Label: Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 20 March 2015
Joseph Williams – Lead Vocals
Steve Lukather – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
David Paich – Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Porcaro – Keyboards, Vocals
David Hungate – Bass
Keith Carlock – Drums
Lenny Castro – Percussion
Tom Scott – Saxes and Horn Arrangements
Lee Sklar, Tal Wilkenfeld, Tim Lefebvre – Bass
Martin Tillman – Cello
CJ Vanston – Additional Synths
Michael McDonald, Amy Keys, Mabvuto Carpenter, Jamie Savko, Amy Wlliams – Background Vocals
01. Running Out of Time
03. Holy War
04. 21st Century Blues
06. Unknown Soldier (for Jeffrey)
07. The Little Things
09. All The Tears That Shine
11. Great Expectations.
Some album releases generate a modicum of interest, some are worthy of column inches in the national press and then there are those that can send a fan base into meltdown. With their first album since 2006’s ‘Falling In Between’, melodic rock and AOR forums have been buzzing with excitement and expectation about the new Toto album.
The press release about the band makes some bold statements. “As individuals, the band members can be heard on an astonishing 5000 albums that together amass a sales history of a HALF A BILLION albums. Amongst these recordings, NARAS applauded the performances with more than 200 Grammy nominations.”
All of a sudden, it’s not at all surprising why the music loving collective is eagerly awaiting this release. The key question though is whether the wait has been worth it. How on earth can a band live up to the expectations that the stats above suggest?
The list of musicians present on this album could either make it entirely flawless or a shambolic mess with “too many cooks spoiling the broth” but thankfully fans need not worry. Never afraid to take a few risks, Toto have delivered something rather unique and certainly very special. Opening with ‘Running Out Of Time’ the mix and production on the track immediately transport the listener back to those heady days when AOR ruled the airwaves and flared skinny jeans were de-rigour in the fashion stakes.
At the end of tack one, the pipe and slippers have come out and AOR purists have settled back on their collective couches \ sofas seemingly safe that all is well in Totoworld and at that exact moment, track two, ‘Burn’ kicks in with an amazing, haunting piano led intro before introducing the mother of all curve balls. Having played the album through multiple times before reviewing, I can safely say that this is my favourite track by a country mile. If you mix Toto with a dash of Imagine Dragons (they of ‘Radioactive’ fame) you can start to appreciate why this is a little bit special. It could have been all too easy for Toto to look at the past and deliver an album for the purists alone that would sound great but in this day and age sell very little. Instead this is a track for modern radio whilst retaining all the hallmarks of the classic outfit that we all know so well. Nothing can express the impact the powerful vocals from Joeseph Williams has when the chorus begins. All too soon, the chorus then drops away and the subtle piano led verses resume. Whilst I think it may be too early to consider albums of the year, this track will take some surpassing.
So by now, an hour has passed, track one has been considered and written up, track two has been placed on repeat and it’s difficult to come off it. However, our readership demands, so onwards…
‘Holy War’ brings out the inner prog in Toto and at times mimics the sounds that Rush have so carefully nurtured over the years. ‘21st Century Blues’ is a good example of the how tight the band are as a collective rather than a group comprising lots of individual musicians. Picking on a quote from the press release, keyboardist and founding member David Paich recently stated; “The repertoire is coming together so naturally it is as though we never took a break from creating as Toto in the studio. For the fans who have been waiting patiently and continually showing the band support and love over the last decade or so, this one’s for you”.
It’s a point well made; the “too many cooks…” philosophy could easily have been proven right, egos could have boiled over and the end result a mess. Not so on tracks like ‘21st Century Blues’ where all musicians compliment rather than play over each other.
‘Orphan’ also keeps the faithful happy but again looks to the modern music scene and keeps everything fresh. ‘Unknown Soldier’ is simply immense and will please all lover of the epic, classic, layered Toto sound.
At the half way mark, it’s clear that the band is not afraid to take chances and stretch their songwriting abilities. As they readily admit in the accompanying press material, they’ve included elements of Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blues and Progressive. The most impressive fact is that the album as a result, does not sound disjointed but rather it feels that everything falls into place neatly.
‘The Little Things’ & ‘Chinatown’ present themselves as classic Toto sitting perfectly side by side. There’s a little bit of jazz funk in the latter track but don’t let that put you off rather imagine a tiny back street club where the band are all piled into a small corner stage playing till the early hours.
For those looking for the rockier Steve Lukather guitar led tracks, look no further than ‘Fortune’ which has some great riffs in the track and album closer ‘Great Expectations’ which is definitely THE right track to finish with. Polished, epic and engaging in equal measure the musicianship is flawless.
Given that the band once again includes original members Steve Lukather, David Paich, Steve Porcaro and sees also the return in the fold of the original bass player David Hungate it’s not surprising that they have been inspired to write such an excellent album. Joseph Williams (singer on “The Seventh One” and “Fahrenheit”) returns to handle lead vocals, while Keith Carlock (Steely Dan, Sting) now sits behind the drumkit.
The final snippit of news for fans is that 2015 will see Toto embark on a massive world tour. Tracks from the new album will be aired (‘Burn’ please fellas !!!) tracks from past Toto albums, and all the hits their fans have come to love and expect will also see light of day.
Written by: Adrian Hextall.
Ratings: Adrian 8/10