Toto, “Fahrenheit” from Fahrenheit (1986): Toto Tuesdays

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As I mentioned previously, 1986’s Fahrenheit features perhaps more synthesizer wizardry than any other Toto album and the title track is the culmination of this effort.

First, though, a little background.

If you look on the liner notes for Fahrenheit, you’ll see a gracious credit from Steve Porcaro: “I would like to personally thank Amin Bhatia for sharing his secrets – S.P.”

Amin was a something of a synthesizer prodigy. Even though digital synthesizer manufacturers, such as Yamaha, were asking Steve Porcaro to help program presets for their synthesizers, Bhatia was doing things with monophonic analog synthesizers and multi-track tape that were extraordinary. In 1981, his compositions won the Roland Corporation International Synthesizer competition and this brought him to the attention of Ralph Dyck (synthesizer parts on Turn Back, Toto IV and the forthcoming Seventh One), who subsequently passed his music onto Steve Porcaro.

At Steve’s request, Amin visited him in California. They hit it off and began collaborating. The first I heard of their efforts was in the June 1986 Soundpage from Keyboard magazine (yes, magazines used to include little plastic tear out records to play on a turntable) which was, if I recall correctly, an excerpt from the “Interstellar Suite.” A later re-release, attached below via SoundCloud, sounds similar to what I remember.

What I find fascinating is how some of the key elements in this composition later evolved, appearing in the introduction to Fahrenheit‘s title track. To this point, Steve Porcaro had been creating synthesizer orchestrations and introductory motifs for the Toto live show, but this is really of a different level. The rich brass, roulette wheel effect, sweeping celestial pads, crescendo tremolo strings, match stick light-up and laser blast are exceptional examples of how the exploration of synthesizer techniques fueled their creativity for something truly unique.

Imagine turning the Fahrenheit album over to listen to Side 2 back in 1986 and to be confronted by this intro. It’s epic stuff.

And then – after the intro sizzles out – the song kicks off with an intense beat from a drum machine. The pace is frenetic, the bass line squishy and synthetic, the guitar parts dynamic and explosive. It builds as an exciting backdrop before a tight and closely harmonized exclamation of “Fahrenheit” launches us into the verse. Is this the same Toto from Side 1? We know it is, and this energy is maintained with Joseph Williams doing a fine job during the verses.

The pace changes markedly, however, in the pre-chorus when it breaks into a standard beat; the drum machine drops out, keyboard colors sprout out across the sound field, horns enter and that ubiquitous “orchestra stab” from the mid-’80s makes an appearance too. It’s a smorgasbord of new sounds – but the change is abrupt and comes across like a juxtaposition that does not work. This aside, there’s a nice solo from Steve Lukather (“never fails to deliver” – going to trademark that) later on with some doubled horns in spots.

Speaking of horns, the inclusion makes me wonder if Toto were throwing all they could into the mix – trying to rekindle some of that “Rosanna” magic.

Alas, it wasn’t to be: The real magic in this track is the synthesizer orchestration that kicks it off. Thanks, Amin and Steve.

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned with ‘Toto XIV’ in 2015, their first album in nearly a decade.

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