There are a number of moments on this comeback album where the listener could be hearing a debut record ; it’s no exaggeration to say that there is an element of excitement here that many a young outfit would struggle to attain. Yes they are a veteran crew, but you can sense the relish with which this set has been put together.
On the downside, since these recordings were finished, brother of longtime/founder member Steve Porcaro Mike Porcaro has passed, claimed by ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. So with 35 million album sales under their belts, this stalwart and inventive crew goes on tour once more, with memories of a lost buddy…..
Starting cut ‘Running Out Of Time’ has a strong tinge of Mahavishnu, with its urgent tempo and clipped axe chords and twisting fuzz leads ; ‘Burn’ has a piano intro – David Paich, son of the mighty arranger Marty Paich who worked on my beloved early Spirit albums – and a haunting melody over a steady patter of Keith Carlock drums and an impassioned vocal from Joseph Williams. You can hear this band’s deep influence over so many European metal bands.
‘Holy War’ rides a choppy beat with Lukather meaty riffs weaving in and out – a player’s player and no wonder Ringo takes him on tour ! Again catchy and intriguing.
‘21st Century Blues’ has Steve stepping up to sing on a Steely Dan style blues tread. As he’s admitted to me, ‘The Royal Scam’ was key album for the young Luke….
‘Orphan’ finds the group in eerie mode though the song itself is quite uplifting. When the heavy riff kicks in it’s the song in overdrive ; ‘Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey)’ could be a Fairport Convention melody though Lukather doesn’t emulate the sombre vocal delivery of Richard Thompson ; ‘The Little Things’ is really pretty, a toybox melody over a syncopated tempo and yes the subtle percussion is indeed Mr Lenny Castro. Lukather is pals with Joe Bonamassa and clearly also finds this musician a treasure to have aboard.
So far, so soulful and accomplished . Next cut ‘Chinatown’ is set to a twinkling keyboard pattern, filmic in its steadiness but again the distorted guitar slices in when most effective. Is that Doobie man Michael McDonald singing in the mix ? Yes indeed – the song is like a Don Fagen/Brian Wilson collaboration……
‘All The Tears That Shine’ has Paich taking lead vocal on a tune evoking Peter Gabriel, delivered more huskily. ‘Fortune’ has cool guitar figures on a sly workout and is a real grower. A single, I humbly suggest, if a horn section could be added from around 1:13 ?
Closer ‘Great Expectations’ is hymnal in approach and something of the vibe of the Beach Boys’ ‘Holland’…for about 45 seconds when an urgent beat kicks in. A good wrap-up….and not what you might expect..
A band of experienced players and singers stretching themselves but not abandoning their intuitive melodic sound and grip of dynamics. Welcome back
..at which point we cut to part of a conversation about music between me and Steve Lukather :
I’ve been listening to the Toto album and I really like a lot of it.
Really? Wow that means a lot knowing where you come from and what you listen to. I’m glad you got something out of that, at least a little bit anyway.
At the moment I can’t decide whether ‘Fortune’ or ‘Great Expectations’ is my favourite.
We just threw a bunch of our favourite influences against the wall, had some fun and worked really f***ing hard on the record I can tell you that. We tried to make it the best Toto record we could and we’re not trying to be something we’re not. I’m getting ready to go on tour with Larry Carlton next week so I’m gonna get a couple weeks of guitar lessons from the master. He always kicks me in the ass and opens up the vocabulary. He’s one of my favourite players and I got a lot out of learning his stuff and he was a big influence on me as well. His approach to the blues is unlike… he’s a jazz player but with a little louder approach and I’ve always loved that about him.
I was wondering how you got that John Mcloughlin thing in ‘Running out of Time’? It’s like Mahvishnu coming at you.
(Laughs) That was just a flat fifth, Pete !
But you think ‘This is Toto? Wow!
Well thanks that’s a great compliment !! Thank you very much. I’ll take that!
Alright…. Thanks a lot, Steve
Take care, Pete. It’s been a groove talking to you man and I hope I get to see you. When we get near you come out and see us man you might be surprised.
Come down to the Eventim Apollo show in London. I appreciate the time and that you really like the new record. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation and would sure like to do it again sometime. Bye for now,man !.
Toto are releasing Toto XIV on 23rd March on Frontiers Music Srl and will be touring the UK and Ireland in May 2015 at the following venues:
Thursday 21st May- Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, United Kingdom www.glasgowconcerthalls.com
Saturday 23rd May- Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland
Monday 25th May- O2 Apollo, Manchester, United Kingdom
Tuesday 26th May- Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
For more information visit: www.stevelukather.com
FOOTNOTE: watch this space for a feature of guitar ace Steve Lukather’s inspirations