Toto / The Essential Toto

Essential Toto

Toto is an American rock band founded in 1977 by some of the most popular and experienced session musicians of the era. The band enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1970’s and 1980s, beginning with the band’s self-titled debut released in 1978. With the release of 1982’s critically acclaimed and commercially successful Toto IV, Toto became one of the best-selling music groups of their era. They are best known for such hit singles as “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” “Africa,” and “Pamela.” Although their popularity in the United States diminished in the 1990s and 2000s, they continued to sell out arenas constantly internationally, only playing minimal shows in the USA.

Toto is known for a musical style that combines elements of pop, rock, soul, funk, progressive rock, hard rock, R&B and jazz. Although they were regularly associated with the soft rock genre, Toto’s broad array of musical styles helps them appeal to a variety of listeners.

The band has released 17 albums and have sold over 30 million records to date. Their 18th album, Falling In Between Live, was released in August 2007, a live release recorded in March 2007 in Paris. At the end of the Falling In Between tour in 2008, guitarist Steve Lukather announced his departure from the band, and the remaining band members subsequently went their separate ways. Recently, Toto announced a short European tour in summer of 2010 to benefit longtime bassist Mike Porcaro, who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The Analysis:

Hold The Line—-With the instantly recognizable piano and the wonderful vocal of Kimball, this is a true classic that allows you to know Toto no matter what your age. This played so well on ‘soft-radio’ stations, but has a remarkable guitar line that runs through the song. This is magical and produces layers upon layers of memories every time i hear this song…the band was fairly well cemented in their career by the time this came around…this only proved to make them even more popular…elevating them to a cult status.

Rosanna—-Hitting big in the 80’s when synth pop was king, this managed to score huge on the charts thanks to an undeniable sound and a great video. This is a driving song that is magically full of longing and regret. The drum track that flows through the song is wonderful and sticks in your brain…when you add in the smooth vocal, a bona fide hit was born. this is crystal clear vocally, with a nice rock base to the foundation of the song. This is a classic piece of 80’s music…reminding us that there WAS more to the decade than New Wave.

Africa—-The biggest and best known song of this band’s career, Toto IV was a bona fide smash all over the world and elevated the band to a career high…one that it had trouble replicating. This song is full of a slight tribal beat, lyrics that make your heart cringe and your emotions run wild and a video that was made to appeal to the new MTV generation…combining all of this together made this the song of the summer, winter, spring and fall. This is classic stuff!

99—-One of the singles that introduced this bunch of session players to the world in the late 70’s, this song still remains a very favorite of mine. It contains all of the elements of that time period when FM radio was just beginning to become something huge. I will never forget the summer that this song was huge…allowing me my first tastes of freedom and the realization that my home life was not like most others. So, perhaps this is a bit bittersweet for me, but indeed it is a song I hold close to me and will never forget. The track is rich in layers…full of that classic 70’s piano sound with a gentle instrumentation added to bolster the sound. The vocals are layered as well…with overlays added to beef up the sound…it all ends up as a remarkable smooth pop song that reeks of 70’s power pop! And did I mention the horns…..fantastic!

Make Believe—-Another classic piano driven track from the 80’s, this track is huge in sound. the vocal is literally fantastic…you could never ask for more melody or heartfelt lyrics. This remains magnificent…showing the diversity of sound that this band was capable of producing. The guitars are subtle, the drums are huge and the combined result is nothing less than magnificent. The vocal is unique…crystal clear and full of remarkable harmonies provided by a band effort. This is a stellar recording.

I’ll Supply The Love—-Now this track…..reeks of the 70’s!!! Reminding me of a long-lost Foreigner song or something. This is built on gang vocals on the chorus and a lead vocal that is obviously by someone else…not sure who. this is just wonderful though…making me think of Sweet or one of those other obscure 70’s one-hit wonders. None the less, this is huge fun…I love this stuff.

Georgy Porgy—-This song has never really made that much of an impression on me…finding it hard to tell if this is an 80’s recording or a 70’s recording, the sound and style fall in that nicely blurred line that makes it accessible to all generations. again, the vocal sounds different…the band seems to have had their share of different lead vocalists throughout their career. This is nice pop rock that is accentuated by a nice background female vocal….not a favorite of mine but still great enough to stand on its own.

I Won’t Hold You Back—-Well, let me tell you…if you ever have that urge to cry…put this song on and the tears will come without any problem. this is laden with a hook that spells loneliness, isolation and depression. The vocal is delivered with a heavy air that conveys the real emotion that was behind the lyric. this is one of the most intense and heartfelt songs ever released by this band and it literally tears me up every time I hear it. There are memories that go along with this…and trust me, that does not help. this is just wonderful.

I’ll Be Over You—-To me, this sounds like a Chicago song. The delivery of the vocal and the atmosphere that is supplied by the keyboards give the song a very large feel. This is wonderfully melancholic and introspective…delivered with another crystal clear vocal that allows you to catch every word as they sink into your psyche. This is magnificent!

Without Your Love—-With a nice jaunty bass line and a vocal that makes you think of Rosanna, this is a wonderful little pop song. full of lyrics that make you swallow every word and digest it…wishing you were any where but the place where you are right at this moment. The added vocals that the band adds gives the song a much more beefed up sound and when the guitar is allowed to soar you are treated to an AOR masterpiece…this band made very errors in their career.

Pamela—-Beginning rather sedate, but magically picking up wonderfully well thanks to the drum and guitar track, this turns into something you were not expecting. This is reminiscent of early 80’s Duran Duran…the jaunty musical delivery and the prominent synth line…this is wonderful fun. The chorus is this huge affair with the whole band adding vocals…really nice!

The Turning Point—-Heavy with piano and a superb bass line, this still never loses that trademark Toto  sound. The vocalist…again…sounds different and foreign, but the music dictates the song and allows you to know who this is….even though this still reminds me of Chicago. A really nice track.

 Mindfields—-Again, this begins in a jaunty way….with a nice bit of a funk feel thrown in for fun. the vocal is much more familiar and lands in my cerebellum much easier. this is a nice poppy kind of track that has some nice harmonies and a band effort on the chorus. This is great…even though it is completely unfamiliar to me.

On The Run [Live]—-Live, this band delivers a much more guitar oriented set…this song is a clear indication of that. The synth lines that pop up are gone and this again comes off like a Foreigner song. Not really a favorite of mine, but I still would give my eye teeth to see this classic line up just once.

**** out of 5


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