Toto, “Gift With a Golden Gun” from Turn Back (1981): Toto Tuesdays

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Toto went into Cherokee studio in Los Angeles in March 1980 on a mission. Hydra, their prior album, was filled with strong songs but scattered themes which didn’t also seem cohesive. This time, Toto decided to sharpen their focus and adopt a more direct rock and roll approach.

Part of the execution of the plan was to rely more heavily and vocalist Bobby Kimball for the up tempo songs, and to continue the use of guitarist Steve Lukather for lead vocals on the ballads on what would become 1981’s Turn Back. David Paich, who wrote a vast majority of material on the prior two Toto albums, and sang many of the songs as well, continued to be the most prolific composer. He also co-wrote with Kimball and Lukather on a few tracks.

Perhaps most significant is that Toto employed a co-producer in Geoff Workman, best known for his engineering work with Roy Thomas Baker (the Cars, Journey, Foreigner). He also assisted in streamlining the band’s sound for Turn Back.

“Gift With a Golden Gun,” the first track on the album, is a competent execution of that strategy. Written by David Paich and Bobby Kimball, the song jumps out of the speakers with Jeff Porcaro’s drums and Steve Lukather’s guitar high in the mix. Bobby Kimball’s vocals are tight and high, and the trademark backing choir of Paich and Lukather perfectly compliment them.

Together, they create a straight-ahead opening salvo, with Lukather playing an aggressive Brian May-like lead and solos. “Gift With a Golden Gun,” however, barely hints at some of the great elements from Toto and Hydra. David Hungate seems unfortunately restrained, and Steve Porcaro’s synthesizers are almost an afterthought. Still, even a conventional Toto rocker was better than most of the stuff on the radio at the time.


Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned in 2015 with ‘Toto XIV,’ their first album since 2006.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Preston Frazier
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