Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Somehow I forgot to feature Toto’s eponymous 1978 debut as I worked my way (mostly) chronologically through this series, so now I’m correcting that oversight. Back in early 2015 I wrote a 5-part series on their discography and I’ve included my detailed notes on Toto below. The sextet of Steve Lukather, David Paich, Bobby Kimball, David Hungate, Steve Porcaro and Jeff Porcaro started their collective career with a bang on an album that remains one of my favorites from that era…and an all-time favorite as well.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
Toto got off to an auspicious start with the double-platinum Top 10 album, Toto (1978). I didn’t get a copy until a few years later but I knew I would love these guys based on the strength of their debut single, “Hold The Line” (more on that below). They followed up with a couple of less-successful singles but domination of the pop charts was probably not on their list of priorities. Instead, Toto is a showcase for their diversity as musicians, arrangers and vocalists. More than any subsequent album, it was also a platform for Paich’s songwriting, with 8 of the 10 songs credited solely to him. They also included the first in a long line of song titles featuring a woman’s name with the album-closing “Angela,” to be followed by no fewer than 9 other such titles on their next 6 albums.
♪ “I’ll Supply The Love” – A stomping melodic rocker that’s similar to “Do Ya” (The Move, Electric Light Orchestra) during the chorus. The verses are driving & funky, and overall it’s a great ‘70s AOR tune that establishes their unique group harmonies and Kimball as a powerful frontman. I love Lukather’s simple guitar riff as well as the cool, horn-driven instrumental section.
♪ “Georgy Porgy” – Lukather sings lead on this soul/jazz/pop hybrid, with Cheryl Lynn (who sang my favorite disco-era song, “Got To Be Real”) taking over for the chorus, repeating the nursery rhyme refrain, “Georgy Porgy puddin’ pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.” Sweet strings augment the tasteful and brief guitar solo. Hungate & Jeff Porcaro deserve credit for the subtly funky rhythm track.
♪ “Girl Goodbye”– It may run past the 6-minute mark but there’s not a wasted note, making it a uniquely tight epic. I love the chugging rhythm and Porcaro’s tasteful jazz/prog drumming elevates every section of the song. Kimball sounds a lot like Boz Scaggs here, and Lukather’s blistering solo proves that he was a force to be reckoned with.
♪ “Hold The Line” – The first time I heard this on the radio I was completely floored, and I can honestly say that I’ve been equally thrilled every time I’ve listened to it over the years. From the snare hit and bouncy piano melody in the intro to the combination of guitar riffs, loping-yet-driving drum pattern and Kimball’s crystal clear vocal performance, this is as good as it gets, with Lukather proving once again that he’s a guitar god (and he was only 20 when the album was recorded).
Other Notable Tracks:
- “Child’s Anthem” – A dramatic instrumental that opens the album, with stellar piano, tasty synth, staccato rhythms & an overall orchestral feel. Goes through various movements in under 3 minutes and in many ways it’s the album’s overture.
- “Manuela Run” – A bouncy piano-led tune with Paich on lead vocals, a nice groove, tight harmonies and a memorable 4-note guitar hook. The chorus (“You better run, run Manuela, uela run”) is the strongest part.
- “Takin’ It Back” – Steve Porcaro wrote & sang this one, which begins with off-kilter synth before leading into light piano & a jazzy pop rhythm. His voice is smooth, not dissimilar to Lukather’s but with less power. Speaking of Lukather, once again he shines on both nylon string and electric guitar.
- “Rockmaker” – A straightforward 4/4 pop/rock song written & sung by Paich. His vocal line in the verses (“Don’t know quite what to saaaay”) reminds me of Tommy James & The Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now.” It remains super catchy throughout, and I love Kimball’s response vocals in the second half.
In the five years since I completed my Toto series they finally started getting some newfound notoriety, mostly thanks to Weezer’s straight-ahead cover of 1982’s “Africa” in 2018. Hopefully a new generation of musicians & music lovers is discovering the awesomeness of Toto’s music, and their debut is an ideal place to start.
I’ll be back in a week or two to highlight a few other debuts I forgot to feature and wrap up this series.