Review: Toto – With A Little Help From My Friends
Players Club/Mascot (July 23rd 2021)
Reviewer: David Pearce
80s legends Toto have a new live album out called ‘With a Little Help From My Friends‘. It was recorded to feature their 15th different line-up on their Dogz of Oz tour. This live album, recorded in front of a small, invited audience in November 2020 shows a group that wants to pay tribute to their past but not by simply retreading it.
The first song ‘Till The End‘ sets out their stall with a smoothness and enthusiasm that bands half their age would envy. The vocals by the ever present Joseph Williams are absolutely incredible throughout and they are perfectly set off by the bravura guitar playing of Steve Lukather.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the classic song from thier debut album ‘Toto‘, ‘Hold The Line‘. Sounding fresh, vital, and altogether brilliant it just reminds you of how good Toto are. It is probably my favourite song of theirs and I have never heard it sound better. This is followed by ‘Pamela‘, an album track that just sounds incredible with some great work on the keyboards and drums that give a real depth to the song.
‘Kingdom of Desire‘ is a heavier sounding track with an arresting guitar solo that draws the listener in straight away. It is interesting to hear what they were doing on their albums away from their more AOR single releases that charted in the UK. Despite it being the title track of an album, released in 1992, I had never heard it before, so I was completely fresh to it. It is simply a brilliant rock song that shows how bands who fade from the charts can go on improving and developing. Lukather takes over lead vocals on this track and does a marvellous job at both singing and the complex guitar solos.
‘White Sister‘ begins with a classical style piano solo that reminds me a lot of Billy Joel before moving into a driving rock song that just sounds smooth as hell. ‘You Are The Flower‘ is a song from their first album in 1978 and has echoes of Supertramp in another track I was completely unfamiliar with.
‘I Won’t Hold you Back‘ gives Lukather another chance to demonstrate the silky smooth vocal style he has and just oozes quality. ‘Stop Loving You‘ is another song from the era after their chart successes in the UK. It dates from 1988 and musically could easily be a deep cut from a Huey Lewis and the News album but the instantly recognisable vocal of Williams means it is unmistakably Toto.
‘Home of the Brave‘ is a hymn of praise to the US, and as such it might sound a bit corny, but there is an undercurrent of uncertainty that makes the song really interesting and makes it a much more effective song than I was expecting. The penultimate song is the instantly recognisable, catchy, and altogether fantastic ‘Rosanna‘. It is a song that Williams and Lukather give full value to, and for a song that is nearly 40 years old it sounds incredibly fresh.
The final song is the Toto version of pop mainstay ‘With a Little Help from My Friends‘ which, as you would expect, owes as much of a debt to Joe Cocker as it does to The Beatles. No, they don’t perform ‘Africa‘, perhaps their most famous song in the UK, but oddly I didn’t really feel like it was a serious omission, so brilliant was the rest of the tracklisting.
If you are a Toto fan you will love this, and if you aren’t you should give it a listen as it may very well convert you.