Toto, “Anna” from The Seventh One (1988): Toto Tuesdays

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There are some songs that simply take me away and this is one of them. How I wish I could have been in the studio when Toto were tracking “Anna.”

Firstly, the recording is superb. If you even have a passing interest in Toto, I can thoroughly recommend buying 1988’s The Seventh One just to hear the production quality.

“Anna” is another classic Toto composition by Steve Lukather and Randy Goodrum, and follows a similar approach to the format established by “I’ll Be Over You” from 1986’s Fahrenheit: soft electric piano sounds, rich harmonies in the chorus, a searing guitar lead in the middle, and a repeated chorus to take us out with an instrumental fade.

In terms of specifics, the beauty of “Anna” lies in the gentle and poignant approach the band adopts, and the lush sonic aura created. The song fades in with a delicate percussion loop (courtesy of Michael Fisher and Joe Porcaro, father of a trio of Toto members) – such an evocative way to build an intro. After two bars of this, Luke’s echo-laden “Anna” breaks the motif, underpinned by a beautiful, reverb drenched, layered keyboard sound. It’s an arresting introduction for a song and immediately envelops the listener in a rich and atmospheric soundstage.

Steve Lukather’s vocals on “Anna” are assured and confident. There is a genuine warmth to his tone and clarity in the way his vocals soar in the upper register. It really is beautiful to listen to and is the mark of a confident vocalist: By then, Luke had clearly carved his position as Toto’s balladeer. The chorus is announced with Jeff Porcaro’s snare, and it’s here where the lead vocals and luscious backing harmonies come to the fore.

More intricacy is revealed under repeat listening – and Anna is certainly worthy of this. If you focus on the background, there is an impeccable string arrangement by Marty Paich (David’s father), David Paich and James Newton Howard, and conducted by Marty Paich. Although it doesn’t soar like the lines in “I Won’t Hold You Back,” the majesty of the string arrangement is the way it supports the song, with beautiful doubled octaves as part of the guitar solo and flowing counter melodies after the solo. Blended with synthesized strings (courtesy of Steve Porcaro, in a sideman role), the arrangement sits perfectly in the mix, providing powerful support and dynamic interest in all the right spots.

To wrap it up, as the chorus is repeated, the interplay and sound of Toto’s Porcaro brothers (Mike on bass and Jeff on drums) is pure magic. They don’t need to be flashy or showy; they simply were the best studio rhythm section of the ’80s, always playing with an innate sense of understanding and subtlety. The expressive embellishments and depth from Mike’s five-string bass coupled with Jeff’s steady pulse and purposeful fills provide a solid foundation that enables Toto’s vocals and strings to rise freely above, before fading away with that gentle percussion loop from the introduction.

And that’s the magic of “Anna” and Toto’s performance on this track. By this stage, the band know the job they have to do and are comfortable delivering exactly what the song needs. It’s a master class. As a budding music student at the time, what I wouldn’t have given to be there and see this one go down!

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.

Anthony Sonego

Anthony Sonego

Anthony Sonego is a long-time Toto fan (and synth-nerd) from Down Under. It’s tragic, but if you ask him about achieving blip or the accumulation of subtleties, he can help you program it. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Anthony Sonego
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