After 9 years, Toto released their thirteenth album Toto XIV on March 20, 2015. Joseph Williams and Steve Porcaro join Steve Lukather and David Paich for the first time on a Toto album in decades.
The opener of Toto XIV, Running Out of Time, comes in typical Toto manner and is a melodic, danceable rock song that could bring all live-audiences off their feet. The choirs in the chorus are very strong and invite the listener to sing along.
Burn, track 2, takes it down a notch and touches upon more dramatic notes. However, the chorus is heavier in terms of feel and energy, which gives good dynamics to to the song.
The next track, Holy War, addresses contemporary issues of religious wars. Definitely a topic that the whole world is or should be concerned with. Nonetheless, since we’re always confronted with this topic – dare I say, too much – I wished the lyrics wouldn’t be this straight forward. Don’t get me wrong I’m a pacifist, completely against war, but the lyrics could have been less cliché. This said, I love the uptempo and the spirit of the song. One of my favourite songs on the record.
21st Century Blues, track 4, is a smooth blues-shuffle song. Especially the very interesting guitar sounds of Steve Lukather stand out, as well as his guitar solo. And again great choir work in the chorus. A very strong song.
Orphan, as the title suggests, recounts the feelings of an orphan. The song’s lyrics are dark and beautiful at the same time. Here an excerpt, “I was born in a lost and found, an orphan raised in the underground. Then one day I opened up my eyes, looked around and I realized, no mother, no father, no sister, and no brother. So I cried out to the heavens, ‘Could this be all there really is?’ then someone said, ‘You’re never alone in the world.’” The fast, upbeat music underlines the dramatic lyrics with energy-laden melodies that inspire hope. Another favourite of mine on TOTO XIV.
Unknown Soldier, track 6, is a okay song. Even though, it gives me the impression of a song that was needed to fill a gap between two songs on the album, it is positioned well between a dramatic song like Orphan and the next song, The Little Things, a beautifully melancholic ballad sang by Steve Porcaro.
The Little Things is the only song on the album that credits Steve Porcaro as writer and lead singer. In my humble opinion, a timeless ballad. Steve’s dynamics in his singing are unique, and the arrangements of the song, combined with a superb production in regard to instrumentalization and sounds, give the song the potential for an instant classic. And the lyrics try to make the listener aware that it’s the little things that matter. Something many of us need forget way too often. Definitely a hidden gem on this album. Simply wow!
Chinatown, track 8, is a smokey, funk-bluesy song that reminds me of the early 80s songs of Toto. Also, the key changes as well as lead vocals remind me of compositions by Queen from that era, like Some Kind of Magic or similar.
All The Tears That Shine, is ballad that stands out because of David Paich’s singing and melody. I can’t say why, but the song transports something special that catches my ear and mind. Also, I especially love the synthesiser-flute melody at 3:36.
Track 10, Fortune, is a solid blues-rock song that invites to nod along. Nonetheless, after a few very strong songs, this one falls a bit flat.
Great Expectations is the ending song of this album. It starts with voice and piano only to introduce a fanfare like prog-rock song, again, bringing the listener back to early 80s times in regard to musical atmosphere. Given the song’s 6 minutes and 48 seconds duration it has enough space for more different parts. Different solos and instrumental unisono parts embellish the song for about 2 minutes in the middle of the song. Where other less experienced musicians might lose the path to the end of the song, Toto can stay on the musical path of this song and end the album in great musical style. Another favourite of mine on the record.
I like Toto XIV. It’s a great return after 9 years that brings us a handful of fantastic songs. The production of the record is of high quality – what else would we expect from Toto. But there are some mixing parts, where I would have preferred a different effect or mix. The sound is what I refer to as ‘high-glossy’. The whole sound is very dynamic and the drums sound very clear and clean. Guitars sound are amazing. Steve Lukather always catches my attention with his style. The band’s musicianship is as always top-notch, but the lyrics could be a little less cliché. That, however, is very subjective and others might not be bothered about it.
Go out, buy the record, and go see the band if you have the chance. I’d definitely try to make it to a Toto gig this year.
Total grade: 8.5/10