Toto - Toto XIV

Toto Toto XIV cover
Toto XIV
Frontiers Music Srl
Toto did return after almost a decade back to the studio, after taking a bit of a Sabbatical and while they would sporadically, perform live gigs, between other band member projects. With their “Farenheit” and “The Seventh One” singer Joseph Williams having rejoined them, in the past few years, they after their collaboration with Bobby Kimball stopped, they proceed to release their “thirteenth” studio album and entitle it “XIV”, but they might just consider the soundtrack for “Dune” a Toto release as they did supply the music for that one, so that fact corrects the sequence.
With original members, Steve Lukather (doing all he can), David Paich on keyboards along with Steve Porcaro and bassist Mike Porcaro assisted by a myriad of excellent bassists, due to his ongoing illness, and with Keith Carlock debuting behind the drumkit, taking over from long timer Simon Phillips, Toto’s musicianship goes without question, heck these guys between them have played on albums as session players that have sold over a billion... I suppose that’s rather telling. In one way or another and with each and every lineup, Toto have been one of the “biggest” AOR/HR bands ever...
Now, considering “XIV”, that supposedly got the roman numeral title, to allude back to the band’s seminal “IV” album, it’s typically Toto and the reinstatement of Williams, obviously, makes them a little more akin to the albums he fronted, but they overall, sound as good as they ever did, a little more mature maybe, but in every way living up to their name.
The opener “Running out of Time” is a typical melodic Toto anthem, with Joseph Williams handling the vocals and cool dashes of keys that accent the track, in a way that makes it sounds very familiar.
“Burn” again sung by Williams begins smoothly with some very spartan, keys and explodes suddenly with a chorus that’s quite beautiful. The smooth verses contrast awesomely with the much more dynamic chorus creating a minor masterpiece.
“Holy War” led by a simple rock riff, that the band groves around is even better. Williams & Lukather, share singing duties on this one, a mediumly mild rocker, with exceptional melodies and a signature chorus. Maybe one of the best songs on the album.
“21st Century Blues”, Lukather sings on his own. It’s a rather sad bluesy song, about the sorry state the world has come into… complete with “horns” an all.
“Orphan” is another cool song, which it was released as a single, and the vocals are again handled, by Williams who switches between a smooth and a more angry vocal approach... it’s great humanitarian message cannot be overlooked, or it’s beautiful melodies.
“Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey)” possibly a tribute to their fallen comrade, makes a reference to historical events. It’s a sweeping epic that Lukather sings in an emotionally charged way... mostly switching back and forth between some acoustic and electric guitars all along the way.
“The Little Things” is a ballad in which Steve Porcaro, takes over the vocal reigns. It’s smooth and sweet and just goes to show the amount of talent in the group, where, every one, can sing to a high standard along with being ace players of one or more instruments.
“Chinatown” actually has Paich, Williams & Lukather all contributing vocals – so it’s a group effort... it’s atmospheric and has some of the best dynamics over the album, being able to go from almost straight out rock to cool jazzy arrangements at the drop of a hat.
“All the Tears that Shine” is a soothing ballad sung by Paich & Lukather and its ideal as it sweetly nurtures the wounds and takes away the pain of any ailment and predicament that might be causing you to suffer.
Williams returns to sing “Fortune” a smooth, but groovy little number that nicely rocks up the relatively jazzy and laid back atmosphere that the few song proceeding it, might have installed.
Last but not least “Great Expectations” takes back Paich, Williams & Lukather, behind the mic, in a spirited and celebratory piece, which is quite a pleasure to hear.
“Bend” found only on the Japanese version of the album is a soft minimalist, ballad, sung by Porcaro, in his sole vocal performance. And it’s tender as it is beautiful. Poignant.
Well, trying to compare this album to “IV” is demeaning for both albums as they are quite different “beasts”, delivered at quite different times, the former, being potentially the height of the bands commercial breakthrough, while the latter coming after a long period of inactivity. That being said, “XIV”, is a very strong entry in the band’s cannon and choke full of good music. It’s more mature and more interesting than “Falling in Between” which is a quite strong and interesting and that should be telling of just how good it is.