Toto XIV

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The title of Toto XIV offers a passing nod to Toto IV, the 1982 masterwork that is by far the group's most popular album, but this 2015 release doesn't share much with that Yacht Rock classic. Despite the McCartney-esque shimmer of "The Little Things" (not to mention the passing allusions to "99" on "Chinatown"), tunes take a backseat to bombast on Toto XIV, with this Steve Lukather-led incarnation accentuating intricate instrumental interplay. Truth be told, early on Toto emphasized this kind of finely honed studio prog, so these intense bursts of instrumental gymnastics aren't out of character, although they are a bit of a surprise when they arrive grouped at the beginning of the album. By the end of Toto XIV, the group has eased back to smoother, melodic territory (the concluding "Great Expectations" is a slow, stately ballad), but the furious first half, containing such plainly evident socio-political protests as "Holy War," "Running Out of Time," "Unknown Soldier," and "21st Century Blues" -- every one of them carrying some kind of reference to new millennial turmoil -- is a clearer indication of where the band's interests lie. Although they're drawing heavily from the galloping art-rock adventure of their pre-"Rosanna" album tracks, they're not living in the past, nor are they denying it: they're accepting all their indulgences, all the intricacies that come with their virtuosity, and making a record that reflects what these veteran rockers have seen and learned in their 40 years in the business.

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