Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Toto - Mindfields (1999)

In 1998 after a 14 year absence, Bobby Kimball was asked to re-join Toto. With Mindfields Toto marked his return to the fold. Much to the disappointment of their US fans, Mindfields was released initially in Japan and Europe in March 1999 but was not released in the United States until the fall of 1999. In addition to its delayed US release was a rather different tracklisting than had existed on the album's initial release. Being as impatient as I was, I ended up spending over $30 on the original Japanese release.

Besides the obvious, the most noticeable change between Mindfields and 1995's Tambu is that the band sounds a bit more self-assured. They'd dealt with the loss of Jeff Porcaro and were ready to move on.

Mindfields, first and foremost is a pre-Renaissance (the Renaissance would not actually occur until 2006's Falling In Between). The ingredients had started to come together for the band's creative "rebirth" (making this album the band's "re-conception"). And while many of the tracks are incredible (Spanish Steps of Rome, Better World (Pts. 1, 2, & 3), Last Love, and No Love), there are a few missteps-- the band trying to find their new footing after the return of Kimball. And even their missteps-- High Price of Hate, Selfish, and Caught In the Balance-- to name a few, are admirable attempts at genres the band had not previously attempted. While not all of these musical experiments worked, the very experimentalist nature which spawned them was the epitome of the principles the band was founded on and named after (en Toto, Latin for "in total" or "all-encompassing" Toto was created to be a band that would be all-encompassing of all the various different musical styles-- it was not named after the Italian commode/urinal company, the dog from the Wizard of Oz, or a bastardization of the "real" last name of any of the band members as has been reported over the years as the sources of the band's name).

The different musical directions the various different songs take gives the album a bit more "schitzophrenic" feel than its much more cohesive follow-ups (2002's Through the Looking Glass covers CD and the aforementioned Falling In Between). This schitzophrenic nature makes Mindfields sound more like a loose connection of unrelated songs than an actual album with any cohesive lyrical or musical theme.

The album is still worth the price of admission, based on the strengths of its better songs and the musicianship that is evident throughout the album as a whole. But in the grand scope of Toto's history and discography this album will, at best, be remembered as an awkward stage in the band's evolution.

5 comments:

Metal Mark said...

Great album cover.

Perplexio said...

metal mark: As far as album covers go, it is their best. The music on it is all good, but it's also all over the place. There's no one real coherent musical theme or style that holds it together.

Anonymous said...

How can you call "Caught In The Balance" a misstep?

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Mutley Eugenius said...

Mindfields represents the skill of incrdible session musicians at being as versatile as the various frontmen that they support. Each song is in the style of a different band. 'Melanie' could have been a Mike & The Mechanics song, 'Mysterious Ways' sounds very 'Foreigner', 'Better World' is a tribute to British Progressive Rock, Part I sounds like YES and Part III is a definite Floydian slip, 'No Love' is a Bon Jovi tune without Bon Jovi, there's even a 'Beatles' tune (Last Love for Me) and 'Balance' is brilliant because it sounds like Van Halen but with a whole 'WHO' style mid-section, and who did Van Halen pay tribute to in their Right Here Right Now album? - the WHO!

The album is awesome.