CD Review: Toto – Toto XIV

CD Review: Toto – Toto XIV
Frontiers Music srl
All Access Rating: B+

Toto - Toto XIV 2015
Emblazoned on the cover of Toto XIV is a neon cross, its brightness washing in white light what appears to be a darkened and foreboding, but quiet, alleyway in a crowded Japanese city.

A symbol of hope and optimism, despite all the terrible things done in the name of Christianity down through the years, that sign has taken on special significance with the recent death of former bassist Mike Porcaro, whose struggles with ALS provided the impetus for a 2010 Toto reunion.

Their first record since 2006's Falling In Between for the innovative pop-rock progressives, Toto XIV is typically lush and complex, inspiring and melodic – the rich, dramatic keyboard interplay of David Paich and Steve Porcaro building grand sonic architecture around the always fluid and artful guitar magic of Steve Lukather.

Though bereft of a signature and utterly memorable track, Toto XIV rarely fails to deliver the goods, the noisy, proggy eruptions, rushing piano and unexpected detours down different passageways making a piece like "Holy War" worth exploring again and again. So is the slightly skewed "Chinatown." Brimming with positivity and life-affirming energy, the upbeat opener "Running Out of Time" exhorts listeners to make the most of whatever time they have left on earth and the equally uplifting "Orphan" gives comfort to the lonely, while the more serious and theatrical "Unknown Soldier" argues for peace while grudgingly acknowledging humanity's propensity for war.

Another exercise in wondrous musical diversity and lyrics walking a fine line between banal sentimentality and deep meaning, Toto XIV swims in comforting pools of pop, blues, jazz and rock, getting lost in the smoky atmosphere of "21st Century Blues," letting the bittersweet "Burn" stew in smoldering regret and growing wistful in the charming "The Little Things." The sound and production of Toto XIV, out via Frontiers Music srl, are familiar, and the material is as accessible as ever, Joseph Williams' passionate singing adding conviction to Toto's lyrics. Maybe their ready to write a new chapter, but Toto seems averse to changing the formula that got them this far.
– Peter Lindblad

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