Frontiers [Released 20.03.15]
Toto are back for their first new studio album since 2006′s ‘Falling In Between’. Since then the band have undergone a few changes with Joseph Williams back in the band since 2010 (he sang on their mid/late 80′s classics ‘Fahrenheit’ and ‘The Seventh One’) and original bassist David Hungate back in the fold.
They join the ever present Steve Lukather, along with David Paich and Steve Porcaro. They even have a new drummer with Keith Carlock (Steely Dan) who joined the band last year after Simon Phillips spent over twenty years with the band.
Those inlay sleeve anoraks like me will also spot a few familiar names in the backing musicians include percussionist Lenny Castro, Lee Sklar (who has been a member of the touring band) and Michael McDonald lends a hand on backing vocals.
The music is classic Toto, obviously recalling the two albums Joseph Williams appeared on with opener ‘Running Out Of Time’ a catchy AOR tune the band do so well. ’21st Century Blues’ has a chilled groove, Williams vocals take centre stage backed by sax/horns and some stylish guitar solos from Steve Lukather.
‘Chinatown’ is an older song given a spruce up and shows the band’s jazzier leanings with neat keys/guitar interplay. ‘Orphan’ was chosen as a lead off song and rightly so as it is made for radio. A sparse piano/vocal leads into a big guitar riff and we are off on another Toto AOR adventure! The guitar outro is pretty damn fine too.
The band never shy from tackling contentious subjects like on ‘Unknown Soldier (for Jeffrey)’, recalls ‘Home Of The Brave’ off ‘The Seventh One’ in its epic feel and vocal arrangements. ‘Great Expectations’ starts off slowly before throwing everything in musically and then some. Toto do epic songs so well and the listener never loses interest as they keep melody at the heart of everything they do. Joseph Williams really belts it out on this one and I’m really digging those piano parts, plus each of the band’s vocalists gets a chance to sing solo.
The musicianship of this band really sets them apart from their peers and although most of the critics never liked the band, us the fans love them and that’s what counts. For me I’d rank this album in my all time Toto top five albums, yes it is that good and each play reveals a couple more musical nuances.
Hopefully the band will do at least one more album, however if they do bow out here then they have ended on a musical high. If you like Toto and good quality music just buy this album! *****
Review by Jason Ritchie
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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