Toto : Tambu
(Columbia - 1995)
Category : underrated
If you want to seem totally unhip, extremely uncool, hopelessly out of date or just plain crazy, all you have to do is do like me and say that one of Toto's albums is among your all time favourites. Indeed, with their very commercial AOR sound and glossy production they are an easy target of ridicule for fans of modern alternative music, so if you want to be part of the incrowd, you wouldn't want to be associated with something like Toto. But I'm smarter, better educated, and despite the fact that I put greased hamsters down my trousers on a regular basis, of very sane mind, thank you. And so it is without fear and with great conviction and much subtlety on my part that I say: SHUT UP, you shortsighted pieces of uneducated monosynaptic neo-troglodyte critics and listen to what the master is about to say. Here it comes: TAMBU IS A MASTERPIECE! Or as good as anyway.
No matter how unhip the style may be, whatever the era it originated from or refers to, a good song is always a good song. If only all the narrowminded airheads who ever dismissed this album could see this, the world would be a better place.
Yes! I know! They did release quite a lot of bland stuff throughout the years. I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of you on this. I've heard 'Kingdom of Desire', 'The Seventh One', 'Isolation' and 'Fahrenheit' and I agree that each of these albums had one good track at best. But I have also heard 'Hydra', 'IV' and their debut, so I knew that they were capable of more. But never had I been able to anticipate something like 'Tambu'. Never has a band, that seemed to have passed their peak so long ago, come up with their magnum opus so far along into their carreer. Everyone had long given up on them, and then they come and do something like this, just to screw with our heads.
What happened? Is it the presence of new member, Fusion drummer Simon Phillips? If you listen to the man's solo albums, you must admit that the shift Toto made is in a direction he feels more comfortable in, towards a more jazzy and funky approach of Rock music. Looking at the song's credits he apparently didn't write any of the songs, but maybe he unconciously pushed the others to new heights. Or was the death of former drummer Jeff Porcaro a catalyst somehow? At least in the lyrics department that must have been the case, as they have never sounded this mature before.
Anyway, whatever the reason, the result is pretty awe inspiring. The vocal melodies throughout almost the entire CD haven't been this strong since 'IV'. And what's more, the relatively soulful voice of long time member Steve Lukather is perfectly suited for this kind of music. He sings with a melancholic undertone that adds that little extra the songs needed, something that was lacking on older Toto albums I feel (in retrospect). What he does here is better than what any of those sweet sounding melodic singers they used in the past would've come up with.
The sound of the songs as a whole is mature, borrowing elements from different genres as they see fit: Jazz/Funk Fusion, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Adult Contemporary, AOR,... It gives the album depth and much variety. From the most energetic Rockers, such as the Fusion Rocker 'Dave's gone Skiing', over glorious sounding anthems like 'The road goes on' to the softest ballad, everything on 'Tambu' is quite simply beautiful.
Beautiful. it's a little word I seldom use when I talk about music, because it can mean anything and nothing, but in this case, its the only word that sums it up quite nicely.
(Footnote: unfortunately the follow up CD 'Mindfields' proved to be the exact opposite of 'Tambu' in terms of inventivity. But on the good side, their 2006 album 'Falling in Between' is again an interesting affair. Its title track is also their heaviest song ever. I would even catalogue it as Progressive Metal as it could easily be shelved next to Dream Theater and Fates Warning.)