Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Toto Tribute Album

In this post, I will write of an imaginary album I'd like to see (the first of more posts like this to come). This album is a tribute album to the Rock band Toto by successful names in Classic Rock, with some being very big names. For those of you unfamiliar with Toto, Toto is an American Rock band formed in 1977 whose hits include ‘Africa’, ‘Rosanna’, ‘Hold The Line’, ‘I Won’t Hold You Back’, ‘I’ll Be Over You’. When Toto formed, their line-up was Steve Lukather - guitar & vocals, David Paich - keyboards & vocals, Steve Porcaro - keyboards & vocals, David Hungate - bass, Jeff Porcaro - drums and Bobby Kimball - lead vocals. In the current line-up Steve Lukather, David Paich and Steve Porcaro remain with Joseph Williams as their lead vocalist. The songs I selected come from their original line-up except for ‘I’ll Be Over You’ that’s from 1986. As I like Piano in Rock music, and also when the singers themselves play it, I am envisioning most of the singers playing Piano. I will give some ideas of how their versions of the songs can go in the section about the songs.

As this is a personal selection of mine there are some Toto songs highly regarded or popular not included here. Some of what I write about these songs will be short giving the reader more room for imagination for these covers. This list comprises 12 Toto hits and album tracks by artists that I think could make a version of these songs that I’d like. What's interesting is that most (if not all) of these artists have worked with at least 1 of the Toto members as a session musician and some even appeared on a Toto album. However, I won't be listing their connection with Toto as that will make this post go on too long.

Elton John & Bob Seger - Rosanna
I'll start with my 2 favourite singers Elton John & Bob Seger. This version would have Elton's original band members who are still with him Davey Johnstone (Lead Guitar) and Nigel Olsson (Drums) as well as the Original Members of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band who are still with him Alto Reed (Saxophone), Craig Frost (Organ) and Chris Campbell (Bass) with Elton on Piano, Bob on Guitar and a horn section like on the original. As the original had 2 lead vocalists, I envision Elton singing Steve Lukather's part and Bob Seger singing Bobby Kimball's part. The synth solo section would be replaced with back and forth interaction between Alto Reed and the Horn Section.

Michael McDonald - Make Believe
Michael McDonald was the singer Toto originally wanted who's closely connected to them and I think that he could really sing a great version of this song with his powerful voice with him obviously playing Piano.

Boz Scaggs - Georgy Porgy
Toto Keyboardist David Paich co-wrote some songs with Boz for his successful “Silk Degrees” album and as Boz even recorded an unreleased Toto song (until it appeared on the “Toto XX: 1977-1997” album) ‘Miss Sun’ which became a US hit, this song which David wrote could have been something Boz did as it has a Rock/Soul feel. As Michael McDonald and he have similarities and toured together, I put their 2 songs together.

Don Henley - I’ll Supply The Love
This song suits Don Henley's voice and I can imagine him singing this. He would play Drums on this and I envision his version being less Progressive Rock than the original.

Richard Marx - It’s a Feeling
It's time for a real ballad to slow things down. Richard would play Piano on this.

Journey - Hold The Line
This would be interesting as both Toto & Journey were popular American bands around the same time whose work went into Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock and they both were influenced by Jazz.

The Doobie Brothers - Manuela Run
This song could be done a bit like their hit ‘The Doctor’, but wouldn't have a section in the song where the Keyboards stop. The Doobie Brothers recently had Keyboardist Bill Payne who'd done session work for them join their touring band, so he'd play Piano and Organ and this version wouldn't have the synths of the original.

Jackson Browne - I’ll Be Over You
Jackson would play Piano on this song and I think his voice is a bit like Steve Lukather who sang the original.

I originally intended Glenn Frey to cover this song, but as he tragically passed away recently I had to choose someone else for this song. Interestingly, Glenn lived above Jackson in the early 70s in LA. RIP Glenn Frey.

Billy Joel - Africa
Even though this song has strong World Music influences, I think it has a bit of a Billy Joel vibe. The original had only a little Piano, but in this version after the intro the Piano would kick in more prominent than the original and be there for the whole song. The original is a bit like Billy's 'River of Dreams' which has a similar intro and he'd bring more of that song into this version including a Piano solo similar to that one.  

REO Speedwagon - I Won’t Hold You Back
Their lead singer Kevin Cronin would play Piano on this and this version would sound more like their hit ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’.

Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood - St. George & the Dragon
Eric would sing the verses (Bobby Kimball part) and Steve would sing the choruses (David Paich part). Steve could sing the "I Can Tell By The" lines at the end very powerfully. I'm envisioning Steve playing Organ and/or Piano on this song. The Guitar parts would be altered to Eric's style.  

Steely Dan - 99
Donald Fagen would play Piano and this version would sound like a track off their debut album “Can’t Buy a Thrill” by using that style of arrangement. This would be interesting as Steely Dan is an influence of Toto.

What did you think of it? Are there other covers you'd like to see? Think a different song better suits an artist I chose? Have other ideas of where these covers could go? Have ideas of Producers for a song or the whole album? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments. Hope you liked this post.  

