Toto, “Carmen” from Isolation (1984): Toto Tuesdays

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One would think Toto would have been on the top of the world after the multiplatinum, multi-Grammy success of 1982’s Toto IV – and, perhaps for a time, the band was. But the arrival of 1984’s Isolation, their fifth album, marked a change in fortune as both bassist David Hungate and vocalist Bobby Kimball exited.

Mike Porcaro had ably stepped in for Hungate, but Toto found the transition of lead singers more difficult. Kimball was involved in the early demos for Isolation, even providing backing vocals and co-writing a song, but his performance during the Toto IV world tour had been uneven – causing a rift in the band.

In the end, Toto thought it best to carry on without Kimball, eventually deciding on the late ex-LeRoux vocalist Dennis Frederiksen. Nicknamed “Fergie,” he had an impressive rock pedigree, a powerful tenor voice and, as Steve Lukather had pointed out in several interviews at the time, rock and roll good looks. All of it combined to provide a harder edge to the band.

In keeping, Isolation was not an attempt to recreate Toto IV, as the songs were rhythmically more simple than those on IV and the guitar of Lukather much more prominent. Toto wanted a harder sound, and got it. Songs like the opening “Carmen,” co-written by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, show little resemblance to their recent blockbuster hit, “Africa.”

Sung as a call and response duet between Paich and Fergie Frederiksen, “Carmen” kicks off with a satisfying back beat. Steve Lukather’s guitar blazes along with and harmonic bass passage from Mike Porcaro. The mix, done by Greg Ladanyi, ties in David Paich’s organ and Steve Porcaro’s synthesizers while Jeff Porcaro’s rhythmic contribution is solid and direct.

Paich and Frederickson effectively contrast, telling a straight forward story of desire. The middle of the song offers a tasty modulation, and includes a sequenced keyboard breakdown a and short but effective synthesizer solo. Additionally, Lenny Castro and Jeff Porcaro add touches of percussion not commonly found on AOR songs. Steve Lukather, whose playing on this album reached new heights, rips off blazing leads throughout “Carmen,” and even Mike Porcaro gets brief spot light during the turnaround near the end.

By the time you reached the 20-second Lukather solo at the end, many fans had to have been wondering if this is the same band that rose to superstar status with Toto IV.

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned last year 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 slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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