LOS ANGELES circa 1981/82, Chicago is in the biggest slump of their careers. Seemingly the death of Terry Kath finally caught up with them. Terry's gone! Guercio's gone! Columbia is gone along with the release rights for all material on the first 14. In walks Bill Champlin and David Foster– two men, men on a mission to revitalize Chicago and get them back on the right track.
Meanwhile – in the same city around the same time, a different management office. Steve Lukather, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro, Bobby Kimball, Steve Porcaro, and David Hungate discuss plans for their next album. Their debut album wowed the industry with it's well-polished precision sound but the two follow-up releases Hydra and Turn back received only lukewarm success and little critical acclaim. Critics were telling them Turn back should be called "Go Back" as in go back to being just session musicians.
Then the courtship of these two groups began like a rhapsody. Bill Champlin had worked with the Toto boys in the past in the Fool's Gold and Airplay sessions and on Bill's own solo releases Single and Runaway. Now it was their turn to help revitalize Chicago- to pump the life-blood back into them.
In another part of southern California, a struggling young session vocalist and composer got an assignment to just write a song and see what happened. So Joseph Williams and Jay Gruska sat down and wrote what ended up being the opening track to Chicago 16, What you're missing. Less than five years later Joseph found himself behind the microphone with a couple of guys who were sitting in on the Chicago 16 sessions... Joseph became the third lead vocalist of Toto.
By some karmic twist of fate – Chicago 16 soared to the top of the charts. Quite impressed with his t'bone styling, Toto asks James Pankow to sit in on the Toto IV sessions. They ask him to play on a little song that was written for Steve Porcaro's girlfriend, "Rosanna" Arquette. And so Jimmy Pankow plays trombone on one of Toto's top-selling singles. And much like Chicago – Toto breaks out of their rut when Toto IV sweeps the 1982 Grammy Awards.
Time to record Chicago 17, Steve Lukather is invited back to offer his assistance along with a few other top-name session musicians including an aspiring young singer/songwriter named Richard Marx.
Then the bottom nearly falls out again... for both groups. Shortly after Bobby Kimball is fired by Toto for his drug usage, Peter Cetera leaves Chicago to pursue a solo career. After turning down Toto's invitation to be their lead singer, Mr. Mister's Richard Page also turns down Chicago's invitation to be their lead singer.
Toto hires Fergie Frederiksen, Chicago hires Jason Scheff. Chicago still has a minor problem – Chris Pinnick was fired after the Chicago 17 tour. Chicago needs a session guitarist to fill in the gap left by Pinnick until a new full-time guitarist can be hired. Buzz Feiten, Michael Landau, and Steve Lukather come in to fill Pinnick's shoes (man, he must have had big feet).
Again Toto is having problems with their lead singer. Fergie is a great live performer, he keeps in shape and has the energy of David Lee Roth; he even goes so far as to do back-flips on stage. Unfortunately, he has trouble in the studio and songs that would normally only take a week or two to lay down the vocal tracks for take Fergie over a month to get down on tape.
Jeff Porcaro calls Jason Scheff and asks him if he knows of any good tenors looking for a job. Earlier that day, Jason had been listening to some demos with Joseph Williams on vocals, the very same Joseph Williams who co-wrote What you're missing for Chicago 16. Jason gave Jeff Joseph's number and shortly thereafter Joseph was in Toto.
The courtship between the members of these two groups has continued even to today. In 1987, James Pankow played trombone on a few of the tracks for Toto's The seventh one album. While not all of the songs he played on made it onto the album, a few of the ones that didn't make it will appear on the soon to be released Toto XX CD (tentative U.S. Release Date 10/1/98). Steve Porcaro who left Toto after the Fahrenheit tour ended up working some of the synthesizers on Chicago Twenty-1. Joseph Williams co-wrote and sang background vocals on the Peter Cetera song Man in me (which was later re-recorded by Williams for his 3 album) and also sang background on Bill Champlin's Burn down the night CD. Bill Champlin and Joseph Williams both made contributions to Jay Graydon's Airplay for the planet CD. Tris Imboden joined them to play drums on the Eurasian tour to promote the CD. Jason Scheff and Bill Champlin sang background vocals on multiple tracks of Joseph's I am alive CD. Bill Champlin, Jason Scheff, and Tris Imboden teamed up with Joseph Williams, Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro, Mike Porcaro, Simon Phillips, David Paich and many of Los Angeles' other top session musicians for the David Garfield and Friends Tribute to Jeff CD. Bobby Kimball and Joseph Williams teamed up with Bill Champlin and Jason Scheff for the West Coast All-Stars California dreamin' CD. Bobby Kimball co-wrote and sang background on some songs from Jason Scheff's solo CD Chauncy. And Jason reprised his role in the West Coast All Stars with Bobby, Joseph, and Tommy Funderburk, who stepped in for Bill Champlin.
In short, when the members of these two groups get together, magical things happen!
Darrin Matteson, Fortunecity.com, 1998