Toto, “Never Enough” from Kingdom of Desire (1992): Toto Tuesdays

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By “Never Enough,” the third track from Toto’s 1992 album Kingdom of Desire, it’s clear that “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

As a recording, Kingdom of Desire represents a band at crossroads navigating a new musical landscape. In the early 1990s, Toto were reeling from the departure of a fourth lead singer, being dropped from their recording label – their Grammy haul was now a distant memory – and competing with shifting musical tastes, as seen by the rise of grunge. These are factors that must have played a huge part in the band reassessing its raison d’etre.

Reduced to the core quartet (Jeff Porcaro on drums, Mike Porcaro on bass, David Paich handling keys and Steve Lukather on guitar as well as vocal duties), there was nowhere else to go really: Toto had their backs against the wall, and they came out swinging. If the opening track of Kingdom of Desire represents “a kind of pure raw energy,” then “Never Enough” is its distillation.

Opening with an aggressive and gritty riff, this track (co written with Fee Waybill) throws down hard. You can tell Toto are getting back to their roots: It as if they’ve rediscovered what it’s like to play together again as a garage band. Forceful drums, driving bass, dirty Hammond, raspy vocals, it’s all there.

I recall Luke reflecting at the time that if he were to take on lead vocals, then they needed to drop the tunes by a third and write stuff he could get off on. The band were all in:

Seems the world needs a change in its attitude
It doesn’t seem like there’s much that a man can do
They try to sell the earth on a wild crusade
Then complain about not bein’ paid

How can some people have the nerve, hell hasn’t froze but it’s on the verge
It’s gone way past the point of greed, how many lifetimes will we need

‘Cause it’s never enough, they keep on takin’ till they take too much
‘Cause it’s never enough, it won’t be long until they run out of luck

The power of this new approach means the guys aren’t blowing for the sake of blowing.

There’s a distinct lack of traditional Toto trademarks: no multilayered harmonies, no keyboard virtuosity, no guitar pyrotechnics, and no sheen of synthesized timbres. The production is still superb (as you’d expect) but stripped back. As such, “Never Enough” stands on its own, and the delivery is what gives the track its power.

There’s a nihilism to the lyrics and barely suppressed contempt in Steve Lukather’s vocals. It’s a perfect fit. For the instrumental break, Luke’s guitar interlude is all about atmosphere. There’s no showy fireworks, just long sustained notes and vibrato.

After the interlude, a horn section helps drive the main riff with further energy – but that’s just a teaser of what’s to come. The final section of “Never Enough” is the kicker. It is pure brooding and aggression. Building atop a spartan, yet relentless drive from Jeff and Mike, the outro riff is intensified by the frantic percussion courtesy of Lenny Castro, the longtime Toto sideman.

It’s almost like flailing down a crevasse but as the momentum gathers, the band locks into a unison groove and a strong form takes shape. Listen to it and revel in the way “Never Enough” comes together. Before you know it, you’re out and you’ve stuck the landing.

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.

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
Anthony Sonego
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