Toto – IV – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this is one of the BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD! Africa sounds HUGE on this copy. With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

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.

With a soundfield this BIG and 3-D, it’s easy to see how this copy rated so high. Side one is no slouch either, rating A double plus for having a PUNCHY bottom end, and tons of rock energy. Big speaker sound all the way.

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. (I may have been lukewarm on this music before, but now I LOVE it!)

This was our third shootout for Toto and it’s always fun. Great songs, and even the non-super-hot-stampers were full of energy and enjoyble as hell (within reason). It’s obvious why Toto IV was a Platinum Record. What’s not to like?

Too Much Top End Is Bad, Right?

What’s not to like is that most pressings had far 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, those 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.)

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.

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.

The Cats from Thriller

The sonic similarities to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller” album are obvious on ‘Waiting For Your Love’; one could easily mistake if 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 usually too 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 Tubey Magical copy.

SIDE TWO IS KILLER! The bass definition outshined any other copy we hear in our shootout — super punchy, and loaded with WHOMP! All of the vocals were a cut above with amazing texture, breath, and presence. I doubt we will ever find a better sounding side two. Top to bottom amazing sound!

Side one rated A Double Plus, one heck of a side. It’s got the BIG and BOLD sound we love here at Better Records. The low end is PUNCHY with real weight. While the vocals are great on this side, our triple plus side ones had just a bit more presence. You’ll flip out when you hear the guitars — tons of rock guitar texture, and WALL TO WALL sound.

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 typical pressings were lacking, making the horns edgy and shrill. (Ugh.)

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.