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Toto - 2015 XIV

LABEL: Frontiers
YEAR: 2015


LINEUP: Joseph Williams - vocals, keyboards, percussion * Steve Lukather - guitars, bass, vocals * David Paich - keyboards, vocals * Steve Porcaro - keyboards, synths, vocals * Keith Carlock - drums, vocals

Guests: David Hungate, Tal Wilkenfeld, Leland Sklar, Tim Lefebvre - bass * Lenny Castro - percussion * Martin Tillman - cello * Tom Scott - saxophone, horn arrangement * C. J. Vanston - additional synths, background vocals * Michael McDonald, Amy Keys , Mabvuto Carpenter, Jamie Savko, Emma Williams - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Running Out Of Time * 02 Burn * 03 Holy War * 04 21st Century * 05 Orphan * 06 Unknown Soldier (for Jeffrey) * 07 The Little Things * 08 Chinatown * 09 All The Tears That * 10 Fortune * 11 Great Expectations * 12 Bend (bonus)



It's been getting a whole bunch of press coverage since the start of the 2015 year. Some lauding this as more of a progressive rock outing than anything else. I don't believe that for a second. Prog heads are probably claiming something that doesn't belong to them, but that's not surprising, because they have a whole bunch of acts that no-one in melodic rock and AOR land wants to claim! I don't know quite where all this superlative opinion came from, because from where I sit, this would have to be the worst Toto album I have ever heard. Even their 2006 effort 'Falling In Between' is better than this rubbish.

The Songs
Running Out Of Time' opens Toto's account. A bit of a mix-up, it chugs away with a darkened hue, and deceives with its off-kilter delivery. The remainder of the album however, leaves a lot to be desired. I thought 'Burn' was an awful rumbly mess to be honest. The ambient piano did little to redeem this one beyond saving. Much better is 'Holy War', though you could hardly call this progressive. It chops and changes but still remains interesting and I reckon it's the best track offered up and it's one I keep going back to. As expected, '21st Century Blues' is laden in a blues groove, Luke takes the lead here, and you'll be thinking this correlates quite nicely to his solo material - and you'd be right. 'Orphan' got a lot of coverage before the CD release. It's a cool sort of track, shuffly and full of improvised moments. 'Unknown Soldier' has a familiarity to past material, but did it stimulate the aural senses? Umm no. Same could be said for 'The Little Things', totally uninteresting and boring. It may have an exotic leaning, and 'Chinatown' throws up a few noodles of sound which touches on past sounds from the debut album and 'Toto IV'. Good one. 'All The Years' had me drifting off to snoozeville, while 'Fortune' was the most boring-ist pop this band has ever delivered. What is this nonsense? 'Great Expectations' was slightly better. Edgier with a bit of difference to show for it.

In Summary
I'm not sure what people were drinking when listening to this album. It totally lacks balls. Big time. Too mellow, too plain and whoever gave this a progressive label needs to have their ears cleaned with hydrochloric acid. Really.. what a big fucking mis-lead. After 35 years, if people are claiming this to be the best Toto album in years, then there is no hope for this genre. Summing up: Huge disappointment.

