Album review: TOTO – With A Little Help From My Friends

TOTO- With A Little Help From My Friends

The Players Club/Mascot Label Group (Release Date 25.06.21)

Last November Toto broadcast a live stream from California, which in the absence of concerts was the only way to introduce to the wider world their new line up in which Steve Lukather and Joseph Williams are the only mainstays of old, though David Paich makes a guest appearance.

With both having released critically acclaimed solo albums earlier this year, the timing and value of issuing the latest in a long line of another Toto live albums could be questioned: moreover the CD suffers from the absence of crowd noise and a pandemic live album is a concept unlikely to catch on.

The setlist is geared more heavily than in the past towards the pair of studio album Joe Williams appeared on in the eighties – with opener ‘Till the End’, featuring a fine Steve Lukather solo and ‘Pamela’ and ‘Stop Loving You’ all smooth, brassy and funky.

However the way he comfortably handles other songs like ‘Hold The Line’ (rather disparagingly introduced as ‘we play this the next song for you because we have to’) make a strong case that he is now the definitive Toto vocalist.

Steve takes the limelight on ‘Kingdom Of Desire’, both with his smoky singing and stretching out on guitar, and acts as the undisputed band leader,  though during the band intros I wondered if he was going for a Guinness world record for the most number of times a musician can be referred to as a ‘cat’.

However there is no doubting the quality of the performance and for all the substantial line up changes, the Toto legacy of musical excellence appears in safe hands. ‘White Sister’ is truly superb, with Steve letting rip,  and demonstrates how at their best their musicianship outranks their AOR contemporaries, though momentum is rather spoilt by a drum solo.

‘You Are The Flower’, dedicated to Bobby Kimball and probably the ‘deepest cut’ on view boasts a flute solo and a seventies feel reminding me of Marshall Tucker or the Doobie Brothers. The epic ‘Home Of The Brave’ boasts more great musicianship notably in the synth work and demonstrates the replacements have been picked well, before the set closes with ‘Rosanna’, complete with some jazzy noodling at the end and the Beatles cover that lends the performance its name.

At an hour and a quarter, and omitting the iconic ‘Africa’ it is unlikely to be seen as an essential live album  for the casual fan, but for fans of this unique band it is a worthy opening of a new chapter in their long and distinguished history.   *** 3/4

Review by Andy Nathan

The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 26 September. This marked the start of a new monthly series. Josh’s next session is Sunday 31 October.

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 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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Power Plays w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

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