Toto, “Animal” from Past to Present (1990): Toto Tuesdays

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Though the four new songs from Past to Present: 1977-1990 signaled a record company-inspired change in direction, they were executed in typical Toto fashion. All of them are strong pop-rock tracks, with some stronger than others. The final song of the quartet, “Animal,” may be the weakest – but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

The Toto groove is unmistakeable, as Jeff Porcaro and Mike Porcaro pick up where they left off on the fantastic “Can You Hear What I’m Saying.” Jeff Porcaro makes what seems like a basic R&B-inspired groove simply irresistible.

Neat little guitar and keyboard samples kick off “Animal,” then touches of organ and piano work with singer Jean-Michel Byron to set the mood. Byron’s delivery is fitting, if a bit too much like a Michael Jackson impersonation. Written by Byron and David Paich, “Animal” is straight-forward pop fare lyrically.

Yet the song is elevated by Paich’s organ touches and a Jerry Hey-inspired horn chart, which works perfectly with Jeff Porcaro’s playing. This is a case when excellent arrangements elevate what could have been a mediocre song. Another factor is Steve Lukather’s guitar solo, which pumps additional life into “Animal.”

It’s almost too bad Jean-Michel Byron didn’t work out on the road. A full album of his tunes may have helped Toto re-gain some footing on the charts. As it stands now, the four new songs on Past to Present 1977-1990 represent only an interesting asterisk in the band’s history.

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

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