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Sound Check

3/25/2015

TotoToto
“Toto XIV”
Frontiers

Chances are very good that if you still think of Toto at all, the album you think of is “Toto IV,” and its two No. 1 singles, “Rosanna” and “Africa.” If that is what you are yearning for as you fire up “Toto XIV,” then prepare to be disappointed. Most notable, of course, is the absence of singer Bobby Kimball, who is the sound behind the band’s most iconic songs. But even beyond lead singer Joseph Williams, this is a completely different Toto than we grew up with. The guitars are harder and the keys are de-emphasized. Opening track “Running Out of Time” manages to be catchy, but the band shows its age with tracks like “21st Century Blues,” which kicks off with the lyrics “used to be, you could trust what you heard/and the channels were free.” Sounds like maybe I am not the only one who misses the rains down in Africa. CV

 

Van MorrisonVan Morrison
“Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue”
RCA

Van Morrison is a dirty liar. The premise for his newest album is a sound enough one: grab some deeper cuts from his body of work, give them a spit polish with the help of some guest vocalists and see if a new audience can gain a fresh appreciation for them. Great. But what we get instead is Morrison playing karaoke to his own songs. Some tracks — “Some Piece of Mind” stands out — are largely note-for-note covers, and virtually all of the songs criminally under-use the added talent, which includes the likes of Natalie Cole and Mark Knopfler. This could have been a late, career-defining piece of work from Morrison, akin to the work that Tony Bennett has done with his “Duets” albums. Instead, it’s an old man who always had an over-inflated sense of his own self-worth, proving that not much has changed. CV

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