Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hold the Line, love isn't always on time: Toto IV (1982)

‘Oh no’ someone groaned at a party I once hosted, ‘he’s going to put Toto on again’ as I racked up the tunes for the riotous night ahead. 

I am sure that they weren’t alone in their misgivings, many critics were flabbergasted when Toto IV (1982) unexpectedly scooped up the 1983 Grammy for best record. Session musicians winning such an award was unheard of at the time! Outrage, man the barricades! So what if they had played on Steely Dan’s Aja (1977) and scored a number of radio-friendly hits, this was just not cricket for many. Let me now take this opportunity to leap to the barricades myself and defend this fantastic record. 

The plain fact is that this is a very well crafted album released at a time when ‘soft rock’ - incidentally my favourite genre, hence my overplay of this album - was at its peak, after all Christopher Cross (1979) (whose album i have previously review on this blog) had won the Grammy in 1981. This was probably why the album was the great success that it was despite the stellar production and playing. Yet it wasn’t enough at the time to spare the album from the snipping and nashing of critics who would have readily given the award to some drivel trotted out from a band with more ‘alternative’ credentials.

Well sod them! I was introduced to this work when I had a brief spell playing the Bass Guitar (in which time I realised that I was a great music appreciator but no accomplished player!) by my teacher, the great Alan Ross, who introduced me to much of the music I now love today. As you can imagine most of the lessons were spent dissecting the merits of the production on whichever album was under discussion rather than actually playing the instrument - music production has always been my dream job, perhaps I should have applied myself a little more at my scales back in the day! 

But now to the album. From the iconic drum riff of the opening track ‘Rosanna’ created by the genius of the legendary, late Jeff Porcaro to the warm keyboards of ‘Africa’ (these wre both huge hits) the album just begs to be listened to. I love it when I can write that none of this album is filler, and that the track order is balanced. To be honest, Toto have released a lot of rubbish but here they brought it all together and made something well worth purchasing. 

‘Make Believe’, the second track, has a killer piano intro and seductive sax fill which makes for rollicking cut which I am sure sounds incredible when they play it live. Follow this up with a seductive slow number like ‘I won’t hold you back’ - a showcase of multi-faceted guitarist Steve Lukather’s talents. You are not event a third of the way through this infectious album before you get a killer guitar solo after the manner of Jeff Beck on ‘Cause we’ve ended as lovers’.

My favourite tracks are found towards the end of the album on the b-side ‘We Made It’, a rollocking feel good number in the style of Asia or Trevor Horn's incarnation of Yes. It has one of the great choruses in 80s music and puts a smile on my face every time I listen. ‘Waiting for your love' is just fluff, but great fluff, it has a feel to it that reminds me of the Tina Turner albums we listened to in the car on summer holidays when I was younger - in addition it has some of Bobby Kimball’s (lead singer) finest vocal work in his time with the band. The music video for this track is also worth a gander as a great example of how cheesy they could back in the early days of MTV (although it still comes nowhere near close to Phil Collins’s ‘Sussudio’). 

At the end of the day this really is a marmite album, you either love it or you hate it! Thankfully my preference falls very much to the former. It is a work that puts such a smile on my face every time I listen that I cannot help but play it anytime I have guests round for a party... you have been warned! 

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