|Toto Falling In Between||Frontiers Records|
There have only been 6 perfect scores awarded in the 9 years of the site. This is the easiest perfect score I have awarded.|
Toto is one of my all time favourite bands, yet I have handed out three average reviews in a row for Tambu, Mindfields and Through The Looking Glass. I am glad I can turn that around with this record. And I think fans will be unanimous in agreeing that this is the band's finest work in years.
Toto is a very diverse band. Their history of recordings and styles encompassed is diverse. Because of that diversity and a long rich career that spans 3 decades, it is always going to be hard to please everybody. And just how certain past albums have appealed will certainly impact on where fans rank Falling In Between.
But for me – it is one of the band's finest ever. Previous favourites for me have been Seventh One, Kingdom Of Desire and Isolation. But I also love individual parts of IV, Fahrenheit, Tambu and Mindfields.
Back to this album – Falling In Between is for me the perfect example of how to please everybody – or at least come close.
Falling In Between is also the perfect example of how to encompass everything from a very diverse past and still deliver something fresh and new. This is what it is all about folks. This is the exact reason I do this site - this is a stunning record. I have lived with it now for a few months and it remains the most played album of any throughout the week.
It still sounds fresh; it still offers something exciting each time I play it and man…it just sounds a million bucks.
I was listening back to Mindfields yesterday and it just sounded flat compared to this. Falling In Between is such a vibrant record. It jumps from the speakers and is bursting with life.
The addition of new boy Greg Phillinganes and the return of Steve Porcaro are two extra ingredients that help make the album so well rounded.
When Steve Lukather spoke of a more progressive record, I was a little worried. I said just deliver an album of killer 4 minute songs. The band has done both. The songs are killer and the more technical progressive elements add extra depth that gives the listener so much more to wrap their ears around.
I have read a few comments that the first two tracks are somewhat harder to get into. I could not disagree more, I think they see the band at their most adventurous and simply blow me away for their power and creativity.
There is so much music and so many layers within the songs, yet all of it sounds crystal clear and perfectly placed. There is not one note that has not been thought about. Sometimes such a perfect sound can feel deliberate or sterile, but this all just sounds so natural, it is like second nature for all involved.
I mean, how can a record with 5 lead vocalists and maybe 8 different song styles not sound disjointed? But it doesn't…never once does a song appear out of place.
This record flows effortlessly from one song to another due to three things – perfect performances, brilliant songwriting and a million dollar sound.
The percussion on this record is second to none as far as Toto's history and the songs are just as diverse, yet perfectly cohesive in the scheme of the album's flow.
I am seriously in awe of the way the different vocalists appear and work with each other through the record. As stated, there are 5 lead vocalists on this record and sometimes 3 or 4 in any given track! Yet it works due to the amazing song quality and the smooth production allowing each singer their own space.
This 50 minute record has something for every Toto fan old and new and then something.
Track By Track:
Falling In Between - With a grand Seventh One style instrumentation, the album begins its journey before Lukather blows the song apart with one of the heaviest riffs I have ever heard from him. The song is very progressive and together with the hard crunch of the guitar and some amazing swirling keyboards, the song reminds me of the best from Dream Theater.
The band has really gone out of its way to be different, yet in a way that is going to appeal to fans. Take this track - the heaviest of the album. When was the last time you heard an album title track that features two verses, two quick choruses and no further lead vocals past the 2 minute 20 mark! The last 2 minutes of the song is a mix of Luke's heavy riffing and layers of keyboard and orchestral/progressive instrumentation. Not only that, but Bobby Kimball sings the verse with such power, like I have never heard him and new boy Greg sings the chorus.
Dying On My Feet - The intro to this song gives absolutely nothing away - you have no idea where the song is going and if I wasn't sitting here listening to it myself, I'm not sure I could possibly believe the description! This is a stunning track that highlights the genius that is this album.
A laid back mid-tempo verse with a subtle and prominent piano riff doubles in pace for a bridge that features another heavy (and in your face) guitar rip before the song reverts back to it's original pace. This is a perfect contrast, but what I couldn't believe is the u-turn taken after the second chorus. From out of nowhere a massive orchestral break drives this song into the audio equivalent of cinematic widescreen. There are instruments and layers flying every which way and can only be described as glorious. Without warning the song reverts back to how it started, but now with a slow Lukather solo to accompany.
Come chorus time again another u-turn awaits. No, not to the first anthemic interlude, but rather an even more complex, progressive instrumental outro that lasts close to 2 minutes. Before you even realize, the song is bursting with heavy guitar riffs and then a massive horn section! On my count that's about 5 different vibes within a 6 minute song. Progressive elements again come into play, especially with the added percussion layers and Luke's riffing. I have never heard anything like it and suggest that fans of the oldest formation of Toto will really dig this track. I can see this as still being on my playlist in December and a contender for song of the year – albeit, one out of left field.
Bottom Of Your Soul - This is the longest song of the album at 7 minutes and the lead single. Easily the most commercial number, this will be the most familiar sound to fans of 80s Toto. This mid-tempo ballad reminds me of the moody vibe of I Will Remember from Tambu - certainly the mood and percussion is very reminiscent of this track.
