Toto, “I Won’t Hold You Back” from Toto IV (1982): Toto Tuesdays

Share this:

On my often-changing list of the world’s greatest living guitarist, there is usually a bunch of Steves in or near the Top 5. Sure, Steve Howe, Steve Morse and Steve Hackett have all have great chops, written great songs and had multifaceted careers — but none of my Steves have the vocal chops of Toto guitar great Steve Lukather.

Luke, as we have explored earlier in this series, has been the go-to guy for Toto ballads time and again. While Bobby Kimball and David Paich (and to a lesser extent Steve Porcaro) have contributed fine vocals on ballads, at this point in the band’s history Steve Lukather had made the bigger impression as a ballad singer. Also up until Toto IV, a vast majority of the ballads — or, for that matter, any song — had been written by David Paich. “I Won’t Hold You Back” changed the paradigm for the band.

Not only does Lukather write the music and lyrics, but his vocal help make the last charting single from Toto IV a No. 10 pop hit. Lukather has told the press that he initially did not want the ballad released as a single — he preferred the rocker, “Afraid of Love” — but it’s easy to see why “I Won’t Hold You Back” has had such staying power.

The David Paich piano intro is elegant yet simplistic. Lukather’s vocals are earnest and tender, and supported by subtle acoustic guitar. The Hungate/Porcaro rhythm section is supportive and not predictable. When the first chorus is reached, the drums ratchet up the tension with orchestrated fills over descending piano arpeggios. The group-produced track also adds a new element with Eagles bassist Timothy B. Schmidt’s backing vocals being mutitracked as the sole support to Lukather.

At the end of the chorus, it’s clear Toto has gone full throttle with the orchestra — as strings, French horns and glockenspiel add nuanced accents. The buzz roll of Jeff Porcaro’s snare drum introduces the second verse but, for the repeat of the chorus, the orchestra and drums build to a crescendo.

The guitar solo section is pure magic: Lukather’s solo is simple yet perfect, and the orchestration by David Paich (with assistance from his father Marty Paich, and conducting by James Newton Howard) is breathtaking. There’s even a touch of Steve Porcaro synthesizer towards to the end of the final chorus.

It’s easy to see how the song shot to No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary charts in the U.S., and why the band won the Producer of the year Grammy in 1983.

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 slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
Share this:
Close