Toto: Toto XIV

Posted April 13, 2015 by in Progressive rock



2.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , , , ,
Genre: Progressive rock, jazz rock
Producer: C. J. Vanston, Steve Lukather, David Paich, Steve Porcaro, Joseph Williams
Label: Frontiers Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 55:59
Release Date: 23 March 2015
Spin This: "Burn," "Chinatown"


Live arena-rock drums, return of Joseph Williams and the adrenaline to pump out bigger, ambitious sounds are an advantage for the super group


The attitude of doing accessible pop music seems to be a thing of the past

Big ambition stifles Toto’s 2015 from uncovering the hits

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Big ambition stifles Toto’s 2015 from uncovering the hits

Studio super group Toto has been trying to write off that gross mischaracterization that’s been following them since their hyper bloated 1983 album, Toto IV. Yup, that’s the album that walked away with the top award at the Grammys, eclipsing Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly. Since then, the band has floated into rock obscurity and hasn’t seen the type of revivalism that most 80’s rock bands get. The band’s roster has also experienced its own type of metamorphosis since former frontman Bobby Kimball departed once more and bassist Mike Porcaro fell ill to ALS. Their last album, 2006’s Falling in Between, was actually well packaged. It returned them to wailing guitar solos and the crafty chord progressions that made them a wild card amongst their contemporaries, sounding like Steely Dan but with furious adrenaline. Much was working for them on this record: “Taint Your World,” “King of the World” and “Spiritual Man” were all knockout tracks; the production levels in the new digital age reached the kind of exuberance that comes with Toto’s quality. But with being signed to the indie label Frontier Music – a label sporting weary-worn rock bands like Styx, Survivor and Boston, the band somehow missed the mark in reaching newer audiences and critical acclaim. Almost a decade later, they are renewing their zeal on their first studio album since Falling in Between. “They’re really treating this like this is Toto V, our follow-up to Toto IV,” band keyboardist Steve Porcaro said while promoting the disc earlier this year.

Technically speaking, Isolation was Toto V, but that disc failed to match the type of grandeur of its predecessor. Toto XIV, on the other hand, tries to write the wrongs made by the group in the latter part of their career while upholding their hard rock mantle. Some critics still prefer to paint them as the laughingstock of rock, but Steve Lukather’s rushing guitar lines on the opener “Running Out of Time” punctures that theory, as if the band is somehow roaring into the Guitar Hero Hall of Fame. The overcast of adult contemporary seems to be long gone; more ambitious, intricate rock and jazz rock are on full display. “Burn,” a piano-building ballad which blossoms into an edgy workout on its chorus, does show up. There’s also “All the Tears That Shine,” which struts like leftovers of “Human Nature,” a song that actually played on MJ’s Thriller. “Chinatown,” a David Paich-Mike Sherwood song that sounds like Toto circa 1982, also appears, but much of the disc rollicks in the spirit of gutsy, guitar-powered rock that adds more jewels to their arena rock crown.

Newly recruited drummer Keith Carlock mostly contributes to this newfound aesthetic, as he hammers the percussion with a brute live band aggression.  Joseph Williams – son of famous arranger John Williams – returns as alternate lead vocalist, belting with the kind of poise that so reminiscent of Bobby Kimball in his heyday. That addition brings a sense of freshness to epic rock cuts like “Running Out of Time” and “Burn.” The band eventually slides off their high horse when pulling out Steely Dan juke joint exercises on “21st Century Blues,” but the trip proves to be way too short.

On this eleven-track event, almost everything on board does not match the X-factor of their now-classic debut album, nor do we hear Toto playing with the genre-hopping versatility that made them the storied studio geniuses on most of the albums in the ‘80s and ‘90’s. This album is all about proving they have deep aspirations to achieving new levels of rock star fandom, while exploring deeper pools of prog rock. The passion is strongly felt, but hardly any of the songs come alive with a sense of pop magic. It’s as if these complex arrangements have a hard time congealing into something contagious. Though they are masqueraded with remnants of their glory years on Toto XIV, it’s harder to decipher what’s actually a knockout hit. And not every task comes with a sticker of approval. Something like “Holy War” is hard to take serious, especially as Williams is turning up his angst (“Save all the shit about love and freedom”) on an uptempo, feelgood rhythm that feels like it’s been ripped from the pages of mountaintop worship music.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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