Toto: XIV - Album Of The Week Club review

Your reviews of Toto XIV, or, as it's otherwise known, Toto's contractual obligation album

Toto: XIV cover art
(Image: © Frontiers)

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Toto: XIV

Toto: XIV cover art

(Image credit: Frontiers)

Running Out of Time
Holy War
21st Century Blues
Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey)
The Little Things
All the Tears That Shine
Great Expectations

Toto invariably evoke thoughts of slick production and 10,000-hour professionalism, and with Joe Williams – who featured on Fahrenheit (1986) and The Seventh One (1988) – back on vocals, XIV maintains that tradition. 

Harmonies are tight, and Running Out Of Time’s energetic opening is comfortingly reminiscent of their earlier work. So far, so predictable. However, the mellow 21st Century Blues has a jazzier edge sweeping through its chorus, and could almost be an outtake from Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly, with its smooth harmonic interjections, slick synth and unadulterated funk.

Just as Fahrenheit had I’ll Be Over You, XIV has The Little Things, a perfectly positioned, engagingly melodic, relaxing ballad to effortlessly delight the AOR mainstream. Chinatown (a lost track from The Seventh One) is the track that smacks most of the band’s 80s work, with vocals switching between Steve Lukather and Williams, prominent piano interludes, and the unmistakable Toto harmonies.

The album concludes with Great Expectations, a surprising number that somehow combines folk with distorted AOR and should sound wrong, but somehow sounds right. Probably because it’s executed by top quality session musicians. It is Toto, after all. 

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Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in March 2015

  • Enslaved - In Times
  • Mark Knopfler - Tracker
  • Awolnation - Run Alternative
  • Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves
  • Sleeping with Sirens - Madness
  • Seasick Steve - Sonic Soul Surfer
  • Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful
  • The Prodigy - The Day Is My Enemy
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
  • Hollywood Undead - Day of the Dead
  • Prong - Songs from the Black Hole
  • Ringo Starr - Postcards from Paradise
  • Ron Sexsmith - Carousel One
  • Three Days Grace - Human


What they said...

"If Toto XIV ends up being Toto’s final studio album, and I sincerely hope it’s not, they will be going out with a bang. They will be able to depart with their heads held high, knowing that — despite their rich musical legacy and several brilliant albums — they managed to save the best for last, and end on the highest possible note." (Something Else)

"The story behind Toto XIV is good, but the music that came from it is never half-hearted or obligatory. When the band rocks, as found on the openers Running Out Of Time and Burn, they’re at their hardest. When they stretch out and get proggy, as with Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey) they’re at their proggiest. When they swing, like on Fortune, they’re at their jazziest. Original bassist David Hungate appears on a few tracks, further solidifying the reunion qualifications." (Pop Dose)

"Although they're drawing heavily from the galloping art-rock adventure of their pre-Rosanna album tracks, they're not living in the past, nor are they denying it: they're accepting all their indulgences, all the intricacies that come with their virtuosity, and making a record that reflects what these veteran rockers have seen and learned in their 40 years in the business." (AllMusic)


What you said...

Greg Schwepe: About a year and a half ago I made it a project for myself to finally do a deep dive on the Toto catalogue. They were opening for Journey’s 2022 tour (did it again in 2023!) and I wanted to become more familiar with more than just the 4-5 songs I’ve heard on the radio for years. And Toto had just made it easy for me and created three separate Toto playlists on Spotify; the hits we all know, the other good stuff you may not know, and a big playlist of every studio album they’ve done. And yes, this week’s album, Toto XIV was on that massive playlist. And one that I kept coming back to. Still trying to figure out how with their pedigree when headlining they seem to play to larger theater venues in the U.S. while playing to huge crowds in Europe.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that Toto is a band of accomplished musicians who’ve played on albums that have sold about 10 billion copies. That’s only a slight exaggeration. You will also either like them for being “slick and polished” or hate them for being “slick and polished.” Take your pick. I’m in the former on this one. And am guessing most of this week’s reviews will be split into these two categories.

Overall, Toto XIV (or “14” for those “Roman Numeral Challenged”) hits all the Toto Boxes; incredible playing by Luke and band, well-crafted songs, various moods from rock to soft rock to jazzy, great vocals, big choruses and tight harmonies.

Running Out of Time starts with a Luke guitar run that instantly wows and then chugs along. And for me, just starts a string of songs that really stick with me. Burn, Holy War, 21st Century Blues, Orphan, and Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey) sung by Luke. Quintessential Toto. Again, the kind of songs that you’ll either really like or really not care for them.

This is the stuff I tend to gravitate to when I’m not “metalling out” on the real loud stuff I like. If someone asked to suggest to you a Toto album that kind of sums up everything they’re about, this would be one of those albums. 8 out of 10 for XIV.

Robby Jackson: This is why I follow this FB group: Wasn't aware Toto was still around at the turn of the century. I liked this album. Others in this feed say there are better Toto albums. I'm going to go check them out.

Tim Raynor: They are very talented musicians, but I prefer their earlier work compared to what they’ve been doing over last couple decades. They just sound too overproduced and contemporary these days. To me, Turn Back is the one that really rocked compared to this album.

Leo San: This album became one of my three favourite Toto albums.

Jack Morse: One of their weakest albums, but this is Toto. All their albums are good, so it being the weakest doesn't mean it's a bad album. It's good. Not their best, but like so many bands from the 70s/80s, you can't recreate that magic. Iron Maiden still make great records, but it`s not like it used to be. Springsteen's the same. Bands and artists evolve and change, and when you've been around for 40-50 years, you do not sound like you did on your first record. Not even AC/DC. This is a good record from Lukather & Co. Their history is their worst enemy, but listen to this record and pretend it's a band you've never heard. 

