Toto – IV

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More Toto IV

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  • You’ll find stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this copy of Toto’s Must-Own Masterpiece 
  • Huge and clear with the kind of smooth, rich, Tubey sound you sure don’t hear on too many ’80s pop albums
  • Rosanna and Africa are both knockouts here – we’ve rarely heard them with this kind of weight, scale and energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It was do or die for Toto on the group’s fourth album, and they rose to the challenge… Toto IV was both the group’s comeback and its peak …Toto’s best and most consistent record.

If more records sounded like this we would be out of business (and the CD would never have been invented). Thankfully we were able to find this TOTO-ly Tubey Magical copy and make it available for our customers who love the album.

This pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

Africa Has The Whomp We Love

Side two ends with the huge hit AFRICA. Jeff Porcaro’s drums are alive and bouncy with the clarity and attack of the real live thing. When the bass kicks in, the whomp factor really gets your head bobbing. Dynamic contrasts were dramatic as well: with the best copies, the delicate sound of the ballads really took our breath away.

The brass section hired for this record, including some of the ‘Chicago’ horns, are showcased on side one. The best copies really have weight to the horn sound that the most pressings lacked, making the horns edgy and shrill. (Ugh.)

This was our first shootout for Toto since 2015 and it was quite a fun listen. It’s obvious why Toto IV was a Platinum Record. What’s not to like?

What the best sides of the band’s masterpiece fourth studio album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1982
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Too Much Top End Is Bad, Right?

What’s not to like is that most pressings had too much top end, ranging from annoying to downright irritating (unless your system is dull as dishwater. Many are, but that’s not our thing here at Better Records). Our killer copies had sweetness and warmth we didn’t expect to hear. Better yet, the best copies had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, no mean feat.

The good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Try that with the average copy. When playing mass-produced pop music like this, more level usually means only one thing: bloody eardrums.

The typical Toto IV EQ is radio-friendly, not home-stereo-friendly. But a few were cut right, with the kind of sweetness and smoothness that we like to call Tubey Magic here at Better Records. Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. (The clarity and tremendous dynamics seem a tad more modern, as discussed below.)

Sit Up and Take Notice of That Guitar!

Pop production techniques were very advanced by this time, with plenty of roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. These guys are studio wizards, make no mistake. Steve Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music. Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our seven-word definition of a Hot Stamper.

What We’re Listening For on IV

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Cats from Thriller

The sonic similarities to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller” album are obvious on ‘Waiting For Your Love’; one could easily mistake it for an outtake on Jackson’s Masterpiece. No wonder; the entire Toto band were hired to be The Cats on the Thriller album. Quincy Jones knows talent when he hears it. Michael wanted the best and these guys delivered.

The comparison with Thriller is apt. Thriller is often bright and spitty, with phony EQ to wake up dead stereo equipment. Okay for mid-fi, not so good for hi-fi. But as your equipment, room, and understanding of audio improve, records like this get a whole lot better than they have any right to be. They become True Demo Discs. The sound is HUGE: wide and deep, with the lead instruments front and center.

It really doesn’t get much better than this — if you can find that elusive Triple Plus copy. If you have ten or so to clean and play you will no doubt find one too!

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Rosanna 
Make Believe 
I Won’t Hold You Back 
Good for You 
It’s a Feeling

Side Two

Afraid of Love
Lovers in the Night
We Made It
Waiting for Your Love

Thriller magic from top to bottom. Check it out!

Africa

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

It was do or die for Toto on the group’s fourth album, and they rose to the challenge. Largely dispensing with the anonymous studio rock that had characterized their first three releases, the band worked harder on its melodies, made sure its simple lyrics treated romantic subjects, augmented Bobby Kimball’s vocals by having other group members sing, brought in ringers like Timothy B. Schmit, and slowed down the tempo to what came to be known as “power ballad” pace.

Most of all, they wrote some hit songs: “Rosanna,” the old story of a lovelorn lyric matched to a bouncy beat, was the gold, Top Ten comeback single accompanying the album release; “Make Believe” made the Top 30; and then, surprisingly, “Africa” hit number one ten months after the album’s release…

Toto IV was both the group’s comeback and its peak; it remains a definitive album of slick L.A. pop for the early ’80s and Toto’s best and most consistent record.