The biggest knock against Toto was that at times they sounded generic and sterile, which is a pretty fair knock. However, they were studio professionals and at least in one case (David Paich), they were studio professionals who were the children of widely renowned studio professionals. They didn’t grow up bashing instruments randomly in a garage, you know what I’m saying? All they knew was clean. So they were going to sound clean. And sometimes “clean” worked (hell, this is already the third Toto song on this list). Case in point: “Hold The Line”, the slice of rock ‘n soul that introduced Toto (as a band) to the world.
The late ’70s were a fertile time for…uh, shit. I guess you’d call it yacht rock. “Hold The Line” has what the hosts of Beyond Yacht Rock would call the “Doobie shuffle”. It also has soulful vocals from Bobby Kimball and guitar riffage from the aforementioned David Paich that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by a more typical “rock” band like Foreigner. The combination of genres guaranteed that “Hold The Line” would appeal to radio listeners of just about every conceivable stripe, and to this day, Toto’s debut single is a staple of grocery stores and dentist offices everywhere. And it never hesitates to make me tap my foot and sing along.
I found this quote from Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro on “Hold The Line”‘s Wikipedia entry, and it pretty much echoes my sentiments: “‘Hold the Line’ was a perfect example of what people will describe as your heavy metal chord guitar licks, your great triplet A-notes on the piano, your Sly (Stone) ‘Hot Fun In The Summertime’ groove, all mishmashed together with a boy from New Orleans singing… and it really crossed over a lot of lines.”