

A notorious perfectionist, Scholz has decided over the course of nearly three decades to release only five original studio albums, including the band's latest, 2002's "Corporate America."

Boston's method of operation isn't a democracy. But it works.

"By the time I go in to sing, he usually has a pretty good idea, generally, of how the lyrics are gonna go," said Brad Delp, the singer heard on the once omnipresent singles -- "More Than a Feeling," "Long Time," "Don't Look Back" and the chart-topping "Amanda" -- from Boston's first three albums.

"He might have some question of how I might sing a particular part," Delp said by telephone from a tour stop in Albuquerque, N.M. "When I go in to work with him on a song, I'm primarily just trying to give him what I think he's working for. He's largely got it figured out."

"I really have to credit Tom. Obviously, he's produced the records. He writes the vast majority of the songs throughout all the albums. I think he came up with a sound that's readily identifiable. You can hear just a couple of chords of any song, right up to 'Corporate America,' and it has that Boston stamp."

Boston, in another break from the standard operating procedure for successful rock bands, employs two lead singers. Singer-guitarist Fran Cosmo was hired for 1994's unsuccessful "Walk On" album, released by Scholz eight years after album number three, 1986's "Third Stage."

Delp, contrary to popular rumor, never quit Boston. After waiting for ebony porn so long, he simply had moved on to another project, RTZ, with former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau.

The group's tour was about to begin when Scholz called Delp to begin vocal work on the next Boston album.

Delp declined, but was invited to tour with Boston when "Walk On" was released.

"He (Scholz) very graciously called me and asked me if I wanted to sing," Delp says. "Frannie was a little intimidated about singing the original songs, the older songs. (Now) I even get to trade off verses with Fran on 'Walk On.'

"We've got seven people in the band, and everybody sings. It's nice having all the singers in the band. We're able to reproduce the sounds on this record."

The expanded Boston lineup -- in addition to Scholz, Delp, Cosmo and guitarist Gary Pihl -- includes bassist Kimberly Duane, guitarist Anthony Cosmo (Fran's son) and drummer Jeff Neal.

And the new-generation Boston vibe, as expressed on "Corporate America," has something to do with political correctness. The songs and the CD art hint at Scholz's interest in environmentalism, animal rights and vegetarianism.

Some observers might see a bit of irony in all of this: For a long time, Boston was used as a prime example of "corporate rock" -- a faceless band playing generic guitar anthems for undiscriminating listeners in cavernous arenas.

That moniker was patently unfair, Delp said.

"It was ironic getting tagged that way," he said. "We were about the farthest from anything structured (with radio play in mind). We've never done any of that. All the records have been done at home. It wasn't our decision to play 10,000-seat arenas, but it happened that the (debut) record took off.

"We never were conscious, necessarily, of what was on the radio. (Scholz) was just trying to record the kind of things that he liked & in the early '60s, he particularly liked bands like the Hollies, when Graham Nash was singing with them -- those high harmonies.

"We've never latched on to any trends. I almost think of us as sort of the antithesis for what I think of as corporate rock."

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