It’s hard to believe today, but in the era of what they called Adult-Oriented Rock, or AOR, in the late 1970-s and early 80-s, quality actually counted. Music enthusiasts did not care much about pretty faces or big breasts. They wanted the killer sound, the compositions, the arrangements.
In 1978, an album called ‘Toto’ was released. “What in the hell is Toto?” people might have asked themselves. But the minute they played that piece of art on their record players, they knew: Toto equaled perfection. They delivered AOR at its very best, even though the AOR era had only just begun.
Those who listened more closely would discover that hardly any band before Toto ever sounded as clean as they did. Also there was a Funk influence. While most Rock bands at the time rejected that kind of approach and sounded dry as a result, Toto was open-minded, innovative, progressive. In short: They nailed it.
This self-titled debut album ‘Toto’ includes their smash hit ‘Hold the Line’, a dance floor filler. ‘You are the Flower’ is a very sophisticated AOR piece. With ‘Georgy Porgy’, they covered the funky side of things with vocalist Cheryl Lynn. This tune became sort of an AOR and Funk hymn.
Another extraordinary track is part of that first album: ‘Takin’ It Back’. Those synths, the arrangement surprises the tune contains and the entire composition are nothing less than sensational. Steve Porcaro, an original member who is still their keyboarder today, composed this one when he was only 20 years old.
There were some things many other bands did not have, but Toto did, including this level of genius. They did not have vocalists like Bobby Kimball either. And there was something else: the drumming. Jeff Porcaro revolutionized Rock drumming.
Toto’s second album, ‘Hydra’, was excellent too, but somehow different. They took a more mystical approach, like Genesis or Yes. But this aspect did not stop them from delivering brilliant AOR tunes as well, in 1979.
In 1982, something happened. Toto’s fourth studio album ‘IV’ made landfall. This one made them global superstars. On ‘IV’, the most brilliant ‘AORish’ tune is ‘Waiting for Your Love’, but it was ‘Africa’ radio stations all over the Western world could not get enough of. That one was played every five minutes. ‘Rosanna’ was another huge hit.
Over time, Toto had more successes. From a 1970-s AOR point of view, many of their newer compositions were different. They sounded as if they were made to please formatted radio stations. But their huge fan base all over the world, especially in North America, Europe and Japan, always was, and still is, with them.
Toto members also played with and produced albums for other artists, most notably Boz Scaggs. Toto’s unique blend can be identified on quite a few songs of his.
On August 5th, 1992, tragedy struck. After spraying his garden with insecticides, Jeff Porcaro, the genius drummer and Steve’s brother, collapsed. He died at a hospital that day. The band and the world were shocked. He was only 38.
Apart from Steve Porcaro, the original members David Paich and Steve Lukather are still with Toto.
Toto is not only still very active today, but they are coming back to Germany, and to lots of other countries. On June 13th, 2019, they will be in London, on June 15th in Cork. Gavle (Sweden) is on their ’40 Trips Around the Sun’ tour schedule too. So are Oslo, Langesund and Sarpsborg in Norway.
After concerts in Aarhus (Denmark), Sopot (Poland) and Budapest, they will be in Klam bei Grein, at an Austrian festival, and in Eisenstadt.
On June 30th, 2019, Toto will hit the stage at the Zitadelle open air festival in Berlin, before invading Munich. Then it’s off to Italy, France, Spain and The Netherlands, before they will cross the non-existing border into Germany yet again.
Toto will be in Gelsenkirchen on July 14th, in Pratteln (Switzerland) on the 16th. Afterwards, Füssen and Salem, two small towns in southern Germany, will be covered before the band returns to the United States via Pori (Finland). Right now, they are in Japan.