Toto is and always has been a band of "musician's musicians"-- highly respected among their peers but often overlooked by the American public and often panned by their critics. And their revolving door of lead vocalists Bobby Kimball, Fergie Frederiksen, Joseph Williams, and Jean-Michel Byron, certainly didn't help them remain in the public eye.
The 1998 return of original lead vocalist, Bobby Kimball, is just what this band needed to steer them back on track. While much of the material they recorded in the 14 years following Kimball's 1984 firing is exceptional and quite listenable the material they've recorded since his return shows a certain return to form-- taking their music up a notch.
While 1999's Mindfields was arguably their best album since the grammy winning Toto IV (1982), Falling in Between kicks it up to a whole new level. Those who have lost track of Toto over the years may not think this sounds like them, those who have stuck around for all their ups and downs over the years will surely recognize this album as another step in the band's evolution.
This album welcomes new keyboardist/vocalist Greg Phillinganes who joined the band for the 2004 tour to replace keyboardist David Paich who has taken a leave of absence from the road for health reasons. Even moreso than Mindfields, Falling in Between sounds like a full group effort. The latin-tinged percussion, Steve Lukather's melodic guitar, and Paich's keyboard fills throughout the album bare evidence that this band, contrary to popular public belief, is alive and VERY well.
From the opening track, Falling in Between, Toto grabs a firm grasp on the listener and holds on tight, not letting go through the duration of the album. Dying on My Feet features Chicago's James Pankow guesting on trombone and Tower of Power's Lee Thornburg on trumpet augmenting Toto's already tight sound.
Bottom of Your Soul finds Steve Lukather sharing lead vocals with former Toto vocalist, Joseph Williams, who was invited to join the sessions as a friend and guest. His smoother tenor fits the song better than the more soulfully flamboyant Bobby Kimball's would have, his contributions to this album are welcome ones indeed.
King of the World shows that David Paich still has not only his keyboard chops but still has a respectable singing voice as he shares the vocals with Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather.
Another notable guest spot is on Hooked, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson graces the song with his superlative flute chops. Anderson's flute and Lukather's guitar play so tightly together you'd almost swear Anderson had been in Toto all along.
Simple Life shows Steve Lukather at his best both as a musician and a songwriter. This is probably one of his most nakedly personal songs since the material on his 1997 solo album, Luke.
In 1992 after drummer Jeff Porcaro's passing, Toto could have gone the easy route and found a "Jeff-clone" instead they opted to find an established drummer with a style all his own. Taint Your World is yet another song added to the Toto catalog by Simon Phillips in which he proves himself to be a drummer apart. While Phillips sound excellent throughout the entire album, Taint Your World is the one track in which his talents are most evident.
Let It Go finds Greg Phillinganes showing he's more than equal to the task of handling lead vocals for Toto on his own. The song also features a moving and melodic guitar solo by Steve Lukather.
Spiritual Man is an interesting piece in that it's a rather secular gospel song. It's not overtly religious and only hints at Christianity with references to a man with "holes in his hands." The song instead focuses on spirituality rather than belief or dogma.
Ironically the closing track is titled No End In Sight. And hopefully with a title like that, this album is a sign of more great music to come from this far too often overlooked band.
Falling in Between (wikipedia)
Toto 99 (Official Website)
Steve Lukather (Official Website)
Steve Lukather (wikipedia)
Bobby Kimball (Official Website)
Bobby Kimball (wikipedia)
Mike Porcaro (Official Website)
Mike Porcaro (wikipedia)
Simon Phillips (Official Website)
Simon Phillips (wikipedia)
David Paich (wikipedia)
Greg Phillinganes (wikipedia)