Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dear ToTo

I remember it was 1992 or 1993 at one of the music stores at the Champlain Center. I was peripherally familiar with Toto, I had their Past to Present greatest hits collection and quite enjoyed it. So I picked up their then latest album, Kingdom of Desire. The artwork was decidedly different than the typical cover art with the sword that had graced many of their previous albums.

When I popped it into my CD player for the first time I didn't know what to think. It wasn't at all what I had expected. This did not sound at all like the same band responsible for Rosanna, Africa, Hold the Line or I'll Be Over You. No this CD had an energy to it. It had an attitude to it. It was as if the band had taken their music to a completely different level.

And so began my musical love affair with Toto. I bring this up now, because on June 5, 2008 an official press release was issued by the band... After 31 years Toto was no more. On their final tour there were only 2 original members on stage, 1 of which (Bobby Kimball) had been absent from 1984 to 1998. Guitarist, Steve Lukather, didn't want the band to be a caricature of itself and he said Toto without at least one of the Porcaro brothers was not really Toto.

The band had formed after many of them had done sessions for Boz Scaggs grammy-winning Silk Degrees album with David Paich and Steve Porcaro both on keyboards and vocals, Steve Lukather on guitar, Jeff Porcaro on drums, David Hungate on bass, and Bobby Kimball on vocals. In 1980 David Hungate retired from touring and was replaced by Mike Porcaro and in 1982 after Toto IV was released Hungate left the band completely and Porcaro was invited in as a full member of the band. Steve Porcaro left in 1986, Jeff Porcaro died in 1992 leaving only Mike... and on the recent world tour Mike Porcaro was unable to tour with the band as he was recovering from surgery on his hand... marking the 2008 tour the first time that no members of the Porcaro family were on stage with the band.

Toto was a band of musicians musicians. They all excelled at their respective instruments. Throughout the eighties almost every pop album released featured at least one former or current member of Toto on at least one song. From Roger Hodgson to Richard Marx to Chicago members of Toto were ubiquitous.

And over the past 16 years or so I was part of their musical journey, in November 2006 I finally had the opportunity to see them perform live, in light of the recent announcement am I ever glad that I did.

If you've heard Rosanna, Africa, or Hold the Line and believe you know Toto-- you're mistaken. I recently made a mix CD for a friend of mine. She was a bit of a Steely Dan fan and one of our mutual favorite musicians, Bill Champlin, had been quoted as referring to Toto as "they're like Steely Dan with teeth." About a week or so after she received the CD in the mail and had the chance to digest it she dropped me a note thanking me and indicating that the "Steely Dan with teeth" quote was spot on.

So, it's with heavy heart and a touch of sadness that I post this:

Dear Toto (all members past & present),

Thanks for the music, thanks for the memories. It's been a great ride!


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