Zeke's Public Awareness Project; TOTO

I am always amazed at how many of my friends and associates, when asked of their opinion of TOTO, always seem to wrinkle their noses in disgust. It has really occurred to me that, as a general rule, most Americans seem to think of Toto as a Top 40 band from the 80's, that had a couple of Top 40 Pop hits (Rosanna and Africa) and then faded away into obscurity.... or retirement homes, whatever the case may have been.

I followed Toto throughout most of the 80's, not to mention some of their earlier work, from the 70's, and into the late 90's, when original lead singer, Bobby Kimball, returned to the fold, after having been dismissed back in the mid 80's. During the 80's, it seemed that with each and every Toto album, you had a new lead singer to get used to. Of course, throughout the entire history of the band, there has always been one constant.... Mr. Steve Lukather, who also composed (and sang) some of the band's biggest hits. It is also notable that Steve was asked to join the band (back in 1976) by David Paich and then drummer, Jeff Porcaro, who sadly passed away, back in 1992. Jeff had previously been a great session musician, having played with Steely Dan, previous to Toto's formation. He continued to work with other artists up until the time of his death, including Michael Jackson's "THRILLER". Two of Jeff's other siblings have also played with the band... including most recent bass player Mike Porcaro, who has since been diagnosed with ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig's disease).

In researching some facts, I just discovered that Toto actually disbanded, back in 2008, following the departure of Steve Lukather. They will, however, be reuniting this summer, to tour Europe, in support of Mike Porcaro's illness. I will forever count my blessings that I was able to see this band play live, during their final tour.

As I write this, I am listening to the CD version of the band's 2007 live release, "FALLING INTO YOU - LIVE". This stellar 2 CD collection features 23 tracks, including a solo from recent addition Greg Phillinganes (who replaced longtime keyboardist David Paich... best known for writing and singing Africa...who left for health reasons). If you want an interesting read, research both Greg and Steve on Amazon.com or Half.com (a subsidiary of eBay). Both artists were featured on Michael Jackson's "THRILLER", and chances are, that will be the first album that pops up in your search. Also, included in this great set are solos from longtime drummer Simon Phillips, who is also a very accomplished session musician. The album also features a solo from Lukather, although he has solos throughout the album.

Perhaps, one of the most mind blowing things on this recording, is the addition of legendary bass player, Leland Sklar (best known for his work with Phil Collins, James Taylor, Billy Cobham... among others), who learned the entire set in FIVE DAYS! And it isn't just simple bass playing... it is some technical stuff.

I guess, if I had one thing to tell people... it is DO NOT JUDGE THIS BAND BY THEIR EARLY 80's RADIO HITS! I recommend that you rent one of their two live DVDs (the aforementioned "FALLING INTO YOU LIVE", recorded in 2007), as well as the "TOTO LIVE IN AMSTERDAM", recorded a few years before. It will change your opinion of this great band. After purchasing both of these DVDs (and CDs, which are both available), I was truly amazed by the crowd interaction from the European crowds. Where the American audience had written off this great band, by the late 1980's, they continued to remain successful in Europe. In the "Amsterdam" concert, the camera continually sweeps over the crowd, and I am amazed as I watch people of all ages... even teenagers... singing along to every lyric. I often cite MTV for having destroyed the truly great music, at least in America... and this is just further evidence.

The following is the opening clip (and title track) from "FALLING INTO YOU - LIVE"


Kate said…
Welp, I guess you know MY opinion on this. ;-)

Thanks for spreadin' the love.

Uncle Zeke said…
I was actually going to give you a shout out.... but, hey... we all know I NEVER proof-read things... but, consider yourself SHOUTED OUT! Ladies and gentlemen, Kate... the West Coast's biggest Toto/Lukather fan!
Kate said…
Also worth mentioning is that their current lead singer -- who has served as such on and off for many years -- is Joseph Williams, son of John.

Uncle Zeke said…
Truly interesting stuff.... except, I think he was the singer back in the late 80's, after Bobby Kimball had gotten the boot. He was the guy around when they did "Pamela" and most of Farenheit. But, I had no idea about the John Williams relation. That is crazy stuff.

Unless, of course, he has come back into the fold, and I am not educated on THAT status. Which wouldn't be a surprise.