This June 25th sees the release of “With A Little Help From My Friends” — the new live album by legendary rock band TOTO.
Well known for their Top 5 hits hits “Hold the Line”, “Rosanna”, and “Africa” the Californian AOR / jazz-fusion troupe have released 14 studio albums and sold more than 40 million records worldwide. They have been honored with several Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009.
TOTO were always a loose painting — a collective of phonographic euphonists…Neil Mach
The combo grew out of an assembly of like-minded professional session players who had worked on fancy projects by the likes of Steely Dan, Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, and Sonny and Cher during the soft rock boom years of the ’70s. Once they decided to become a band in their own right, keyboardist David Paich began writing for their eponymous debut album, Toto.
At that early stage this “in Toto” team included lead vocalist Bobby Kimball, who had come from a Three Dog Night side project called “SS Fools” — rising guitar superstar Steve Lukather who already knew David Paich and the Porcaro brothers (Steve on synths and Jeff on drums) from his school days, and the bassist, producer & arranger David Hungate.
On their first album, they also welcomed contributions from other skilled session specialists they knew, including but not limited to the vocals of disco-pop diva “Got To Be Real” Cheryl Lynn, arrangements by David Paich’s father, Marty (who’d gained renown for working as Peggy Lee’s musical director, and in the 1960s had arranged material for artists such as Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Barbra Streisand, and Andy Williams) and the boffin electronic instrument pioneer Roger Linn who had designed the first drum machine, and was the first musician to use sampling techniques on recordings. Linn is considered to be the creator of the MIDI sequencer (thus becoming the symbolic ‘creator‘ of hip-hop.)
Before and during Toto’s long operational life, the various members of the troupe continued their independent session efforts for a host of other notable musicians. Additionally, more than twenty backline musicians contributed to TOTO’s recordings (not counting members of several world-famous symphony orchestras), including such luminaries as: Don Henley, Miles Davis, Jon Anderson, Linda Ronstadt, and lots more. In fact, half the fun of reading a TOTO album cover back in those rosy vinyl days was playing the game of “pinpoint the guest star.”
So TOTO had always been much more than a band of brothers: they were always a loose painting, a collective, if you will, of phonograph euphonists rather than any narrow, airless, superframe. In other words, they continued to flourish and mature with a “Little Help From (their) Friends.”
The new live album captures an extraordinary night in November 2020 when Steve Lukather (guitar, voice), Joseph Williams (voice, keys) and David Paich (voice, keys) appeared with a new line-up: bassist John Pierce (Huey Lewis and The News), drummer Robert “Sput” Searight (Ghost-Note / Snarky Puppy), and keyboardist / background vocalist Steve Maggiora (Robert Jon & The Wreck), keyboardist Dominique “Xavier” Taplin (Prince, Ghost-Note) and multi-instrumentalist / vocalist Warren Ham (Ringo Starr).
This marked the fifteenth incarnation of the TOTO rock-sinfonia.
The songs the played that evening included: “Till The End,” “Hold The Line,” “Pamela,” “Kingdom of Desire,” “White Sister,” “You Are The Flower,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” “Stop Loving You,” “Home Of The Brave,” “Rosanna,” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Right out of the gate this group gelled…
And the show was recorded for posterity with CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray packages to be made available. In the DVD and Blu-ray releases, a documentary is featured alongside this stellar performance, featuring thoughts from all members of the band that appeared that evening.
Says Joe Williams: “It’s always a complete joy to perform a TOTO show, but this one was special. Joining me, Luke and David last November were three new top level, virtuoso musicians as well as a few returning geniuses. The show itself was born out of the need to play after being on Covid lockdown, but also served as the reason to build this new band…
Right out of the gate this group gelled and dug deep into the new and old TOTO material. Among some of the deeper cuts is one of my all-time favorite songs, ‘You Are The Flower’ by the original – Bobby Kimball. Being a massive fan (and a good friend), I dedicate the performance to him…”
With A Little Help From My Friends was Produced by Joseph Williams, who also edited the accompanying long-form video. The band’s long-time front of house engineer Ken Freeman mixed and captured the sound that evening.
Songs such as “You Are The Flower” (shared below, and originally found on their 1978 debut) have the same astonishing efficiency and expressiveness that fans have always recognized and enjoyed. The outfit has always been envied for its attention to detail, super-competence and assiduous craftsmanship… and this new work doesn’t disappoint.
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS GLOBAL RELEASE DATE: 25 JUNE 2021
VIA PLAYERS CLUB / MASCOT LABEL GROUP