By MIKE CHAIKEN
Toto recorded its first album in 1977.
And as the band’s longtime guitarist Steve Lukather explained it, the members—who released the self-titled album in 1978— felt there was an unyielding dictum to being in a band.
You had to play your instrument and you had to be a good musician.
But something else happened in 1977.
Punk rockers The Sex Pistols released their first album, said Lukather.
In the legendary mythology of punk rock, musicianship was passé.
Suddenly, in the eyes of the critics, t didn’t seem that important that musicians could play their instruments well. It also was seen as a bit of an albatross.
So, a group of hot shot studio musicians lacked a certain amount of cool cache in 1978.
“We took a beating and received a lot of negativity,” said Lukather in a phone interview from Hollywood, speaking about those days.
Toto, which just released a new album, “Toto XIV,” will be in Connecticut on Friday, in a tour with Yes.
Lukather said Toto—which is now Lukather on guitar, David Paich and Steve Porcaro on keyboards, and Joseph Williams on vocals, never was a band that was in style although it shifted a lot of albums.
“Fans love us,” said Lukather, “Detractors hate us.”
The members were definitely musician’s musicians, consummate players in the studio.
“We were all over (the hit records) of the late 1970s/ 1980s,” said Lukather. One member or another was on just about every record recorded in Los Angeles in that time period, Lukather said.
Sometimes, said Lukather, when he looks through the band’s resume, he has to step back and ask, “Did we really do that.”
In terms of credits and credentials, said Lukather, no band can touch Toto.
The band’s first album came out in 1977. Although they have had their time away from each other, 38-years as a going concern is a long time in the pop music industry.
“We’re high school friends,” said Lukather. “They’re my family. I love them. We’ve been through everything together.”
They also all entered the world of studio musicians together, said Lukather. For them, it was the coolest job in the world. “We adapted to any style and we did well… I’m proud of all that.”
The current album, “Toto XIV,” is actually a quirk of contract, explained Lukather. After it did a live DVD, it found out that a new studio album was due as well to its label.
“We can’t just phone a record in,” said Lukather of the band’s work ethic. “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do a good one.”
Thus nine years after its last effort, “Falling in Between” in 2006, Toto was back in the public eye with new music.
When it came to inspirations for the songwriting on the new album, Lukather said the band couldn’t write the same kind of songs it did in its earlier days. “We’re all older. We’ve had children. We’ve been divorced.” And they have all seen the news in the world.
“We’re not writing about going to clubs or chasing women,” said Lukather. “We’re grown up.”
For this current tour, the band is touring with Yes.
“I’m excited,” said Lukather of the tour, noting that Yes is a childhood favorite. Also the tour gets Toto back into playing bigger venues in America. (Overseas, Toto has always done well in concert.)
It would seem that the combo would be an odd one. Toto is known for pop songs such as “Africa.” Yes is known for expansive prog rock like “Close to the Edge.”
But Lukather said the bands are not as far apart as popular opinion would dictate.
“It’s great to have a hit record,” said Lukather. However, he said, “‘Africa’ doesn’t define us.”
The new record does find the band working a more prog rock sound. And past albums such as their sophomore effort “Hydra” and “The Seventh One” (which even featured former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson on a track) were much more musically expansive.
Lukather said the members of Toto also are old friends with Yes, having worked together on studio sessions in the past.
For the show, Lukather said, Toto will play for 90 minutes. They will play the hits such as “Rosanna” and “Africa.” The band also will reach into the new record and it will probably pull out some deeper cuts from its catalogue.
Touring with Yes, Lukather said, “We can be more adventurous.”
“There will be a little bit of everything,” said Lukather.
Toto and Yes will be at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 and $60.
For more information, go to Foxwoods.com or TotoOfficial.com.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN