Toto, “Stranger in Town” from Isolation (1984): Toto Tuesdays

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My best friend Joe was shocked to make it all the way through the Toto concert we attended in 2015 and not hear “Stranger In Town,” from 1984’s Isolation. To Joe, the song is quintessential Toto.

Perhaps Joe likes the infectious 4/4 beat provided by Jeff Porcaro’s drums and Mike Porcaro’s bass. Jeff also sprinkles in touches of Simmons synth drums during the chorus — perhaps the same ones he played on Chicago’s hit single “Stay The Night” — to add a modern touch. Mike Porcaro’s bass is given little to do, with most of the bottom coming from guest synthesizer player Mike Cotton of the Tubes. The song is also propelled by David Paich’s rhythmic keyboard patch and sprinkles of synthesizer fills from Steve Porcaro.

Guest vocalist Gene Morford brings a chant-like bass vocal which sits prominently in the mix, while vocalist Fergie Frederiksen’s end vocal accents seem like an afterthought. Perhaps that’s because the song was most likely recorded before he has a band member. What about Steve Lukather? His guitar contributions are limited to power chords, and an all too short end solo.

“Stranger in Town” was written by Paich and Jeff Porcaro, the same writing team which composed “Africa,” but the feel could not be more different musically or lyrically. The duo seems intent on not recreating the past. Lyrically, the tale of murder and mystery is direct and in the context of the music video, clever. The result is that “Stranger In Town” was a hit, and the only Top 40 hit from Isolation, reaching number 30. However, the song was a bigger hit on rock radio reaching at No. 7.

“Stranger In Town” also reflects the identity crisis going on in Toto, as of the four singles from Isolation the designated vocalist only got to sing one and it was not a hit. We will get to that song, the hard rocking “Angel Don’t Cry,” next time. Meanwhile, hopefully Joe will get to hear “Stranger in Town” during Toto’s 2016 headlining tour.

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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