Toto, a band formed by a group of successful session musicians in 1977, put out its second album, Hydra, in 1979. Following its quadruple platinum, self-titled debut album, which spawned such hits as “Hold The Line” and “I’ll Supply the Love,” the band had a lot of attention as it moved into its next album. However, the new album was met with significantly less success than their first. I won’t deal with the specifics of that; instead, I’ll just talk about the album itself.
My initial impression was that it was quite similar to the other thousands of late-70s early-80s soft rock albums. And, to some extent, it is. It shares many musical similarities with the albums from that era. The clean guitar tracks, bright chords, repeating themes of romance and love, prolific vocal harmonies, and distinctive 80s synth tone all lend themselves to that fact.
That said, Toto has, in this album as well as plenty of their other ones, excelled with a set of trite musical tools. There is a certain flair that makes the songs distinct enough that you can be sure you’ve never heard it before. Partly this is in the technical ability of the players. Impressive guitar solos and musically interesting rhythms and syncopation keep the listener attentive, while also providing an excellent backdrop to take away the banality of everyday activity. Hydra fits snugly within the realm of easy listening, while also being very interesting when listened to deeply.
Some examples are 99, and Mama. They have easy, laid back grooves, unlike title track Hydra or St. George and the Dragon, which move a bit quicker are a bit more involved, but still retain the same appeal.
Another reason I find these songs appealing is the lyrics. While thematically somewhat uninteresting, the album continuously uses lyrics that go beyond what a normal song from this era would. Instead of love, and looking into whoever’s eyes and, seeing whatever that person was doing, and all of the horrendously overused cliches about being interested in another person, the songs actually have lyrics that are fun to listen to.
For instance, while Hydra talks about that ever-sought-after, perfect human being that one may find in nearly every other song from the early 80s ever made, but then it shifts to talking about a vicious dragon. St. George and the Dragon talks about the legend of St. George, and millennium-old-tale about a dragon slayer.
Even the songs that do focus on the unobtainable beauty of a person are dynamic in their own right– Lorraine, track 4 on the album, has an entire tone shift for a segment, has subtle yet pervasive instrumental parts, and has beautiful lyrics uncommon of songs with themes such as this.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the album, overall. I have never been extremely interested in soft rock, but I find this to be an album that I can definitely find the time to listen to, even if it is not my preferred genre. I think it is the sort of album that is accessible to anyone, no matter what they listen to, due to its all-encompassing style that blends elements from a large variety of music that has made Toto so famous.
Overall, my rating is 7.5/10. This may seem low due to how much I have praised it, but I would be hesitant to rate even my favorite albums much more than a 9 or 9.25. I don’t know that a perfect album actually exists, but here’s hoping that it does.
Thank you for taking the time to read this first review of mine. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review written by: Evan Dickerson