Evan Sanders: The good thing about this album is it made me aware that Toto continued to exist for many years after the 80s success. Other than that, it's hard to find compliments about a set of generic-sounding rock songs, more what I expect from a struggling opening band than the headliner. I have a vision of audience members shouting for Hold The Line and Africa when Toto performed the XIV songs in concert. 4/10.

David Hennessy: This is an exceptional Toto album. The three albums with Joseph Williams on lead vocals (this one and the last two albums from the 80s) were their best. They rocked a lot harder than people give them credit for.

Henk Meinsma This album – together with Isolation and the debut – is their very finest. Tracks like All The Tears That Shine and Great Expectations are really magnicifent!

Gary Claydon: Welcome to Album Corner, where, each week, a celebrity guest is invited to review an album from rock history. This week it's 'XIV by veteran American band, Toto. Guest reviewer is Dr. Derek Dull of Dulwich. Dr.Dull is Professor Emeritus in Cultural Dullness at Oxford University and has recently been awarded the title 'World's dullest person' for the 17th year in succession.

So, Derek, what's the verdict?

"It's too fucking dull. You got any Michael Bolton instead?"

Well, there you have it. Join us again, next week, when Sally Shit from Shitsville takes a look at Asia's entire back catalogue.

Bill Griffin: This started out great but quickly started sounding like the contractual obligation album that it is.

Philip Qvist: The first four albums are still my to go-to Toto albums, although as a resident of South Africa I will scream if I ever have to the overplayed-to-death Africa again. I also thought the early Joseph Williams albums were also pretty good - which brings us to XIV.

It's not a bad album; with solid songs and good musicianship from all band members. The songs are well crafted as well - but it doesn't add much to their resume. Nothing new but nothing really bad either - and what they do they do well.

The earlier tracks like Burn are the best, then a sense of sameness takes over. It still bests the Byron era though (and he was awful even if he was from South Africa). A pleasant 6.5/10

David Van Driessen: The weakest in their otherwise awesome discography.

Graham Tarry: This is a brilliant album, showing that the band still has their muse. Personal favourites are the opening cut and Chinatown.

John Davidson: Offensively inoffensive. Which, unlike, "Mostly Harmless" isn't an upgrade.

Don't get me wrong, it's pleasant enough for the most part but the lack of connection between the tone of the music and the choice of lyrics tells me this is rock by numbers .

If it were Blue Oyster Cult they'd be winking at me so I was in on the joke but these guys don't give the impression of a sick sense of humour - this is not intentional counterpoint.

Upbeat, lounge room rock is one thing, but when they sing about Holy War in cheery harmonies with a jaunty bass line and a super-clean production it reminds me why I prefer Megadeth.

And, if you are going to sing about the blues, for gods sake have the decency to sound like you are miserable, even if it it's that comforting self hug that the blues allows. Any emotion at all would be welcome.

The more I write the more I find to dislike. This is largely soulless, artless (pleasant) noise that makes a mockery of the obvious craftsmanship that the players bring to the record.

At least they sound like they mean it on Orphan.

Robert Dunn: With apologies to Katy Perry, I listened to a Toto album in its entirety and I liked it... well, mostly. Toto have always been a good band with a great ear for a catchy tune - Rosanna and Africa are the most obvious examples of that  – but as well as that they are good musicians as demonstrated on this album. Running Out Of Time is a great opener, and the first few tracks also had me tapping my toes and enjoying this, but then side two kicked in and... it was just too... nice, I suppose. Not bad songs, but very much on the pop side of the pop-rock spectrum. I did find myself grooving in the kitchen to Fortune once Steve Lukather's guitar solo kicked in, but that was the only noteworthy event on side two, even if my dancing did scare the dog a little.

After listening to this I haven't changed my mind about where Toto sit on the Dunn pop-rock scale (above Styx and REO Speedwagon but below Journey and Foreigner), sitting firmly in the AOR section. Overall I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but too much bland filler for me. Probably 6/10.

James Erik: Amazing record.

Mark Herrington: Soft rock isn’t everyone’s thing , but Toto do it better than most , and have done it more consistently, since the late 1970s. If it isn’t your thing then pin back your ears and settle back for a gloriously guilty pleasure.

Rumour has it that XIV could be their swansong album as a band. If so, it’s an impressive way to bow out of recording and their best-selling album for 25 years .

Generally acclaimed by the fans – and most reviewers – as a welcome return to form, that’s no mean feat for a fairly recent album.

The album kicks off by rocking through six harder tracks, from Running Out Of Time though to Unknown soldier. Unusually for Toto, they don’t slow down here until the seventh track. Probably only 1992's Kingdom of Desire has that same consistent harder edge in their extensive output. The songwriting is first class, with Orphan (the first single release from this) and Unknown Soldier particularly impressive. Toto certainly know how to consistently turn out ear - worm songs that slowly get their hooks into you.

The three next slower tracks are the usual jazzy delights that Toto excel at: The Little Things, Chinatown and All the Tears that Shine, and provide a good break before the album tempo picks up for the final two tracks. Fortune is a great driving track, reminiscent of the those on the aforementioned Kingdom of Desire. Great Expectations is a perfect natural closer, with singing duties shared by the trio of Paich, Williams and Lukather as it slowly develops into a great anthem.

First class - just hope it’s not their last .


Final score: 6.91 (47 votes cast, total score 325)

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