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#1 | gdazegod on May 19 2015 14:20:22
I can't believe how bad this is.. truly..
#2 | dangerzone on May 19 2015 15:19:13
Reading the reviews out there you'd think this was the greatest AOR album ever recorded. I listened to it once and discarded it immediately. Boring shite.
#3 | melodiapositiva on May 19 2015 16:01:51
Their best album since The Seventh One. Toto never were a prog band and this is better than all the pseudo-toto bands from Sweden that try to copy them.
#4 | Eric on May 19 2015 17:25:22
Boys, totally disagree. I think its the best thing since 'Hydra' and Toto while not a Prog band per say always had proggy elements in each album. I'm inclined to agree with Phil Ashcroft over at Fireworks Magazine who did the piece on 'Hydra for PROG magazine. 'XIV' will make my Top 10 of this year.
#5 | DEMONAOR on May 19 2015 17:40:27
I do agree with You on this one Eric. This album are true to the old Toto sound. I have been a huge fan since 1978. And Toto have never been a 100% AOR band. Not like they are gonna release something like Work Of Art. In my top 10 this year too.
#6 | Nick C on May 19 2015 20:00:23
I think it's a pretty cool album, not their best but certainly not their worst. Production in parts leaves a little to be desired though - parts of it are near unlistenable on a decent set of cans.
#7 | Jez on May 19 2015 20:47:27
Have to disagree too..strongly. It's definitely their best disc since 'The Seventh One' and my most played CD this year by miles. I love the variation from the more rocky stuff, the Pure west coast of 'Chinatown' and the 2 exceptional ballads and everything else in between. I'm not going to say anyone is wrong in their opinion, as they are just that, but this is a damned fine album to my ears and the years best so far
#8 | DEMONAOR on May 19 2015 22:45:20
Funny thing about this album. Most newspapers back in europe, who have reviewed Toto albums over the years and said they sound like shit did give em a good review this time. Most die hard fans i have talked to just love this album.
#9 | Carl Noonan on May 19 2015 22:45:51
Brilliant album which I'd take over generic wannabees like Houston, Work of Art, Find Me etc etc. Don't get the comments about the mix and production. Sounds amazing on my system.
#10 | gdazegod on May 19 2015 23:40:12
Yay, at least we all have an opinion. That's great. For a while back there, we were writing reviews and no one was offering an opinion. Don't think I wrote a negative review just to stir the pot. I genuinely reckon this isn't that great. Ask me in a years time and I'll still offer the same opinion. I could only hear Luke playing solos on at least 2 or 3 songs. He was strangely absent for most of the time.
#11 | george_the_jack on May 19 2015 23:58:50
Interesting debate here! That's it. I'm sure now. George likes to troll hard and, damn, I can't fault him as he does it with class! I do this kind of stuff myself from time to time...

IMO XIV is a very good album. It is not as immediate despite the main core of the arrangements being indeed more AOR than progressive rock. I agree that Toto were never a progressive rock band. They were primarily an arena rock/AOR one, incorporating progressive rock elements as well as jazz/funk ones but they never really wanted to part with their ''corporate'' rock character. That being said, this album is a return to roots without of course coming close with the ''Seventh one'' or ''IV'' in quality or, in fact, any of their very first releases. There are still great songs onboard that need some time to be thoroughly appreciated both musically and lyrically like the ''unknown soldier'' or ''Chinatown'' and ''Great expectations''.

However, it has to be said that ''Orphan'' is a dreadful song! It almost ruined all my hopes and expectations for this new album. Uninspired enough and unjustifiably mainstream for the qualities of Toto members dare I say. What were they seriously thinking with that ridiculous rhythm section and the ''messy'' guitar riff in the chorus? If it weren't for Toto, I'd swear this is a rookie band with sub-par production and badly mixed material! They've probably tried to produce something very favourable to the average listener, modern and immediate but -to me at least- they sank together with it. They managed to sound like a POLICE tribute band that tries to play ''original'' yet obviously inspired by their idols material with zero success..

Don't let ''Orphan'' create a bias against the rest of the stuff on the album. There's more to like than dislike. By the way, there was a very poor sounding promo download floating the net prior to the official release of the album. Anyone who has complaints about how the album sounds, this might be the reason after all. I have the album in original disc as well as ripped to FLAC format and the sound is to the level one would expect from Toto. Well, almost - except for an orphan song of course..
#12 | Eric on May 20 2015 00:17:30
GTJ said: 'I agree that Toto were never a progressive rock band. They were primarily an arena rock/AOR one, incorporating progressive rock elements as well as jazz/funk ones but they never really wanted to part with their ''corporate'' rock character'.

