This is a big year for Toto — the band’s 40th anniversary — and the group is making sure fans get a chance to share in the moment.
Earlier this year, the group released a best-of album, “40 Trips Around The Sun,” that included the hits, album tracks and more.
Coming soon is a box set, “All In,” which includes, among other goodies, Toto’s first 10 studio albums on vinyl and CD, a hardcover book on the group’s history, a Blu-Ray of a 1990 Paris concert, a disc of 10 vintage unreleased songs (including three that are included on “40 Trips Around The Sun”) that were rediscovered and finished with newly recorded parts. Part of the process of putting this limited-edition set together involved a remastering of the original Toto albums, which gave the band members a first-time experience for their career.
“We went back to the early days and we did it in a way, we did it from the first track onward,” recalls guitarist Steve Lukather. “We sat in a room for a week and we told stories. We laughed, we cried, we fing went through the whole trip, through our whole lives. We had never ever in the history the band sat down and listened from the first track to the last track in running order, in chronological order, and we really just kind of tripped out on the fact of ‘I forgot we did that song’ or ‘Oh my God, those lyrics were s‘ or ‘You know, that was a really good track. How come nobody ever got on to that one?’ Or ‘Oh wow, we fixed the sound on that. It sounds so much better. Look at all those parts you can hear now,’ stuff like that. And then we told funny stories about swe did when we were young. Somebody should have filmed that whole thing.”
Actually, Lukather, who brings the band to Tropicana 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, has done something somewhat similar to filming that week of story swapping in the studio. He has a memoir, “The Gospel According To Luke,” that just arrived in digital and retail outlets.
The Toto story began in the mid-1970s when Lukather was in high school in Van Nuys, California. It was there that he, siblings Jeff and Steve Porcaro, and a good friend, David Paich, formed Toto.
By the time the group’s self-titled debut arrived in 1978, the musicians had already shown signs of defying the odds and making it in music. Jeff Porcaro (who was quickly gaining a reputation as a world-class drummer) had been playing in Steely Dan for nearly three years, while guitarist Lukather and keyboardist Paich were writing, touring and recording with Boz Scaggs.
Toto enjoyed immediate success, and Lukather was also on his way to playing on more than 1,500 of albums by a who’s who of music royalty, including being a major contributor to one of the biggest albums of all time — Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
But while Toto enjoyed a string of platinum-selling albums (and hit singles like “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna” and “Africa”), the group also had its share of rough patches. Specifically, in 1992, Jeff Porcaro died of heart failure while doing yard work, while Mike Porcaro was forced out of music in 2007 by ALS disease. There were also personnel changes (including four different vocalists), and from 2005-07, Paich did only a handful of performances while he dealt with family issues. (Paich is also missing the U.S. leg of the 40th anniversary tour because of a health issue — “nothing serious, but he’s got to deal with it and then he’ll be right back,” Lukather says.)
And there was a point in early 2008, when Lukather disbanded Toto.
“It just wasn’t Toto anymore,” Lukather explains. “There was nobody on the stage but me that was in the band when we started the band. We just became a really great cover band.”
That might have closed the book on Toto right there. Ironically, it was Mike Porcaro’s ALS illness that gave the band new life. In 2010, Paich called Lukather, telling him the bassist needed money for his ALS battle. With Joseph Williams (the group’s singer from 1986-89) and keyboardist Steve Porcaro joining the two founding members, Toto reunited for a tour of Europe to raise money for their stricken bassist, who succumbed to his disease in 2015.
That tour turned into a full-fledged reunion, and Toto has been going strong ever since. Now comes the 40th anniversary celebration, which has already included an extensive run through Europe. Lukather said Toto will play a generous 2-hour set in the states.
“We do stuff from all the records. We do the hits people want to hear,” he says. “But we also do some stuff, we try to take a ride through the whole career without it being boring to people. We do songs where (people go) ‘I didn’t realize you guys did that song.’ We get that a lot from people that just know, the casual fans that think ‘Oh, it’s the ‘Africa’ band. But we have a lot more hits than that.”