This is a two part review. Check out our review of I Found The Sun Again by Steve Lukather.
When you hear the name John Williams, what typically comes to mind is Superman, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones. What’s remarkable about the elder Williams’ career is how iconic it is, permeating all parts of pop culture and cementing the modern orchestra as something cinematic. His legacy is one that few artists ever achieve.
And yet, his music is not his only legacy.
John’s youngest son is Joseph, who also happens to be the frontman of Toto. Joseph Williams is one of those guys who puts it all out there when performing. On the stage, he’s the greatest showman; watching Joseph sing and dance during a concert is one of those simple joys that brings a smile to your face. He’s also had a prolific career in film, playing the adult singing voice of Simba in The Lion King and writing the lyrics for “Yub Nub” in Return of the Jedi (yes, THAT Yub Nub).
Outside of Toto and other collab projects, the younger Williams already has ten solo albums under his belt; his latest, Denizen Tenant, brings that number to eleven. Denizen Tenant arrives as Toto transitions into its new “Dogs of Oz” era with Williams and Steve Lukather as the remaining core members of the band. Rather than make a new Toto album, the guys focused on their solo efforts, and the dueling result is like a 2-for-1 Toto combo.
Denizen Tenant feels Williams’ usual wheelhouse while still striving to be unique. The sound is warm and refined, with post-production like it was lifted from Peter Gabriel’s dreams. The Peter Gabriel/Genesis vibes run deep throughout this album, and one of the highlights is a cover of Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.” Williams’ daughter Hannah Ruick joins this track for the duet, and the instrumentals show a lot of precision and love for the original version.
“Never Saw You Coming” is a song about not knowing when death will take us; instead of feeling dour, the track’s got the funkiest groove on the whole album. “Liberty Man” sounds like it was lifted straight out of a Toto album, which makes sense since it features veteran players David Paich, Steve Lukather, Simon Williams, and Leland Sklar; Paich also features on “Black Dahlia” and Luke on the songs “Remember Her” and a cover of the Beatles song “If I Fell.”
“Wilma Fingadoux” is experimental R&B, and it works for what it’s trying to be as a tribute to Williams’ mother, featuring Ruick and William’s other daughter Ray Williams. The title track “Denizen Tenant” has a hard to describe, psychedelic pop-vibe that’s overshadowed by the other songs on the album, but still a fun listen. “No Lessons” is quite jazzy, feeling like it was pulled from a deep cut of Toto’s Fahrenheit album.
The album ends on a note of melancholy with the song “World Broken,” which is described as a droney chant, but leaves me in mind of “Eyes Wide Open” by Gotye, featuring similar themes of conservation.
Williams linear notes are worth reading just for how deep and detailed they are. Denizen Tenant isn’t being labeled a Toto album, but it feels like one for how collaborative it is. Williams stays true to his jovial form here, taking this record places that remind why his own legacy in music is rock solid.
Like father, like son.
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