Disagree here as well. Toto had little to do with Journey, Foreigner and Boston. They made several statements over the years how unfair the 'Corporate rock tag was for them. I equate Toto with bands like Saga, Kayak and the like all of whom are often derided by the Prog community as non-progressive so its a vicious circle. Prog rock means different things to different people and to each his own, I've always gone the pop/ accessible end of the spectrum, but that's me. By the way, is everyone forgetting Toto's 'Dune' soundtrack? Hmm... not prog.helpless
#13 | Eric on May 20 2015 00:22:30
#14 | gdazegod on May 20 2015 00:23:47
I much prefer it when Toto just 'rock out', rather than be artsy or clever. Leave that to the Pseudo-Toto bands from Sweden instead. Nice phrase that one.. pseudo-toto.. lol!
#15 | rkbluez on May 20 2015 02:18:03
I like the album a lot...sure I wouldn't of minded if they rocked out a little more...but honestly their worst stuff is better than a lot of those wanna be Swedish clone bands that some people drool over.
#16 | DEMONAOR on May 20 2015 02:36:20
I agree with you again Eric that they have nuttin to do with Journey,Foreigner or Boston. I love the return of the collective singing on this album. I even love hearing David Paich sing more songs again like he used to do on the two first albums.
#17 | dangerzone on May 20 2015 03:54:44
I've been listening to this to see if maybe I was wrong, like the Houston II album everyone seemed to gush over as a landmark AOR release but was clearly not. I still don't hear any real magic here. The West Coast likes of 'Chinatown' are decent as George points out and if the whole album followed suit I could get behind this. But the majority is plodding soft type rock that just makes me want to skip tracks. 'All the Tears' sums up the dullness. Then again I've never been a major Toto connoisseur and for me 'IV' is the best album of theirs by a mile. For me they went downhill after 'Isolation' and never achieved real consistency afterwards.
#18 | gdazegod on May 20 2015 04:40:08
I didn't expect anyone to agree with me, and honestly I'm not looking for acceptance. 'XIV' is what it is. It'll hit people in different ways. In comparison, a band that I have slagged often in public for the last three years Osukaru, have finally delivered.. Go figure.. helpless
#19 | Geir on May 20 2015 07:58:41
I have to say that I really like this album. While I can't claim to know any of the albums between 'The Seventh One' and 'Falling in Between' well, 'XIV' resonates with me on a whole other level than the former.

For whatever it's worth, I also think that 'XIV' is a nice update of the classic Toto sound: I personally hear shades of 'Hydra', 'Toto IV' and 'The Seventh One', as well as solo Steve Lukather, in there musically.

Funnily enough, I really enjoy the 'obligatory' Steve Porcaro penned song this time around, too: His material is usually way too laidback for me, but 'The Little Things', for whatever reason, really hits home.

...So yeah, tastes certainly differ, but that's fine! Grin
#20 | Explorer on May 20 2015 16:53:28
I,for one has always found Toto's output somewhat erratic, but on this occasion I find myself warming to their new album, sure it took a fair few plays to get to grips with it, but I found a nicely balanced, cohesive rock album....but what do I know. I still think "Turn Back" is their best work.
#21 | Nick C on May 20 2015 19:10:07
With regard the production / mix, there to me seems like there are parts where it's too loud and it the moment I'm doing a lot of headphone listening (thanks to the hi-fi being in the same room as an x-box crazy kid)...and it's real noticeable to the point it makes me wince at times. It's mostly where songs are supposed to get that musical equivalent of ' yessss 'ave it' (although Running Out of Time seems distorted in parts all over the place), case in point the 1:34 mark of Burn where the song raises the stakes suffers badly - I notice it on my main speakers somewhat but on headphones it sounds much worse....and I run my set up with the tonal controls bypassed so it's not a bass knob turned to much and when listening on the cans it's with the amp volume pretty low...cranking the song up is pretty much out of the question.

