Toto IV: Bless the sonic reign.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - MIKE MET­TLER

TOTO HAVE GOT­TEN an un­de­served bum rap over the years for em­body­ing the adult con­tem­po­rary vein. But their cool­ness fac­tor went up a thou­sand­fold re­cently when emo-rock icons Weezer cov­ered both “Rosanna” and “Africa” live at the be­hest of a fierce Twit­ter cam­paign ini­ti­ated by a 14-year-old fe­male fan via @Weez­er­cov­er­africa.

Re­gard­less, the fact re­mains that Toto’s orig­i­nal core four mem­bers— gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist Steve “Luke” Lukather, key­boardist/vo­cal­ist David Paich, key­boardist/vo­cal­ist Steve Por­caro, and late drum­ming icon Jeff Por­caro— are among the sharpest, most record­ing-stu­dio savvy mu­si­cians of the mod­ern rock era. And there’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of their record­ing prow­ess to be found than within the grooves of their sig­na­ture April 1982 re­lease Toto IV, which sub­se­quently nabbed six Gram­mys in 1983, in­clud­ing Al­bum of the Year, Pro­ducer of the Year, and Record of the Year for “Rosanna.”

Why does Toto IV sound so good? You can thank the deft ear and mas­ter­ful touch of le­gendary pro­ducer/engi­neer Al Sch­mitt (Frank Si­na­tra, Ge­orge Ben­son) for the over­all sound tem­plate, and Greg Ladanyi (Jack­son Browne, War­ren Zevon) for the mix­ing magic.

Nat­u­rally, there are myr­iad Toto IV lis­ten­ing op­tions. My per­sonal fa­vorite re­mains the 1999 SACD 5.1 mix done by the ir­re­press­ible El­liot Scheiner, best ex­em­pli­fied with the rich­ness of the pi­ano break in the back quar­ter of “Rosanna,” the full­ness of the strings and vo­cal blends on “I Won’t Hold You Back,” and the per­cus­sive clar­ity on “Africa.” While the SACD has long been out of print, a Scheiner-helmed remaster of the 5.1 mix ap­pears on the bonus Blu-ray in­cluded in the band’s ex­haus­tively com­pre­hen­sive 40th an­niver­sary All In box set sched­uled for an Oc­to­ber 2018 re­lease. As Steve Por­caro re­counts, “When El­liot first au­di­tioned the 5.1 for us, we dug it. I al­most started cry­ing a cou­ple of times while lis­ten­ing to it. When you’re in a band with crunch gui­tar and all these other things fly­ing around, there’s al­ways a lot of stuff that gets buried in the mixes. But in the sur­round ver­sion, it felt like our over­dubs fi­nally got their own chance to breathe.”

If you’re go­ing the CD route, the orig­i­nal 1988 Red­book stan­dard disc is cer­tainly ser­vice­able, but the 1999 Mo­bile Fi­delity Ul­tradisc II ver­sion as gleaned from the orig­i­nal mas­ter tapes bet­ter re­flects the scope of Ladanyi’s ini­tial, clev­erly re­spect­ful mix. The more re­cent 2014 lim­ited-edi­tion Cul­ture Fac­tory 24-bit/96khz re­mas­tered CD of­fer­ing opens the sound­field pal­ette a good bit more— though the mi­cro­scopic re­pro­duc­tion of the track and per­son­nel info on the in­ner sleeve will chal­lenge the depth per­cep­tion of even the most ea­gle-eyed among us.

On the vinyl tip, the 180-gram op­tions are clear win­ners. Mu­sic On Vinyl’s 2012 plat­ter is un­ques­tion­ably su­pe­rior to the orig­i­nal vinyl, while the cur­rent 180g of­fer­ing— mas­tered by Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Co­hen and su­per­vised by Scheiner and Toto— is the best I’ve heard to date.

If you have enough bank in your mu­sic-buy­ing till, I sug­gest you ei­ther track down the SACD or in­vest in the afore­men­tioned All In mondo box set at to­toof­fi­ for both 180g LP and 5.1 BD op­tions. Per­haps Cool Hand Luke as­sesses it best: “When you put mu­sic on a great-sound­ing sys­tem, you don’t want to do any­thing else. And Toto makes records to be lis­tened to like that.” So true. Let us take a mo­ment to bless the rains, and the un­in­ter­rupted reign, of Toto IV.

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