Toto, “‘Till The End” from Fahrenheit (1986): Toto Tuesdays

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Toto’s sixth album, 1986’s Fahrenheit, represents a step backward in many respects from its predecessor, Isolation.

The album turned back to the more radio-friendly approach of Toto IV. It could be argued that Fahrenheit is, in many ways, Part 2 of Toto IV – but only on the surface. As with all Toto albums, there are many layers to the album.

The most obvious change from Isolation is the exit of singer Fergie Frederiksen. His departure was mostly attributed to difficulty performing in the studio. I wonder if the lack of chart-topping success of Isolation had anything to do with it. Frederiksen’s replacement for Fahrenheit was Joseph Williams, a Porcaro/Paich family friend, son of composer John Williams and brother to drummer phenom Mark T. Williams. Joseph Williams brought a more radio-friendly voice to Toto – one which may not have been as well suited to the rock songs of the prior album as Frederiksen, but could easily handle most of Bobby Kimball’s vocals from the first four albums.

Williams, at the time a solo artist, also had proven writing chops, contributing to half the songs on Fahrenheit – more than what Fergie had contributed to on the prior album. Williams also sang lead vocals on all but two songs. Unfortunately, the songs he did not sing lead on where released as singles first. David Paich, who sang lead on the two singles from Isolation, sang no lead vocals on Fahrenheit.

“‘Till The End,’ the lead off track, is classic Toto. Written by David Paich and Joseph Williams, the tune kicks things off with a punchy Jerry Hey-arranged horn chart and a swinging back beat by Jeff Porcaro. Mike Porcaro, now in his second album with Toto, makes his presence immediately felt – providing a more nuanced bass presence than anything he did on Isolation. David Paich seems to use a combination of Hammond Organ and piano to cement the rhythm section, while Steve Porcaro’s synthesizer parts weave in and out of the Hey horn chart. Both Lenny Castro and Paulinho da Costa provide percussion, combining congas, bongos and timbales with Jeff Porcaro’s tight beat.

Williams’ vocals are perfect. His lead, in concert with his own call and response, is precise yet soulful. Michael Sherwood (who’s served as Steve Porcaro’s producer, and writer for Michael Jackson) contributes backing vocals on the chorus. The song also features a short keyboard solo after the first chorus and a delayed and distorted Steve Lukather guitar for the middle solo. Luke’s turn, which recalls Brian May and David Gilmour, could benefit from being more prominent in the mix.

“‘Till The End” gets Fahrenheit off to a great start, despite the fact that the song – released as the third single from the album, it featured a video directed by Paula Abdul – failed to chart. The album ultimately rose to the Top 40 on the strength of its two other singles.

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.

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