Anyway...I liked the album to begin with but the more I listen to this album the better it gets.
#22 | gdazegod on May 20 2015 21:35:57
Well, I did say 'Burn' was a rumbly mess'. And that comes from a bloke who is not a real audiophile.
#23 | englandashes on May 20 2015 22:15:07
Brought this at the end of March, and have not even played it, better wipe the dust off and listen to it now.Anyway great to read all your views.
#24 | Eric on May 20 2015 22:32:31
All this reminds me of the great Giuffria debate a few years back. Good times- lol!
#25 | Nick C on May 21 2015 01:30:49
Hahaha! Good to get a bit of fire back. Just a point tonight I had the Santers box set on...sounds f*cking awesome cranked distortion apart from what you'd I thought I'll play the last up to date album I bought which was Steven Wilson - Hand Cannot Erase..and then stopped, lets listen to his earlier years so I put on No-man Loveblows and Lovecries - again aural panacea, I'm healed ... there's no way Steven Wilson can sound on par...wrong, the guy just gets it...he is the equivalent of the new Alan Parsons ...except he can sing and perform. I can crank H-C-E and its sounds great whereas I play the new Toto and it sounds a's loud before you reach for the dial. It makes me wonder as Toto are such great pros without a doubt ...if they delivered the album and Frontiers remixed it made it loud and screwed it up. You think I'm nuts....try playing it even moderately loud, it's like being hit in the ear with a blancmange.
#26 | gdazegod on May 21 2015 01:38:33
I like that Nick, how you mentioned Steven Wilson in the same breath as Alan Parsons.. hmm.. I had a Starcastle and Marillion week last week, perhaps it's time for an APP week - next week. I'll have to load up my smartphone as I'm away for work next week..
#27 | Nick C on May 21 2015 01:43:54
Heh! But I still like the new Toto the songs on it are fantastic, I don't want folks to think that I don't, 'tis probably one of my top ten this year.....maybe SW could remix it a bit.
#28 | DEMONAOR on May 21 2015 04:24:59
I agree with u Nick C that Frontiers might have remixed the album and made it too loud and fucked it up. CJ Vanston and the Toto guys know how to make an album sound good.
#29 | jeffrey343 on May 21 2015 05:01:49
I must admit that I've never been a big Toto fan at any point in their career. I've certainly never disliked them; rather I've been more or less indifferent towards them. I could get my fill of Toto from what was on the radio. I've played all their albums the past several years just to make sure it wasn't just a case of me 'getting it' with them, and they still didn't do that much overall for me. Again not bad by any means, and their class makes them quite listenable. But their music has just never excited me as much as a lot of other stuff.

So, I can't say I was awaiting this album as much as many folks were. I knew it was coming. The first single, 'Orphan', really didn't do anything for me. Andrew at MR gave it a 100, and I generally agree with him (even though he and George sometimes are 180 degrees apart on some albums, like this one). First listen for me was basically like any other Toto album - sounded fine but didn't move me. I gave it another spin after this review, and I liked it marginally better. I really don't see me giving it any further attention, though. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not the best person to offer an opinion on a Toto album. But I didn't want to be left out of all this fun Smile
#30 | george_the_jack on May 22 2015 23:14:38
Eric, I know what you mean. Either way, Toto have always been a band that's not easy to categorize or put a generic genre tag on. By saying they are mainly a corporate rock band I don't mean they are directly related to bands such as Journey or Boston.They're obviously not as they are tons different. There are still those aforementioned elements which, being very well adapted to their sounding structure, made them unique and one of a kind. I'd consider them an AOR fusion band if there ever were such a sub-genre. Toto as a band might have never been directly associated with arena/adult contemporary rock, nevertheless the band members themselves as individual musicians have always taken part to dozens of side projects with obvious commercial character or even contributed with song-writing for pop idols (Michael Jackson). Besides, they were all coming from a jazz fusion background having emerged from the Los Angeles fusion scene and wanted to make a break in the charts. Under this perspective, their biggest ever hits were rather pure, straight-forward AOR numbers. On the other hand, when I'm thinking of progressive rock bands I have in mind complex arrangements, modulations, variable rhythms in one song, lengthy improvisations and generally things that may not come as natural to the ears of the listener - something certainly hard to dominate the airwaves from a commercial perspective. I believe that was never the case with Toto nor with bands like Ambrosia or Kayak that you mentioned. I don't think they were orientated towards this kind of audience. It's that strange kind of thing you said, that Toto were not a progressive rock band per se, while at the same time it wouldn't be fair to categorize them as a mainstream rock band either. That's my 2 cents. Of course you lived those days and you must remember the general consensus that surrounded the band back then with regards to their sound identity. It has to be said though, that indeed, they never played the arenas or big stadiums that Journey played.

