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Pop/Rock Legends: Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, ABBA...Toto?
on 26 May 2012
I got introduced to Toto via an interview with Brett Detar of the now defunct The Juliana Theory. In a DVD interview, he mentioned how one of his band mates would not stop playing certain songs by some band called Toto. Who?
Well, whoever they were, he played three short excerpts of the songs "Rosanna", "Hold The Line" and "Africa". Oh my days! About fifteen seconds of each song, and the brief melodies got stuck in my head!
When, exactly, did I discover Toto? Um...about a week ago.
I am 21 and only just starting to explore classic rock. So far, my favourite is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Amazing songwriter. Also, Fleetwood Mac (from 1975 onwards), Chris Rea, The Beatles and The Doors. Loads of research, loads of band searches. Loads of reviews and websites. I can honestly say, aside from one song on a rock compilation I never really play, I have never, ever heard of Toto until I watched my Juliana DVD (the Juliana Theory were one of the finest modern rock bands. Like Toto, they never truly got the respect they deserved).
This is a real shame, for they are genuinely amazing!
Straight after looking for Toto products on Amazon, I came across this box set. Amazing value! Seven albums plus one live DVD for £12.00 is a no brainer. I took the plunge, and about four or five days after hearing this for the first time, I can honestly say I am in love!
This is amazingly played, tuneful and most of all memorable pop music. I say "pop" because it's a bit hard to categorise. R'n'B, prog, rock, even metal influences shine through the various performances, but the resounding feature of the songwriting is without a doubt the exuberant melodies: this is distinctly pop music, but without the narrow minded approach most artists make to stick to one specific genre. This is fun stuff!
Ok, the debut: 5 stars
Highlights? Pretty much all the tracks, but the opening gut-punch of "Child's Anthem", "I'll Supply The Love", "Georgie Porgy", and "Manuela Run" is astounding in its variety and catchiness! The big hit single "Hold The Line" is a real classic, and "Angela", the closing number, is one song that has stood the test of time very well: after all these years, the shift in dynamics half way through still sounds so fresh, and I was not expecting it. Nothing about this album sounds cliched, although it feels very much like a '70's album. I am 21. I wish I were 30 years older! Cannot find a single thing to complain about. All good songs here!
Ok, not entirely into this one (as yet) 3 stars
I love the opening, self-titled track. "99" is good too, but its not really been played properly yet (its only been a few days!). So far, my least favourite (but that may change!)
Is this meant to be rubbish? 4 stars
Ok, apparently this album is supposedly a poorer Toto effort, judging by its lack of commercial success and no hit singles. Why? There are at least 3 brilliant rock classic on this: "Gift With A Golden Gun", "English Eyes" and my favourite, "I Think I Could Stand You Forever". This may just become my number one Toto album in time!
The BIG one: 4.5 stars
Not quite a rock classic like Born To Run or Rumours, but my goodness! The hooks! "Rosanna" is so addictive it should either be number one, or else banned! A seriously amazing melody! "Africa" is a classic. Again, I know I should have, but until this week I had never, EVER heard a single song on this album. I haven't lived... Anything else? "Make Believe" is great, the rest simply blurring into a mass of heavenly goodness. Seriously, its been ages since pop music has had such an immense effect on my senses!
Played once- 3.5 stars
Have yet to really get stuck into this one. My verdict? I liked it very much while it played, but I liked IV and Fahrenheit a lot more! Look forward to replaying it soon, however...
Miles Davis? 5 stars
Miles Davis? Ok...that simply blew my mind. I saw his name in the credits, and I just knew I would have to really listen to this album. Also, lead vocalist Joseph Williams performed the singing voice of adult Simba in The Lion King, a favourite of mine. That's a nice bit of trivia, but I wouldn't have guessed, as to me he sounds like a more sophisticated Michael Jackson, with a lot of soul in his voice (I gather his vocal style may have reflected certain trends of the 1980's, but I love it!). "I'll Be Over You" is extraordinarily powerful. This is a pop song on the same high level as ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, and The Beatles. Simply spellbinding! The first 3 songs are terrific, especially "We Can Make It Tonight" and "Without Your Love". This is '80's pop at its finest. But the albums finest moment overall is the astoundingly beautiful instrumental "Don't Stop Me Now" featuring...Miles Davis. Ok, I love Kind Of Blue, a jazz classic. But I also love how he brings his distinct energy to this smooth number, whilst still keeping the flow of the rest of the album. I honestly cannot understand how its taken me 21 years to discover this pop gem. A masterpiece? Why not! Its a darn side better than Lady Gaga (although her "Marry The Night" would have sounded at home on this album). And a million miles better than Justin Bieber! Classic, I'm loving the energy of this one.
The Seventh One
Toto IV pt. 2? 3 stars
This one has yet to grab my attention, though at this point in the week I may simply be Toto-ed out. Is it going to grow on me? No doubt about it, "Stay Away" is so good. It strongly reminds me of Megadeth's and Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia's powerful duet of "A Tout Le Monde" from 2007. I really dig this track. "Stop Loving You" is very good, as is "Rosanna Pt. 2", I mean "Pamela" and the very african (and "Africa"-lite) "Mushanga". Excellent drumwork on this last track. Not yet fully into this one, but I liked it a lot, and like Isolation, I'm looking forward to replaying it again...
Greatest Hits Live
Decent DVD. Rubbish camerawork. 3 stars
So, its been less than a week with this box set, but I am so impressed with this! I've never heard anything by this band before, so it has been refreshing to listen to an old-school band without any preconceived ideas. How Toto are not as highly esteemed as other bands of the era such as Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen shall forever be a mystery to me, now that I've heard this. Also, how can a band of musicians so well renowned and talented as this go unnoticed by the 21st Century media? These are amazing songs, and the quality, and catchiness of a song like "I'll Be Over You" simply screams for karaoke meltdown on a Friday night, if only it were more well known!
So finally, Toto are uncool? Um...how does that explain the love for '80's cheese-bombs like Wham!, A-ha and T'Pau? Toto are nothing but awesome!
Either that, or I am just not cool. Oh well, who needs to fit in with the majority when you have a small box of immense treasure sitting on your shelf!
(I may update this is a few months, but I can't see me changing my views too much (aside from perhaps an improved respect for Isolation and The Seventh One).)