Having been in the business for 39 years, bar their brief retirement from 2008 to 2010, and sold over 35 million records are Toto. With sleek and embarrassingly catchy mega hits like ‘Hold the Line’, ‘Africa’ and ‘Stop Loving You’, as well as a slight penchant for disco – they have long been the byword for melodic rock, the forte of mums everywhere.
Their new record “XIV”, funnily enough their 14th one, carries on their now traditional sound – a mixture of pop, rock, prog rock and jazz, but with a much heavier focus on the latter two. This being apparent on the opening duo ‘Running Out of Time and ‘Burn’, two wonderful nuggets of prog rock. The pulsating guitar driven beat of ‘Running Out of Time’, and the interwoven piano and melodramatic bursts of guitar of ‘Burn’ bring forth Rush and Flying Colors. The finale ‘Great Expectations’ is the finest example of prog rock on the LP, it is nuanced prog with a crusading tempo, a Rush like guitar lick and a great darkening solo midway. ‘Orphan’ is the rockiest moment on the record propelled forward by thrusting chords which surround delightful licks, again comparable to that famous Canadian Alex Lifeson. The short and sweet pop rockers that once scaled the charts are no more.
Saying that Steve Pocaro, the long term keyboardist, said of the album:
“This is the opposite of going through the motions. We are treating this like it is Toto V, our follow up to Toto IV.”
Whilst the album may not do so directly, it nods and winks at their multi million selling hit. With the biggest such winks being ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Fortune’, both with jazz beats running through them as well as interminably chirpy synth melodies woven in – the records poppiest moments. Another song with a masterful jazz undercurrent is ’21st Century Blues’ with a relaxed, almost nonchalant vibe. About the maddening and saddening times we live in, it contains this brilliant lyrical question; ‘How can we believe the world is round, I just can’t conceive it.’
Another nod to their heritage are the glossy ballads, ‘All The Tears That Shine’ and ‘The Little Things’. Both avoid laying the sentiment on thick, instead letting the simple, sombre melodies do the talking. Although this simplistic approach does mean their charms do wane.
A superb record that is a must for Toto die-hards and fans of progressive music alike. It is nuanced and purposeful music performed with the expected exemplary skill and produced to the obligatory high standard.