As for the ''pseudo-Toto'' bands that someone mentioned, in my perspective, those are bands heavily influenced by Toto yet I don't think they are trying to play like Toto. For example, I can't see where Work Of Art, Houston, or even Sonic Station are trying to be Toto in Toto's shoes. I remember how this all started. It was when Work of Art debuted in 2008 and the critics gave them the ''new Toto'' tag which was widely misplaced in my view and very unfair for the band themselves. I love Work Of Art and they are indeed very Toto-influenced but I can't see where they try to imitate Toto except for a couple of songs in all 3 albums they released which is something to be expected as influences are influences. However, I see equal hints of influence/references from bands like Survivor or Journey in their music.

Getting to the point now and to the album itself, I gave it 3-4 more plays to try to evaluate all the views that have been put down in this debate. First off, another 2 songs have grown on me apart from those I already mentioned. One is ''All the tears that shine'' which is an amazing westcoast affair and I see it getting a lot of play during my summer vacations and the second being 21st Century Blues. I even liked ''The Little Things'' more, which I initially considered a Backstreet Boys-like song in the first place! Having said that, I insist this is an album that takes some time to get into. I have already listened to it over 20 times and I still find new things to like. In such cases it is only time that brings justice. Let's see what we'll all think of XIV 2 years from now. ''Revelation'' by Journey held well for example while ''Eclipse'' sank in the sea of oblivion...

As an end note, I sat and listened to the album very carefully under a very good set of cans. I have to admit that, George and Nick, you're both right. There's a clear problem with the dynamics of the album. There are issues of 'unbalance' here and there, very much noticeable if you have a careful listen. That's very much the case of poor mixing or, even worse, an attempt to bump the ''punch'' of the original tapes. It's very much alike to what some remaster labels have done with some old recordings, wanting to pack some more punch into the original tapes, then ending up ruining the records. As it's highly unlikely the Toto engineers have not done a good job, the most believable story to me is that when Frontiers got the material, found it very soft and laid back and wanted to give it a kick by remixing it - messing it up in the process.... You can see from their releases that they favour big sounding (not necessarily good well-polished) releases, especially those produced by Dennis Ward in the past.
#31 | Eric on May 23 2015 00:21:38
Hey GTJ-
Dude you need to be doing more reviews here! What I meant by Toto not being a progressive rock band per say is they are not what we expect from traditional prog or the holy trinity of Yes, Genesis and ELP. Toto have always had one foot in pop which came later for Yes and Genesis and in some ways Toto were groundbreaking in this area.

As far as the sound, I don't have a great system and I've never been an Audiophile but I think it sounds OK?
#32 | george_the_jack on May 24 2015 12:20:41
Haha, thanks Eric. Now that I have settled myself well and things are a bit clamer in my life, I might be taking a few reviews. George-permitting of course.. Wink

I played the real thing (the physical disc) just to make sure I hadn't generated a bad rip. There's certainly a problem with distorted dynamics. It seems this was released worldwide by frontiers so, unfortunately, there's no way to compare possible different versions of the album.

