Toto have been on an impressive creative run since reforming to honor Steve Porcaro’s bass-playing brother Mike. Joseph Williams returned as lead vocalist, original bass playing savant David Hungate toured with the band, and though longtime drummer Simon Phillips left to pursue a successful solo career, Totot went on to create the stunning album 2015’s Toto XIV.
A huge factor in the current Toto magic can be attributed to keyboard wiz and founding member Steve Porcaro. Porcaro not only contributed his own identifiable synth sound to the album, but contributed and sang the moving composition, “The Little Things.” Steve Porcaro also got the call to contribute the Japanese-only bonus track, “Bend.”
For 2016, the magic continues with Toto’s on-going tour, but also the release of Steve Porcaro’s first solo album, the sublime Someday/Somehow.
After hearing the opening synthesizer touches of the lead track “Ready Or Not,” it’s clear that if you are a fan of “Human Nature” – a song written for Michael Jackson by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis – that you will love the album. “Ready Or Not” features Porcaro’s signature chord structures, but includes an overtly sentimental message of love to his children. Michael Sherwood, who produced Someday/Somehow, contributed lyrics to the song – which builds in power yet retains its subtlety. Furthermore, the track plays on Steve Porcaro’s vocal strengths, showcasing his vocal precision and earnestness.
“Swing Street” adds a somewhat familiar, yet obviously pleasing, element to Someday / Somehow. Michael McDonald contributes his formidable vocals chops to the song. The storytelling is effective, as McDonald paints a vivid picture of the author’s musical journey, but I can’t help wonder how effective the song would have been with Porcaro’s vocal in its place. “She’s So Shy” features Scottish vocalist Jamie Kimmett, who co-wrote the song and the gem “Night of Our Own).” “She’s So Shy” is songcraft at its finest. It’s a delicate ballad built on a bed of percussion, presumably by Lenny Castro, and enhanced by acoustic guitar and supportive background vocals. Steve Porcaro adds a brief yet unique synthesizer for good measure.
“Back To You” picks up the pace with an authoritative backbeat provided by Jeff Porcaro, and Mike Porcaro adds a driving bass – reuniting Steve with his late brothers once more. This song, originally written for Toto, is given new life by additional lyrics from Steve Porcaro, as well as his new vocal. The feel is Toto circa the Fahrenheit era, complete with swirling synthesizers, and Geoff Downes-like chord progressive during the middle breakdown.
“Face of a Girl” features Jamie Kimmett again in a haunting tales which is reminiscent of “Human Nature” in feel, while lyrically more potent. Kimmett effectively employs his vocal instrument, fittingly exploiting his rather effective range. “To No One” finds Porcaro’s overdubbed vocals seamlessly intertwined with acoustic guitar and string synth patches, producing an intimate tapestry. Musically, the feel is similar to “Bend” from Toto XIV and lyrically it’s just as affective.
On “Make Up,” Michael Sherwood takes the mic and delivers a personal and identifiable story of relationships. Perhaps Steve Porcaro can get his writing partner to come up with a solo album. “Painting By Numbers” switches up things with a decidedly more R&B feel. Toto background vocalist Mabvuto Carpenter takes no prisoners in this mid-tempo R&B gem which soars over Porcaro’s synthesizer backing track and supportive percussion.
“More Than I Can Take” ends things with a lyrical nod to “Bend,” and one of Steve Porcaro’s best vocals performances on Someday / Somehow. The combination of Porcaro’s acoustic piano and vocal effectively shares the hopelessness of dealing with a situation, in this case illness, which is out of your control. “More than I Can Take” is an unexpected end to a fantastic musical journey by a musician at the height of his powers.
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