Towering Toccata

Lalo Schifrin

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Towering Toccata Review

by Donald A. Guarisco

After scoring an unexpected high-profile success with the disco/jazz fusion of Black Widow, Lalo Schifrin quickly recorded a follow-up album in a similar vein. 1977's Towering Toccata replicates the elegant yet dance-friendly style of Black Widow to the tee, right down to the unconventional cover choices. The best of these is the title track, an insistently rhythmic piece that transforms Bach's gothic-organ extravaganza "Toccata and Prelude in F Minor" into a mid-tempo disco workout that backs up Schifrin's jazzy explorations on the electric piano and synthesizer with scratching rhythm guitar and a pronounced dance beat. Other notable moments on this album include "Most Wanted Theme," which is transformed from action-show theme music into a symphonic funk workout, and "Rollercoaster," a funky vamp from the Schifrin soundtrack of the same name that is ideally suited for Towering Toccata's disco/jazz mindset. There is even another monster-movie theme cover in the vein of the previous album's "Jaws"; this time, it's a disco-friendly treatment of John Barry's "Theme From King Kong" that layers atmospheric horn and flute lines over a bottom-heavy rhythm section fueled by wah-wah guitar and synth bass. However, other tracks on Towering Toccata fail to be as distinctive or adventurous as these highlights. For instance, the original tunes ("Macumba," "Midnight Woman") fit the album's mood but are lacking strong hooks and memorable twists in their arrangements that distinguished the originals on Black Widow. This problem of inconsistent material, combined with the fact that the album is basically a stylistic carbon copy of its predecessor, means that it isn't the ideal follow-up to Black Widow that Schifrin fans might have hoped for. That said, the album has enough strong tunes and enough of a consistent sound to please hardcore Lalo Schifrin fans and anyone who loved Black Widow.

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