As far as ''audiophiles'' go, though, I dislike the term as hell (reminds me of the word 'paedophiles' or other nasty obsessions) I do however, think we all here are entitled to be picky in terms of sound, while we listen to classy music. You can't even imagine how shitty are some of the things the so-called audiophiles listen to! Pfft I'm sure you Eric, even with your ''not great'' sounding system, you still listen to music a lot more substantial than what those chaps listen to...
#33 | Nick C on May 25 2015 21:10:56
Heh! Audiophiles spend more time listening to their hifi setup discs than real music CDs.
#34 | DEMONAOR on May 26 2015 01:15:31
[justify]Like 0.01% Distortion in a speaker turn em off lol.[/justify]
#35 | aoraor on July 15 2015 23:40:19
I think I can say some words on it, being a Toto fan (and critic too) since '82 and having attended to at least 8 gigs in the last 30 years; there is someone posting that this is their best album since 'Seventh One', well I couldn't agree more. It is a fantastic release, I was not even sure the band could do again something like that. I've listened to the tracks all over again for weeks, discovering sounds, nuances, lyrics, influences (yes! AOR, Prog and west coast Pop, they are Toto after all!)
This opus grew on me even more after their performances live here in Milan, I was too excited to come back to home and listen to all of them again. Joseph Williams is at his best, so Lukather, never too invadent ( like Kingdom of Desire), the sound not too complicate (like Fall In Between or Mindfields), yet so carefully crated and inspirate. I really can say I don't share at all the reviewer's thoughts for the 1st time since I have the pleasure to visit this site.
#36 | gdazegod on July 16 2015 00:08:19
Thanks for your thoughts Fabio. Toto's material does tend to polarise people. And you're right, because over time they have changed their style between albums. It's like listening to a new band each time. Some of their catalogue I get, others I don't get. This would be one of them. I appreciate people's views though.. Smile
#37 | reyno-roxx on January 28 2016 15:23:04
Only just dragged this out of a large pile of CDs that I've picked up but just not got around to listen to. It's by no means as good as many of the records they've cut before, but I found it quite a pleasant listening experience. Maybe Inwas in the right mood for it today. I was amused by the reference to a Matchbox car in 'The Little Things'. I have a weakness for collecting those things as well. For all Mattel's efforts in promoting Hot Wheels over the orange carded stepchild they bought from Tyco in the late 90s, it's the Matchbox brand one of the world's biggest bands recall in a song. love it!
#38 | Nick C on November 18 2016 01:43:15
Just listened tonight again...this album songwise is great. Sonically it's like finding a £10 note picking it up and finding its covered in dog cr*p. Seriously if Mr. Lukather with all his moans and gripes which seem to be part of his MO half the time would like to come around here and explain how his argument that the album sounds great on a decent system holds water ...he's welcome, I'll play him great sounding stuff from the 60's right through to the ...hmmm...21st century . Basically it sounds like sh*t unless your listening on teeny peeny headphones or on car stereo.
#39 | gdazegod on November 18 2016 05:05:10
My opinion hasn't changed. Waiting for the next one.. stress
#40 | Nick C on November 21 2016 09:17:15
...and my above statement about tiny speakers gave me an idea. Against my better judgement I switched off the tone defeat button on my old trusty Technics amp, I'm so glad I didn't get the Naim one I almost had my hands in my pocket for a few years back as I would be stuck for this album (having said'll be appearing at some point maybe, having tone defeat is surely preferable than no option at all though as many amps higher end amps have had for years now...a point I raised with What Hifi years and years ago and won a plethora of goodies for the star letter hahaha!). If I turn the bass right down...and I mean almost off...then the album is better and I can finally listen to it all the way through without grinding my teeth and having the bits of plaster fall from the ceiling. It's not perfect by any means and the midrange suffers a little but it gets rid of the all pervading bass rumble to an extent, so yes....if their next is as good as this material wise, which I've always liked but it's the first time I've been able to sit through it from start to end - then I'll be dead chuffed, I always liked it and now I like it more. Just hope they move on from Frontiers who I'm sure have a hand in this.
Over a year on from it's release...phew...I'll not mention it again. (possibly!)

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