Through the song is is undeniably Toto and undeniably brilliant, “Lea” is bittersweet for me.
Released as a single in the Netherlands and Philippines, this Steve Porcaro composition has the lush chord structure that he used to enchant Toto fans over the first six albums – and pop music listeners in general. Porcaro’s touch seems familiar, yet is unique in pop music.
Toto, which self-produced 1986’s Fahrenheit seems to pull out all the stops, with Jeff Porcaro constructing a drum circle featuring Lenny Castro, Paulinho da Costa, Steve Jordan and Jim Keltner on an array of hand percussion recorded live in Jeff Porcaro’s home studio. Adding to the lushness of the song is Steve Lukather’s finger-picked acoustic guitar and occasional electric power chords, and what sounds like fretless bass work by Mike Porcaro. David Paich adds just a hint of electric piano, too.
Altoist David Sanborn is used effectively in three featured songs from Fahrenheit. On “Lea,” his saxophone toys with the melody in a coy and unobtrusively effective banter, while backing vocalists Don Henley and Michael Sherwood compliment the brilliantly understated turn by lead singer Joseph Williams. Given Steve Porcaro’s return to the mic on Toto XIV, it’s clear he could have tackled this vocal. Williams’ turn creates a seamlessness to the album, however, and that was sorely missing on Toto’s Isolation.
Unfortunately, Steve Porcaro would become the third original Toto member to depart. (He’d serve only as a guest musician on the next album, The Seventh One.) Still, Porcaro’s contributions weren’t easily forgotten, since “Lea” also signaled a shift in Toto’s two-keyboard approach – something that, in some ways, paralleled the music industry’s move to a simpler guitar-centered trend.
With Steve Porcaro now officially back in the fold, hopefully Toto will dust off “Lea” for their 2017 headlining tour, which will feature Warren Ham’s saxophone. Only this time, how about with the vocals delivered by the maestro himself?
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