TOTO - CD + Blu-Ray
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Sony Music Japan
This was never originally intended to be a live album. It was in fact a live streaming event on 21st November 2020, which served to introduce the world to the new line-up through the pandemic so what we have here is a very simple video and recording of Toto, much closer to a rehearsal run-through than a theatre production. There’s no big light show, no swooping cameras from fifteen different angles, no running around the stage and of course, no sold-out audience. Up close and personal, this is as intimate as it gets.
As well as a new line-up, we also have a new set list and very welcome it is too. Of course, they play a couple of hits namely Rosanna and Hold The Line* but it is very refreshing to hear Kingdom Of Desire and You Are The Flower given an airing and the combination of songs shows how seamlessly the new members have slipped into the band. Needless to say, the musicianship is perfection but the new blood has given Lukather, Williams and Paich a boost and they have each upped their own performance accordingly. Lukather particularly is in fire and despite his earlier comment about Hold The Line, is enjoying himself immensely, once again providing a masterclass of guitar playing.
The overseas releases come in a double jewel case (CD + DVD or Blu Ray) with a simple four-page insert but the Japanese release includes a 32 page b/w booklet and upgrades the CD to BSCD2 so it’s worth spending the bit extra and speaking of extras, along with the entire show, the video disc also contains a three minute trailer for the show and a very good thirty minute documentary about it with thoughts from everyone involved.
This is Toto’s eighth live release in their 44-year career and each one has represented the band at that moment in time in their career. This one, for the first time, shows where they are heading rather than where they have been and although they are undoubtedly remembered by the average person for a string of sublime hits in the late seventies and early eighties, rest assured, if you have any doubts about Toto’s future, this release will convince you that they will be around for a long time yet and not just churning out the hits either. I eagerly await a new studio album.
Track List CD
Till The End
Hold The Line
Kingdom Of Desire
You Are The Flower
I Won’t Hold You back
Stop Loving You
Home Of The Brave
With A Little Help From My Friends
Live - as above (75 mins)
Documentary (30 mins)
Trailer (3 mins)
*Steve Lukather introduces the latter as ‘We play this next song because we have to’. Personally, having previously interviewed him, I’m not sure if he is being disparaging or if it’s one of his throwaway remarks but either way, he puts his heart into playing it.
I FOUND THE SUN AGAIN JOSEPH WILLIAMS
Sony Music Japan
Individual members releasing simultaneous solo albums is nothing new. Yes did it in 1975, Kiss did it in 1978 and both sets or releases proved that the whole was bigger than the sum of the parts – by far. Lukather and Williams do not make up the entire band of Toto but they are currently in the band together, have been for the last decade, were back in the eighties and have been friends since their childhood. Released on the same day with matching sleeves, you would be unwise to buy one without the other as each of this pairing compliments the other.
Starting with Steve, his ninth solo album consists of five originals and three covers, each recorded after just one run-through in the studio for him to check the score. In other words, as live as live can be and this is where as we all know, he shines brightest. It comes across in his playing and singing on this album which both have an edge, as if the adrenalin is really flowing but he is controlling it. The arrangements for all eight tracks are as good as they could be, the hooks are typically Toto catchy, the solos are well up to Lukather’s own high standard but it is the group performance that is this album’s strength. Drawing on some of his vast array of musician friends to help him make it, he could not have picked a better core band nor a better selection of guests, each one of whom contributes their own unique sound. Damn these sessions must have been fun!
Moving over to Joseph’s album (his eleventh), what we have is twelve tracks ten originals and two covers all played by a revolving door of musicians, all familiar, many from the Toto family. It’s a far more polished album than Steve’s and no doubt took longer to record; it is also more AOR (without actually being AOR). It’s a singer’s album so as you would expect, the vocals are key to the sound and songs and the album is filled with layered vocals and perfect harmonies. Some of it is straight forward Pop and certainly represents the more commercial side of Toto but there are little bits throughout that keep all the songs interesting. I want to stress that this is not just a collection of West Coast material, it is a very well thought out album that showcases the opposite force to Steve Lukather that creates the modern-day Toto. That said, this album more than stands up on it’s own as a great record
Of course, Steve and Joseph each make contributions to each other’s albums which both come in BSCD2 mastering and Japanese booklets. They arrive in the shops alongside the new Toto live album (see review elsewhere) so all in all, it’s a very good week for Toto fans to go shopping and with the band having already announced some of the pandemic-postponed re-scheduled dates for 2022, it would appear that the future is still bright and beckoning for Mr Lukather and Mr Williams in one guise or another.
Steve Lukather Track List
Along For The Ride
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Welcome To The Club
I Found The Sun Again
Run To Me
Bridge Of Sighs
Joseph Williams Track List
Never Saw You Coming
Don't Give Up
Mistress Winter's Jump
If I Fell