Label: Mascot Label Group
Released: January 22, 2013
Reviewed: January 20, 2013
Steve Lukather is a musician’s musician. In many an interview I’ve conducted, “Luke” is mentioned as being there at some point or another in many artists’ career. His mark has been left on work by artists from Ringo Starr to Michael Jackson and is over and above his memorable work with Toto and Los Lobotomys and seven solo albums.
Well, until now. Transition marks Luke’s eighth strictly solo effort and what an incredible body of work it is! Since the release of his last solo album, All's Well That Ends Well, Luke has been enjoying current tenure in Ringo Starr's touring band, appearances across the globe in G3 with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and bringing Toto back arenas overseas. The new album finds Lukather delivering that perfect balance of style, power and imagination as he takes risks and challenges himself as he has for nearly four decades, as his career has gone from the studios of Los Angeles to the world’s biggest concert halls.
Lukather shares, "I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, and now is a perfect time for me to take stock of that, which is part of what Transition is about." Over the previous decade a series of trials including divorce, the death of his mother and business hassles had dampened his joy in music making — a passion that drove Lukather to excel since seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan as a seven-year-old growing up in San Fernando Valley. But today the guitar guru is happy, healthy and strongly reconnected to his muse, and the lushly expressive Transition, his second Mascot album, finds him at a creative pinnacle. Lukather offers, "I equate recordings to paintings and I wanted to make Transition a big, beautiful album with lots of fine details and shadings and colors. That’s what I do and what my favorite albums — Sgt. Pepper’s, Dark Side of the Moon, Electric Ladyland, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road — are all about. So if it’s a sin to make massive sounding records with huge production values, then I’m going to Hell.”
Transition’s heavenly sonic architecture — erected with the help of such A-list musical friends as Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, superstar bassists Lee Sklar, Nathan East, John Pierce, and Tal Wilkenfeld, live band members Steve Weingart, Renee Jones, and Eric Valentine, along with mega-drummers Gregg Bissonette, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tos Panos, and Lukather’s longtime keyboard foil and co-writer / co-producer C.J. Vanston — actually weaves a tale of redemption. Beginning with the snarling rhythmic heartbeat of the cutting Judgment Day and the evil kiss-off blues Creep Motel, the album builds to the pivotal title track. Lukather reveals, "Transition is a turning point for the album and a turning point for me. As we were writing the songs, I was thinking about everything I’ve seen — all the people I’ve lost in my life, the great and the difficult experiences I’ve had, and how ultimately it was time to get it together and embrace things for what they are, because we’ve only got one life to live and we’ve got to make the most of it.”
Transition finds Lukather singing better than he ever has. He shares, "I’ve been working really hard on my vocals. For me, these days it’s all about the song and the performance. I’m not interested in being the fastest gun in the West. I want to make beautiful music that means something." Transition was recorded over a 10-month period during breaks in Lukather’s juggernaut 2012 touring schedule, which included dates with Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, the reunited Toto, the guitar-riffic G3 tour with Satriani and Vai, and Ringo Starr.
He reflects, "Honestly, playing with Ringo and Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and my high school friends in Toto helped make this the best year of my life. Getting the call from Ringo was a childhood fantasy realized. I play music because of the Beatles, and to be standing on stage playing a Beatles song while I look back at the drum kit and see Ringo… unbelievable! He’s such a wise, funny and gracious man.” Lukather has also worked with George Harrison and Paul McCartney — just part of a historic resume that began when he was in his teens, playing recording sessions in LA and learning about life on the road with Boz Scaggs after Scaggs’ landmark album Silk Degrees.
A five-time Grammy Winner and member of the Musicians Hall of Fame, Lukather has worked with an A-list of fellow guitar giants: Eddie Van Halen, Robben Ford, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Slash, Zakk Wylde, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Joe Bonamassa among them. He’s also co-led Toto with fellow founder David Paich through every twist of the band’s platinum lined history while playing on albums by Michael Jackson, Warren Zevon, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Miles Davis, Roger Waters, Cheap Trick and other rock and pop royalty. And he’s done all that while writing hits for the Tubes and George Benson, plus maintaining a parallel solo career of his own that began with his 1988 solo debut Lukather.
Seven solo albums later, Lukather reflects: “I’d like to say this is the best album I’ve ever made, but that’s a cliché. But I do think I’ve realized my goal of moving forward, so let me say that Transition is possibly the best reflection of who I am in 2012.”
Written by Randy Patterson