Toto, “If It’s the Last Night” from Turn Back (1981): Toto Tuesdays

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The tender ballad “If It’s the Last Night” exemplifies some of the problems with Toto’s Turn Back.

The 1981 album started under the premise of being a hard-rocking album, and there were a few elements of progressive rock (i.e. “English Eyes” and “Goodbye Elenore”). There are strong straight-ahead rockers, too. The David Paich-composed and Bobby Kimball-sung “A Million Miles Away” effectively closed side one of the album with a ballad which touches on tenderness and power. The closing “If It’s the last Night,” also composed by Paich, doesn’t hit the heights of “A Million Miles Away” but it’s an effective ballad.

Unfortunately, it’s not an effective album closer. Strangely, “If It’s the last Night” may have been more effective in another setting.

Steve Lukather, who I contend is the best ballad vocalist Toto has ever had, works vocal magic here on this song as well. “If It’s the last Night” starts a melodic acoustic piano track accompanied by a single shaker. Quickly, Lukather’s expressive acoustic guitar gains steam, highlighting his versatility as a guitarist. Luke’s vocals are straight forward, expressive yet earnest. Additional keyboard touches are added, touches of synthesized glockenspiel and organ, presumably from Steve Porcaro, give texture.

After the second verse, the listener realizes that David Paich’s lyrics return to familiar territory as the singer is pleading for one more rendezvous before he leaves to face whatever mission he’s about to embark on. Not heady stuff, but Steve Lukather’s acoustic guitar solo adds to the vibe as the steady rhythm section keeps things moving.

“If It’s the Last Night” is a good ballad but adds little to Toto cannon. Given its placement on Turn Back, the song almost seems to be an afterthought, and adds to the impression that Toto lacked focus or conviction on on this project. Their next album, Toto IV, shatters any such notion – but that’s for another Tuesday.

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.

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