Toto, “Jake to the Bone” from Kingdom of Desire (1992): Toto Tuesdays

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The closer for 1992’s Kingdom of Desire is a rare treat for long time Toto fans: a full-blown instrumental workout from the masters themselves. Anybody who knows the band and their collective output knows these guys can play. “Jake to the Bone” is the first time that unbridled improvisational excellence been captured in a studio recording.

Certainly, Toto have included instrumental tracks on their albums before: “Child’s Anthem” (from 1978’s Toto) and “Don’t Stop Me Now” (from 1986’s Fahrenheit) are two examples. However, the solo spots in these tracks are restrained and the style of each piece remains in a single genre – rock instrumental and jazz, respectively. “Jake to the Bone” is something else entirely.

Reflecting on its origin, Steve Lukather recently told me: “We wrote this one as a band and wrote it with jamming-extended solos in mind. It really fell together fast and easy, believe it or not. We seemed to be in the same head space the night we wrote it at Leeds rehearsals, North Hollywood 1991.” Keyboardist David Paich, in a Keyboard magazine interview from 1993, said they “were messing around with a head that Steve Lukather had, and one thing led to another. All of a sudden, we were coming up with different sections. It wasn’t premeditated at all.”

Opening with that aforementioned head, “Jake to the Bone” kicks off with a fast funk feel; sparse guitar locks with a tight kit and bass from the Porcaro brothers. With the rhythm section driving the intro, the keyboards make an appearance only on the repeat with simple staccato chords for effect.

Following this, the track takes a turn and drops into a wicked 7/8 groove. Paich lets eight bars blow by, before diving into the fray with both hands playing rapid fire ostinato patterns – effectively doubled by Jeff and Mike’s father Joe Porcaro on marimba. Given how active the drum and bass are in this section, David Paich restricts himself to a spare right hand line. Toward the end of the solo, he drops some modal jazz runs which juxtaposes a sophisticated sound on the underlying rock groove, before capturing Toto in a climatic repeated figure that takes them out and back to the head.

After the head, the second solo spot comes up. This time it belongs to Steve Lukather on guitar. In contrast to the irregular meter during the keyboard solo, this section is laid down over a slower 4/4 pulse. The energy is different here: the guitar sound is lyrical and intense, backed by some impressive synth pads and a wash of cymbals and tom fills for atmosphere.

“The instrumental and even heavier side of our music has always been there,” Lukather told me. “Some media and what radio still plays leans on the softer stuff or ‘Africa.’ I think we have been unfairly bagged as a ‘soft rock’ band, a label that tightens my sphincter. … I don’t understand why music has to be that way. Music is music. At least that is that way I look at it. I can listen to Miles [Davis], Slipknot and a great pop song in the same day. But that’s me.”

Coming out of the guitar solo, Toto’s arrangement dissolves into the 7/8 groove again, before the band amps it up with a flat-out head banging section, culminating in the climatic repeated figure to emerge from this interlude and back to the head: that funky guitar/kit/bass combo from the intro reappears, before locking into a cascading flurry of notes in unison to take us out.

“Jake to the Bone” is a rare glimpse into and testament to the calibre of musicianship in Toto. This track confidently plays in the genres of funk, jazz, and heavy rock across sophisticated time changes, and with outstanding displays of free-form improvisation. It’s no wonder that the band and audience alike love it: According to Luke, “it’s one of my faves … and [live] it always goes down well.”

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the band’s rich musical history. They returned with three new songs on 2018’s ’40 Trips Around the Sun.’

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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