Saturday, 16 January 2016

My Fears and Hopes for Star Trek Beyond

As the Star Trek Beyond trailer along with interviews with people involved in the film appeared last month, I decided to write my thoughts on the film in response to this information. Firstly, I'll say what I think of the previous two films, Star Trek (2009) & Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). I am a Star Trek fan and I would have liked the 2009 film to be a mature intelligent film with a good story, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. However I did enjoy it as it was a good, entertaining film. I liked it how it was based on the original series (the Star Trek crew I like the most) and I loved seeing Leonard Nimoy's Spock (my favourite Star Trek character). I didn't like Star Trek Into Darkness as I found it to be badly written, rehashing material from both the 2009 film and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a bad choice of villain, Captain Kirk acting youthfully immature (a negative fact of the 2009 film that was worse here) and so on. For me, the 2009 film despite its changes did feel like Star Trek, but Star Trek Into Darkness didn't. I want the next film to be good and feel like Star Trek.

Here are my fears for this film.

I didn't like the way the trailer was structured and the music used. I fear that it will turn into a mindless action film having a bad story. I was not pleased to hear Chris Pine who plays Captain Kirk say "This one, I can definitively say, has the most action out of any one we’ve done so far." in a Yahoo! Movies set visit. That sounds bad as I found one of the reasons why Star Trek Into Darkness wasn't good was because the action was increased. While I wouldn't say the first film had a good balance between action and story, I thought it was OK in that aspect. The second film however had occasions when the action got in the way of the story. I'm hoping that the action isn't really being increased, but it's just something said to excite people who like action. I'm hoping that it may not mean more action, but more epic action scenes. If there's anything that should be increased it should be the storytelling, not the action. The actors would experience filming action scenes, but ultimately, the pace of the film will be determined by the editors irrespective of what’s shot.

I was disappointed by the fact that it is written by Simon Pegg (also Scotty actor) and Doug Jung. In Simon's case, it's because he was disrespectful to Star Trek fans who didn't like Star Trek Into Darkness, the fact that his previous writing credits have been comedies and the fact that they were rude comedies (a style I don't like) makes me concerned he might put too much comedy into the film and some rude jokes too. Since he hasn't written a non-comedy before, it’s possible he might not be good at it. I also haven't been impressed with his performance as Scotty. Doug Jung doesn't seem to be a good choice to me. There is also the fact that these writers began working on the script around the start of 2015 for a shoot in 6 months which makes it seem like a rush job. I'm not pleased with the choice of Director Justin Lin. A lot of his credits don’t look good, especially the Fast & Furious films which isn't a type of film I like. In response to fan criticism that he's making a Fast & Furious film in the Star Trek universe, Justin said “Yeah, and I don’t know if that’s the case here”. The fact that he said he's not too sure instead of that he's not makes me worried. I get it that those are films he’s made that he’s proud of, but these are two different franchises and making that kind of film in the Star Trek universe is disrespectful to Star Trek. I will now move on into my hopes for the film.

While I didn't like the way the trailer was structured, I did like some of the imagery from the trailer. Hearing some comments from Justin Lin about the story made me feel pleased about it. The idea of the Enterprise crew getting their ship taken out with 40,000 enemy vessels and them being forced to evacuate to this planet could be a good idea if executed well. I do like the design of the villain Krall and the line he says "This is where it begins, Captain. This is where the frontier pushes back". Justin Lin said these comments in a Collider interview:

I think that at its core I felt like on this chapter if we could kind of deconstruct Trek on different levels and then hopefully reaffirm why it’s great then we can maybe send it off and they’ll have a long run after this, and that to me was kinda on a more cerebral sense, you know, I feel like that was kinda the mission here on this one. ... in this timeline I wanted to hopefully create something where we can be on the five-year mission, we can hopefully explore and push, and introduce new species, and put them in situations where hopefully it then mirrors back and reflects about the exploration of humanity. ... I like his character because his character is really challenging the way of The Federation’s philosophy, I think it’s great being a fan and a lot of times I watch Utopia, East San Francisco, and I always feel like, “Oh wow.” When you’re building this movie, you’re like, “So they don’t have money. How do they live? How do they compete?” And those are things that I think his character in a way has a very distinct and valid point of view.”

These comments give hope that there will be thought-provoking ideas in the film and an interesting villain. I hope that unlike the last film, the Federation's ideals will be portrayed positively. I like it how he mentioned going more on a cerebral sense. This film comes out during the 50th Anniversary so it's important that the film pay respect to Star Trek's legacy and values.

Regarding the Spock & Uhura romance, Justin said in Birth.Movies.DeathWhat we’re doing is appropriate to the two and a half years. It’s a continuation in a way, and I don’t want to ignore things and act as if they don’t exist, so there’s an acknowledgement and I think their relationship is consistent to the way it was before”. This comment hints that their relationship may not be in the film, which is good to hear as I didn't like it how they were in a relationship in these films. Even if it’s still there, it is likely be reduced according to these comments.

It's good that this film is set two and a half years into the Enterprise's five year mission featuring more exploring and especially the fact that there's many new alien species in this film. Justin said in the Yahoo! Movies set visit said that there'll be five times as many new species than the previous two films put together.    

Final word
There are some signs that this film may turn out in a way that I won't like and there are also other signs that it will turn out in a way that I like. I'm very aware that the type of Star Trek film I want won’t be made by these filmmakers, but I do hope it will take what worked for the 2009 film, have more maturity and bring back Star Trek’s thought-provoking themes. Justin said in Birth.Movies.Death:

I’m going to use a sports analogy, so forgive me. I can tell you what a great athlete I am, what a great basketball player I am, but when I step on the court you’re going to know very quickly whether I’m any good. In a way I feel like it’s easy to preach what the Federation is about, how you’re supposed to act, but what happens when you [are on your heels]. How do you react?”.

What he says applies to his film as directors promise all kind of good things about their films, but it’s only once the film comes out that we will know how true they were (if at all) to their word.