Best known as the co-founder, principal songwriter, keyboardist, and singer of TOTO since the late 1970s, American musician David Paich has collaborated as a songwriter and session musician with an awe-inspiring host of artists from Boz Scaggs to Michael Jackson over the years. As the press release quite rightly points out, if you have listened to music at all in the last 50 years, the chances are that you have been hearing Paich. Now, we can finally get to listen to his debut solo album, “Forgotten Toys,” set to be released by The Players Club on August 19th, 2022. Obviously, the selection of seven new songs triggers more or less distinct TOTO flashbacks here and there, but who is to mind when the songcraft is consistently and diabolically good!
The album kicks off with a short instrumental, the somewhat Kate Bush-like intro, entitled “Forward,” clocking in at only 30 seconds, so the first actual track is “willibelongtoyou.” It is a rather deep nod towards the mid-tempo TOTO blockbusters of yesteryear, showcasing all the hallmark elements of a diabolically catchy AOR song. Paich shines in the vocal department, in particular, with those sublime falsetto lines that we have become accustomed to over the years. I cannot help but think of the theory circulating across the online music forums, claiming that the song order on a typical mainstream rock album does follow the traditional batting order in baseball. According to this theory, the second track on the album should be catchy as hell, maybe a little flashy, similar to the opening track but with a little bit more meat on the bones. I would say that the first two songs here have been found guilty on all counts beyond any reasonable doubt.
This batting order theory further formulates that the third track should be the hardest all-around hitter on the team, the best track, the killer. “Spirit of the Moonrise,” indeed, is all that. It is the absolute stand-out track on the album, showcasing once again the hallmarks of those vintage TOTO blockbusters: sublime falsetto harmonies, tasty riffs, and up-tempo-ish grooves that will indeed provide a good kick in the butt. After a few spins, that 1980s-tinted falsetto chorus is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days.
So far, the theory seems to hold true. Namely, the role of the fourth track is to be the power ballad; thus enters “First Time.” I must admit that I’m not exactly a diehard fan of this sort of demeanor but neither can I deny that the song throws me deep down the memory lane to the pastel-shaded 1980s. I guess it was the golden decade of these kinds of songs and, by the looks of it, I’m just becoming an insufferable nostalgic here.
If this outing were to follow the formula of this crazy theory, the fifth track should be a peek into the heart of darkness, something heavy and maybe a little unsettling. I’m not sure whether a piano-driven honky-tonk groove fits the profile but, when you pay attention to the lyrics about being scammed by a female con artist, “Queen Charade” seems to follow the script rather nicely. So, am I merely extremely lucky to have come by an album that fits the theory like a glove? (I spent an inordinately long time looking up albums that would disprove this theory only to find none…)
It would make sense, after a long, hard look into the abyss, to have a little breather, something light yet with a touch of darkness, in order not to become all topsy-turvy, don’t you think? “All the Tears That Shine” is the perfect candidate for a track like that. The song is plaintive, yet devilishly catchy – the choruses in particular! I guess this song falls in the category of ballads, as well, yet it resonates with a completely different aura to “Fist Time,” with the latter being layered thick with a note of nostalgia, whereas this track is more about heart-wrenching yet cathartic feelings.
The album brings the journey to a close with an artsy vibe, further proving the theory solid. “Lucy” is a straight-up jazz banger nodding deeply towards the vintage hard-bopping days of yonder. I’m not kidding: this song could be released on the Blue Note label anytime. This sort of hardcore jazz may not appeal to the masses just as much but that little jazz addict in me is happy like a dog with two tails. Listening to the album for the first time, I thought for a moment that my iTunes had gone crazy and shuffled a random jazz song from my playlist. Yes, the song might stick out like a sore thumb if you’re not particularly fond of jazz. For me, it is nothing short of a perfect way to close this album and, as such, it gives yet another glimpse into the versatility of Paich as a songwriter, one that we might have never heard in a musical context before.
To be honest, I did not know what to expect from this outing, so I let it take me by surprise – and it did. Not only did it nothing short of seamlessly authenticate this one crazy Internet theory but it proved a brilliant selection of class-A rock songs – and catchy as hell at that, too.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Spirit of the Moonrise
- First Time
- Queen Charade
- All the Tears That Shine
David Paich – vocals, keyboards, production
Joseph Williams – additional vocals, co-production
Steve Lukather – guitars
Michael McDonald – vocals
Mascot Records / The Players Club