The quality of the musicians who are, or who have gone through Toto, no doubt, then, from the group, the least that is expected is something above average, and "Toto XIV", the first one by Frontiers Records, justifies all the Serafino Perugino’s enthusiasm , the boss of the record company, and certainly let the fans very happy. (Leia a versão em português)
Through the comments of the musicians themselves, could also be noticed the excitement with these new songs, a clear example is one of many comments of the guitarist Steve Lukather, where he says that the album would bring all what the fans love in Toto music as well, an album that was being done with "blood, sweat and soul". In a production that took 11 months, "XIV" also served to the group to prove to themselves that they are still able to produce new and great songs.
The title "XIV", Steve explains that the Roman numerals and more the sword on the cover, always brought them luck, and also because they did not put a specific song as the title, for all the quality and diversity of the songs.
This album was long waited because the last studio album was "Falling Between", released in 2006, then the expectation was also big, and great expectations can create frustration, so that's how I was watching the proceedings with great expectations, but with a little fear, despite knowing very well the ability to musicians like Steve Lukather, David Paich, Joseph Williams, Steve Porcaro and Keith Carlock, the core of the current Toto, who is always surrounded by many people, both in the studio as live, remembering that it is the debut of Carlock, the group's youngest (musician who has accompanied artists such as Sting, John Mayer, Steely Dan, James Taylor), born in Mississippi, and he brings in the veins all the groove of the musicians of those sides, fitting perfectly into the diversity, technique and feeling that are required to integrate a band like Toto.
Well, with the album in hand, the expectations were met, the group presents fans with a great album, and can be placed among the great successes of Toto as "Hydra" and "IV".
Big hooks, big guitars, great melodies, great keyboards and great vocals (Joseph sounds great, keeps his voice intact through the years)! There are many textures and timbres, creative arrangements, either in instrumental or vocal parts, great melodies, some new instant hits, diversity and technique, all working for the compositions itself. The Toto can make music with extreme technical accuracy, while sound "commercial" and with the capacity to create huge Hits. Pure feeling.
Relying on the little hand of musicians as David Hungate (formerly, but always present in multiple albums), Amy Keys, CJ Vanston (producer), Tal Wilkenfeld and others, what we have here is high quality music, and it's amazing how musicians with their capacity and feeling (just technique isn’t good music warranty) transform the music in something almost palpable. It is as if the melodies, notes jumped by stereo, enter the ears, slide the fingers ... are so many details and arrangements of each instrument, each voice, which are necessary for many auditions you enjoy the work as a whole, and what is more commendable, you can simply listen without compromise because, as I said before, everything works for the good music, then immediately captivating melodies, perfectly combined technique and feeling.
The diversity of Toto's music is something that they bring from the start, then we can find from more nuances and Hard AOR, as in the opening with "Running Out of Time", with bright melodies of Lukather’s guitars, and that the new owner of drumsticks Keith Carlock, already shows all your skills, looking to further brought "groove" to Toto music; nice and catchy rocking "Holy War" (despite the serious subject of the lyrics), which has a great chorus also an immediate “Hit”, highlighted the lyric, talking about all this tension we live in today, with groups of fanatics killing in the name of religion; diversity also arises in the modern blues "21st Century Blues" and the progressive and funk music inroads of "Chinatown". That brilliant musicians.
Besides the mentioned "Holy War", one that is an immediate hit is "Orphan", with amazing melodies to keyboards and guitar, and the beautiful and catchy chorus, the guys do not lose out to build big hits, and open parenthesis here to the detail that the band has more of a singer (here Williams and Lukather divide vocals), feature them too, though Williams take charge of lead vocals, David Paich, Lukather and Porcaro also sing or share some vocals on several tracks, and to top it off, there is the support of various backings guests, further contributing to the diversity of the arrangements; "Burn", which starts soft, with the main melody keyboard, simple but beautiful, which sticks in the mind immediately. The track grows in the chorus and there for its half, creating an air of "power ballad"; "Unknown Soldier", Lukather takes brightly vocals on a track loaded with emotion, where synthesizers and acoustic guitars give a progressive air, half folk; in "The Little Things" is the turn of Steve Porcaro do sometimes vocalist in a sensitive and touching ballad, full of beautiful and striking melodies and a certain "pop vocation." Excellent.
The aforementioned "Chinatown" with Lukather, Paich and Williams sharing the vocals, full of groove and variations, ranging from pop to progressive, AOR to Jazz, and therein lies the magic in Toto music: you can not label their music! The music is at the same time, complex and commercial; I played with my son, who is also an admirer of the Toto’s music, which was missing a song with a woman's name because they have several ("Angela", “Rosanna”, “Carmen”, “Pamela”...), but then we have "All the Tears That Shines" in which the subject is implied hehehe , composed and sung by David Paich (author or co-author of some of the biggest hits of the band, as "Rosanna," "Africa" and "Hold the Line") then ok, nothing is missing in this album (well, could have a appearance of Bobby Kimball, the original singer, and my favorite, although Joseph comes second in my preference). The mature voice of David, supported by soft melodies, the groove of Keith and beautiful backing vocals, delivery over a beautiful ballad to the Toto’s vast collection ; "Fortune" also has the Toto’s characteristic "groovy" in a captivating way, besides the great vocal work and always hooked choruses;
Now, what a beautiful piece is "Great Expectations," which brings the trio Paich / Lukather / Williams dividing the vocals again, and the longest track on the album (6:48 min), we have another lesson on how to melodious music with technical , feeling and groove. Striking vocal lines, many variations, progressive raids and amazing drums, huge keyboards / synths and guitars, this music is perhaps one of the fastest bring that air of classic Toto, and, I believe, for this more progressive calling it, has a “seventies air” as well. In some editions can still be found the bonus track "Bend", an acoustic ballad, short, permeated by loop effects on acoustic guitar.
Musicality, feeling, groove, technique, good taste ... are so many adjectives, elements that any fan of the band know you will find in the group's music, and will certainly be very, very happy with this album, which brings the Toto classic sound. Here, they did what they do best, and without pressure to produce a radio hit, as it was in the 80s. Definitely one of the best albums of the band, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with their more classic stuff, and also one of the better releases of this 2015. To listen without moderation!
The sad note, is that the 15th of this month died Mike Porcaro (1955-2015), former bassist Toto (brother of Steve Porcaro and also of the original drummer, Jeff Porcaro, who died in 1992), who suffered from ALS, degenerative disease which forced him to leave the stage for some time. RIP Mike.
Text: Carlos Garcia
Edition: Carlos Garcia
Album: "XIV" (2015)
Production: CJ Vanston and Toto
"Running Out of Time"
"21st Century Blues"
"Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey)"
"The Little Things"
"All the Tears That Shine"
Steve Lukather - vocals, guitars, bass on tracks 5, 6, 11
Joseph Williams - lead vocals
David Paich - vocals, keyboards
Steve Porcaro - vocals, keyboards
Keith Carlock - drums