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Toto

Hydra

Review by Gary Hill

I was never a huge Toto fan. For some reason I’ve always been drawn to this CD, though. I know a lot of people tend to disregard it. Perhaps it’s because it’s not the most typical Toto disc. There is a lot of great music on this one and in some ways it’s more progressive rock oriented than some of the rest of their discs. No matter the reason, I have to say this is probably my favorite album from the band. You may have overlooked it in the past, but perhaps now is the time to give it a second chance.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hydra

Weird effects styled sounds hold the first thirty seconds or so of the track. Then keyboards enter and we begin a dramatic and powerful progressive rock styled building process. This eventually gives way to a cool, rather funky groove that serves as the backdrop for the song proper. This is a cool tune that reminds me in some ways of Alan Parsons Project. They work it out into a more hard rocking sound later on. This is a great tune, but perhaps not an instantly accessible “pop” number. It’s quite proggy. There’s a cool instrumental section later that reminds me of Saga meets Emerson Lake and Palmer. The extended outro jam is also quite firmly in a progressive rock vein.

 

St. George and the Dragon

While there are still some definite progressive rock tendencies here – and some Toto trademarks, in some ways this really makes me think of Supertramp. It’s bouncy and fun and very catchy. There is an exceptionally tasty guitar solo segment on this number. The closing section is quite meaty, as well.

99
This bouncy, rather funky and soulful jam is very typical Toto. It’s a great song, although one of the most pop oriented pieces on show here. There’s a lot of emotion packed into this. There’s a great jazzy instrumental section.  The only complaint on this is that at times (looking back in retrospect) the keyboard sounds are a bit dated.
Lorraine
Here we get a track that’s more along the lines of what we expect from Toto. It’s a bit jazzy, a lot bouncy and just plain fun. There’s a mellower, ballad-like section counterpointed by a more rocking movement. It’s a good track.
All Us Boys
This rocker has a bit of a punk edge and somehow it’s always reminded me of The Tubes. I wouldn’t consider it to be typical Toto, but I’d definitely think of it as a great tune. The soaring extended closing jam (incorporating two choruses and an instrumental section) is simply awesome. A noisy crescendo serves to close it out.
Mama
If you wanted to describe this in a nutshell you could call it a “soulful groove oriented jam.” That does a pretty good job, but really misses some of the nuances. This has some proggy moments and is very emotional and powerful. There are several killer instrumental passages and this is one of the highlights of the set.
White Sister
This is a hard rocking, bluesy, somewhat soulful jam. It’s a good tune and quite typical Toto, but it’s perhaps not at the same level as some of the rest of the music here. That said, it includes some of the strongest guitar soloing on show.
A Secret Love
The keyboard sound on the intro to this is quite dated. This segment holds it for a while but then gives way to a balladic piano section. Other sounds are brought up (all keys) to accompany the vocals. It never moves beyond this, but is a good tune.
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