Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mapping a Musical Evolution

I've been listening to Toto's earlier albums lately and I've noticed that there's a bit of a musical evolution in progress when listening to the below albums in the following order:

1976 - Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees
1977 - Toto s/t debut
1978 - Toto Hydra
1978 - Bill Champlin Single
1979 - Airplay s/t
1981 - Toto Turn Back
1981 - Bill Champlin Runaway
1981 - Peter Cetera s/t debut
1982 - Chicago 16
1982 - Toto IV
1984 - Chicago 17

You can hear how the Toto sound started with Scaggs Silk Degrees and then morphed with David Foster's production on Champlin's Single and Runaway albums and on David Foster & Jay Graydon's Airplay album. Peter Cetera dabbled with it a little by using Steve Lukather on his s/t debut but when Champlin & Foster came in and brought some of the guys from Toto along for Chicago 16 & 17 it just hit on all cylinders. And even though Foster didn't produce Toto IV you can hear a bit of his influence. It's little wonder that Chicago 16, 17, and Toto IV all sold so well (not to mention Toto IV seemed to sweep the grammies the year it came out).

I know the shift in the sound and style on Scaggs Silk Degrees to the sound & style of Chicago 16 & 17 is a gradual one. But if you listen to those albums in that order you can hear that musical evolution happening.

Some other albums that further help flesh out this musical evolution are Earth Wind & Fire's I Am (featuring the hit single After the Love Is Gone written by Jay Graydon, David Foster, and Bill Champlin and Steve Lukather playing some guitar parts on certain songs), I-Ten's Taking a Cold Look (featuring most members of Toto and co-produced by Steve Lukather), Steve Perry's Street Talk (prominently featuring both Steve Lukather and his semi-frequent songwriting collaborator, Randy Goodrum), Fee Waybill's Read My Lips, and The Tubes The Completion Backward Principle and Outside Inside albums.

After hearing this evolution I pored over the list a bit further, looking for THE common thread... I found that other than the Airplay album Steve Lukather of Toto contributed in some way shape or form (either as a songwriter, guitarist, or producer) to ALL of those releases. Some of his Toto bandmates joined him on some but not others... and the Airplay album, the only one that didn't have any contributions from Steve Lukather featured his bandmate, Jeff Porcaro on drums and percussion

Many of these releases are referred to as "West Coast Music." Considering Steve Lukather's involvement in most of them might he be considered the father or godfather of West Coast Music?

3 comments:

musicobsessive said...

Interesting theory. I'm sure you're on to something here and it's an idea that I may well pinch for use elsewhere!

In the meantime, I'm still trying to separate those harmonies on the chorus of 'Africa'.

Perplexio said...

Feel free to pinch away, but if you do pinch-- please at least link to this post if applicable.

Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas said...

There is probably a mathematical equation that would result in a number quantifying the musical influence that the various permutations of those musical players had on each album...now my head hurts.