Toto doesn’t get near enough props.
People talk about Toto as if they were the representation of everything wrong with the music industry in the early Eighties. Too slick, too processed, no soul. Boring yacht rock. Instead of “slick”, I’d call them “talented”. Boring yacht rock? Yeah, that was their M.O. on occasion (and way more so after the hits dried up in the mid Eighties). However, between their own albums and the work they did for others (especially drummer Jeff Porcaro, who was apparently contractually obligated to appear on every other pop album released during the Eighties), they’ve got quite the resume.
Keyboardist David Paich, guitarist Steve Lukather, keyboardist Steve Porcaro, bassist David Hungate (later replaced by yet another Porcaro, Mike) and Jeff Porcaro (who passed away in the Nineties) individually or collectively wrote, co-wrote, played on and performed with artists including not only Scaggs and Michael Jackson (not to mention The Jacksons as a group), but Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, George Benson, Donna Summer, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Paul Simon, The Bee Gees, Bruce Springsteen, Al Jarreau, Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole and Warren Zevon. Now that’s a freaking lineup.
Even with all of those credits, the band is probably best known for sweeping the 1983 Grammy Awards with their fourth album, creatively entitled Toto IV. The album (it’s bright red and has a screw on the cover) featured the hits “I Won’t Hold You Back”, “Rosanna” and the immortal “Africa”. This #1 hit is probably the only chart-topper in history to make reference to the Serengeti.
For those who still believe that the Toto guys couldn’t get funky, I offer you two songs. Not only Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” (which is funky as hell), but their own 1979 hit “Georgy Porgy”, which was a black radio hit (and is still a stable of urban oldies stations), has been sampled quite often by hip-hoppers over the years and featured soul belter Cheryl Lynn on vocals. The Toto guys returned the favor by writing, producing and playing on Cheryl’s solo debut, the eternally funky “Got to Be Real”.
Guess what? After three and a half decades together, Toto (with a few new members) is still touring! If you check out their website, you’ll see the guys still playing for fans in Europe and Asia. I certainly wouldn’t mind checking them out on some sort of package tour with guys like Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald (actually, I believe something like that has already happened and I missed it. Damn.)
There’s certainly nothing wrong with musical proficiency, and these guys had-and still have-it in spades.
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