6 Toto Songs That Are Miles Away from Yacht Rock

Toto’s debut album, released just over 45 years ago, was a major success, selling over 2 million copies and ranking 19th on Billboard’s year-end album chart in 1979. Just over three years later, Toto IV topped the band’s debut in terms of popularity, thanks to the massive success of three Top 10 hits, “Rosanna,” “I Won’t Hold You Back,” and “Africa.”

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Though Toto has released another 11 studio albums since Toto IV, none has come close to the Top 10 standing of their two biggest albums in the U.S. The band did have some post-Toto IV success on the singles chart, hitting the Top 40 with “Stranger in Town,” “I’ll Be Over You,” “Without Your Love,” and “Pamela,” but the last 40 years of Toto’s discography is largely unknown by U.S. audiences.

It’s worth exploring their final 11 albums, which are varied in style and remarkably consistent in quality. Even a sampling of their later work will help to debunk the notion that Toto is simply a “yacht rock” band whose sound is confined to a particular time and aesthetic. If you’re not sure where to start, these six songs offer a good jumping-off point.

1. “Gypsy Train

Guitarist Steve Lukather told American Songwriter that Kingdom of Desire (1992) is one of his favorite Toto albums, because “it’s our most rock record.” It doesn’t just rock…it rocks hard. No track on the album goes harder than its leadoff track, which is propelled by a nasty Lukather riff and Jeff Porcaro’s thunderous pounding. Lukather has a career full of face-melting solos, and the one that carries the final minute-and-a-half of “Gypsy Train” is one of his best.

2. “Stay Away

The Seventh One (1988) was one of Toto’s most popular albums in Europe and Japan, but it peaked at just No. 64 on the Billboard 200. Keyboardist David Paich singles out this track from the album as an under-appreciated gem, citing it as “a really great rock cut,” and it’s a fine place for those unfamiliar with the album to dip into. The song features strong vocal performances from Joseph Williams and guest Linda Ronstadt, some deliciously chunky chords from Lukather, and just the right amount of cowbell.

3. “After You’ve Gone

When asked to identify a post-Toto IV album that deserves more attention, Paich didn’t hesitate to single out Mindfields (1999). The album marked the return of Bobby Kimball, who served as Toto’s frontman for the first four albums, but even the songs he sings lead on have a different feel. However, it’s a song with a Lukather lead vocal that shines the brightest on this album. “After You’ve Gone” begins and ends with drummer Simon Phillips playing a tabla, and in between, there are nods to “Kashmir” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” in addition to a beautiful vocal melody.

[RELATED: 10 Classic Albums You Didn’t Know Feature Toto’s Steve Lukather]

4. “Falling in Between

The title track to Toto’s 2006 album is an epic opener with a huge sound. In the opening seconds, it sounds suspiciously like the Toto of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, with Paich playing an anthemic melody on piano. That quickly gives way to Lukather’s loud, crunchy chords and Kimball’s howling vocal delivery. Williams calls Falling in Between the “standout album” from the latter part of the Toto discography, and this track gets the record off to an exciting start.

5. “Angel Don’t Cry

Only two years separated Toto’s fourth and fifth albums, but thanks to a new lead vocalist—Fergie Frederiksen—and a harder-edged sound, Isolation bears little resemblance to Toto IV. Many fans found the new sound confusing, so those who loved the prior album’s big hits may have missed out on the bulk of this album. At least on the surface, “Angel Don’t Cry” has more in common with hair metal than the R&B-influenced sound that informed much of early Toto, but there is no mistaking the band’s superb musicianship.

6. “Burn

Paich and Williams teamed up to write some of the best tracks from Fahrenheit and The Seventh One, but they saved their best for Toto XIV (2015). If you’re a fan of the “quiet-loud-quiet” pattern of verses and choruses (see “Smells Like Teen Spirit“), then you’re going to love “Burn.” It starts out with Paich’s familiar piano, which is eventually accompanied by Keith Carlock’s kick drum and some quiet pattering on the toms. Williams joins them for a heart-wrenching verse about a troubled loved one whom he cannot reach or help. The quietness of the tender verses only amplifies the power of the guitar when it makes its entrance in the choruses. It’s a stunningly beautiful and compelling song that every Toto fan—dare we say every rock fan—should know.

Photo by JIL Studio/WireImage

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