The kicker is the chorus. A mellow Lukather sung verse gives way to one of the biggest choruses of the record, but with none other than the masterful Joseph Williams up front. It's a definite return to Seventh One as Williams and Lukather duet through the rest of the track. It closes out with another long instrumental passage featuring some speaker shattering rhythms and a real tribal/African vibe - with Luke and Joseph adding sporadic vocal melodies alongside a very melodic, band supplied, chanting harmony vocal.
King Of The World – This is going to be a fan favourite and is another very commercial track. This is the most 80s sounding track of the album, this again reminds me of the uptempo melodic rock moments from Seventh One and Isolation.
The warn husky tones of David Paich feature as lead during the verse and Lukather takes the bridge into the chorus, where Bobby Kimball takes over and supplies another short, but memorable powerhouse vocal. The very catchy and commercial chorus is everything anthem loving Toto fans will be hoping for!
For whatever reason, the track reminds me of the ultra high-tech feel and sound of Mr. Mister's Welcome To The Real World album - very 80s, but so high-tech that the sound appears timeless.
The instrumental break is again something that I have never heard before, yet it remains so recognizable to fans and true to the Toto legacy.
Hooked - Very different again...5 tracks in and 5 different individual styles, yet it gels together perfectly. That takes talent. This is a somewhat more stripped back track than some of the multi-layered orchestral parts of previous tracks. The song is a guitar driven slow-to-mid tempo groover, with a real swagger and some more progressive rock elements. But the chorus is once again bathed in multi-layered glory. Basically, this is very heavy come chorus time, but relatively organic and features a blazing guitar solo.
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson joins in with some flute towards the hard rocking conclusion to the track, adding yet more texture to an already over flowing record.
Simple Life - Another change of pace...I asked Luke where the rest of the track was! He basically said he wanted people to want to play it again. That they will, as it is over way to soon! A Luke sung ballad, the song builds with subtle rhythms and a prominent piano part, then explodes into a single massive and passionate chorus and in a blink of an eye it is all over.
Taint Your World - Wow, time for another guitar driven rocker, but this time it's played out at double speed as an infectious little hard rocking boogie! When Bobby Kimball suggests "you don't want to fuck with me" during the chorus, I don't think anyone will argue with him! And who disagree with his statement at the end of the track?? (You'll have to wait for that!).
One thing springs instantly to mind the second this track fires up - Van Halen! Yep, this is Lukather at his Eddie Van Halen best and man, he sounds good. This is Toto's Hot For Teacher. The chorus is fast and furious, the vocals are layers deep and again the band takes a side trip for another curious instrumental break.
Let It Go - Yet another track that offers something new in a familiar environment. Greg Phillinganes sings lead on this track, drawing in all of his soul/R&B influences with Stevie Wonder. He fits into the band perfectly. What is most enjoyable about the track is the fact it continues the pace of the last track, but is more stripped back and runs mainly on a snappy rhythm section. The track takes several twists during its running time, but the heart of the song is a funk/jazz rhythm that reminds me of Tambu in places and very early Toto in other areas. Lush instrumentation and multiple use of a big melodic Lukather sung pre-chorus bridge keeps things hopping around!
Spiritual Man – Three or so months in and this song still gives me goosebumps. This is amazing track and without doubt is a new Toto classic. This soulful and spiritual ballad is stunning...subtle at times and completely over the top towards the end. Greg, Bobby and David Paich all sing on this, each one taking a verse (there is no definitive chorus as such). This is the ultimate build-up song. Starting slowly, the vocals are hauntingly passionate and really capture the emotions of the listener. The bridge between the verses is multi-layered and is short, yet more intense. With each passing minute, more layers of vocals and instruments are added to the song and when a simply stunning Bobby Kimball bursts through the speakers, every single hair on your body will be standing on end. The last minute of the song is so thick in vocals, sax and keyboards, you will need that 5.1 mix to work out where it is all coming from. Stunning!
No End In Sight - Another taste of something out of the ordinary. Steve Lukather sings the verse, while Bobby Kimball delivers the chorus. The transition is so smooth you'll have to go back to hear where one takes over from the other. The tempo starts slow, but builds and jumps around. The chorus and song itself takes a few listens to get into and getting a handle on the layered percussion takes another listen after that! Some of the instrumental passages remind me of Seventh One again.
I love the hard edged guitar riff of the chorus and the uptempo flow of the song.
The album is almost a case of less is more. In several places the tracks leave you wanting more, which makes playing the album over and over so easy. I have different favourites each week, with so much on offer in what is a relatively short amount of time all things considered.
Catchy drum fills, extra guitar riffs and one-off harmony vocals are spread throughout the album. You find yourself looking forward and listening out for these parts once you get to know their place.
It is another example of how much effort has gone into the songwriting and production of this album. Songwriting credits are shared by the whole band over several tracks – again highlighting what a group effort this record is.
I don't think I have ever heard a lead singer sing less on an album, yet Bobby Kimball is stunning here. Luakther has never sounded better and his guitar playing is inspired to say the least. Paich has never sounded better! And keyboards are everywhere, as is the rich textured percussion of Simon Phillips and Lenny Castro.
It truly is a blueprint of how to make the perfect album. Other bands would do well to pick this up and have a listen. Not to replicate it, but to see how the band draws on their all their past records and incorporates it into something new. I have been talking about bands getting it right in 2006. This is so right!
A fan pleasing release that will be hard to beat for Album Of The Year!
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