Toto
Turn Back


3.5
great

Review

by dynamic range police USER (37 Reviews)
April 23rd, 2017 | 11 replies


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Third time, third shape. A cult classic among fans that today deserves more recognition.

"That was our f- you record. We didn't want to listen to anybody; we wanted to be a rock and roll band. The label kept putting out the ballads, you know? They put out ‘99’ instead of ‘White Sister’ [...] we were thought of as a pop band."
- Steve Lukather

The quote above speaks for itself, especially considering that about four decades later Toto is still a misunderstood band. Back then, after the release of Hydra, they wanted to prove to the world that they were more than a singles band, and thus teamed with producer Geoff Workman to record Turn Back, a robust slice of arena rock enriched by their personal "academic" touch. It was Toto's third fatigue, and again it had a different sound. It brought a consistently harder edge, instantly felt in their classic song "Goodbye Elenore" and its iconic drumming performance. The line-up however was the same, the classic sextet with double keyboardists.

From the get-go Turn Back sounds fresh and optimistic, with only the stomping title track featuring grim (and oddly fantasy themed) lyrics. The album could be described as guitar-driven, considering the amount of simple but at times really huge sounding riffs balanced by flaming soloing and improv-like touches. However that would be a disservice towards the band and the lavish sound they created. The trademark melting pot of genres this time is much more disguised, hidden behind the arena rock veil, but to define this album as just that would be distasteful.

In that regard, the essential piece of the album is "English Eyes". In its 6 minutes the song goes through different stages, alternating between infectious verses dominated by commanding Queen-like vocals and switching (rather unpredictably) to subdued instrumental passages filled with "hidden" melodies that will pop up listen after listen. There's even the time for a brief symphony-tinged break, before starting again with the aforementioned transitions that will then build to a final guitar solo. "English Eyes" fully embodies the nature of Turn Back: an eclectic pop rock album that is played just too well to be restricted to that label. Be it a progressive or jazzy nuance, there's a lot that's worthy of attention.

The production also deserves to be discussed, because it brings a lot of character. It's a very masterful craft: the music sounds quite bombastic, especially due to the big sound of the drums, but everything is crystal clear and dynamic, it's an excellent sounding album. Speaking of the musicians, there's so much to praise that it would read just boring. Everyone is exemplary in maturity of execution, resulting in a very colorful collection of songs that flow together well and quickly in 37 minutes. This time, there are only two lead voices. The songwriting is focused on accessibility but entertaining twists are more than enough to keep the attention high, to the point where one could consider "If It's the Last Night" to be the album's only "boring ballad", and even then the song features a cool vaguely latin backdrop.

When all is said and done, Turn Back may be seen as just another cheesy AOR slice. Point is, it's a mighty creative and well executed cheesy AOR slice. It doesn't blow minds, but it rocks and it has character, considerably more energetic than a good dose of comparable bands - just check the opening song "Gift with a Golden Gun". Sometimes that's all you need, especially when it's spiced up with external influences implemented this smoothly. Unfortunately, it didn't sell as much as the record company wanted. So it came the ultimatum "give us a hit record or you are dropped", and the (in?)famous Toto IV eventually saw the light.



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user ratings (52)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sabrutin
April 23rd 2017


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Stream on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/3jGdfUMsS63FBYhBidKX3J

"English Eyes": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVOcTY2kGO8

"Gift with a Golden Gun": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai5OD_vZrQs

"Goodbye Elenore": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahnAkLG3DKw



First review in exactly two months. My quest goes on, time permitting. I'm not going to review Toto IV, it has a review already and even though I disagree with different things it gave it a higher rating than what I'd give, so it will suffice. I'll just leave a tip: search for the 5.1 version.

CusmanX1
January 13th 2018


375 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Maybe this is the chance for me to listen properly to their discography. I've already voted it, but I don't remember much, but as far as I can remember I could agree with you on everything.



Happiness is a golden gun ~

Sabrutin
January 13th 2018


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

She's a happy gift with a warm gun~



Go for it, many surprises to follow. This one too reveals itself listen after listen. Once you get the song structures down you start to notice more and more details

CaliggyJack
July 13th 2018


10036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

underrated for sure

Sabrutin
July 13th 2018


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

English Eyes is classic, excellent dynamic writing while still remaining poppy at the core. One of the many proofs of how superior Toto are to any other AOR band.



I should really continue my discog reviews of the albums that lack one. I used to have a 5.0 review for Isolation but I asked for it to be cancelled (it was my first review)

CaliggyJack
July 13th 2018


10036 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Please do!



I did a list on Toto already so, as per my personal policy, it usually disqualifies me to review their discog. Plus your other Toto reviews are great, and you reviewing lesser known albums could introduce some great new tracks of Toto to the people of sput.

Sabrutin
July 14th 2018


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I hope so! I actually got a few users to check out Hydra so it's possible. Thank you for the kind words, it takes me so long to write one because even if I have some time to do it I always have so many things I'd like to say but track by track reviews are no-go around these parts so it's tough to summarize

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 11th 2021


32013 Comments


Good review Sab. Didn't like this as much as I thought I would.

Sabrutin
January 16th 2021


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks Dewi, an unexpected bump. Ever checked more outside of Toto IV? Isolation is kind of a stronger version of this, rocks harder and gets quirkier. Or if you are looking for something that'll make you do a double take I recommend Falling in Between, Ian Anderson even does a flute solo in a song

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2021


32013 Comments


I renamed this the other day and felt a bit better, gotta give it a bump. I think I heard falling, but no isolation.

Sabrutin
January 19th 2021


9627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Isolation is one of my most important albums, the kind of eccentric (check that pr0g bridge in Change of Heart) pop/rock that made me realize "damn this puts to shame a lot of heavier/serious music". And if you are into poppy prog I'd definitely give a shot to Hydra



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