Steve Lukather's new album, Transition (Mascot Records), strikes a perfect balance of style, power and imagination as he takes risks and challenges himself in ways most other players can't even approach.
That's been standard operating procedure for this high-wire artist of the six-string for nearly four decades, as his career has gone from the studios of Los Angeles to the world's biggest concert halls to the helm of the multi-platinum selling group Toto and, recently, to ground-breaking tours with Ringo Starr, guitar geniuses Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and the reunited Toto, who have scheduled a follow-up 35th anniversary tour for 2013.
Today, the guitar guru is happy, healthy and strongly reconnected to his muse, and the lushly expressive Transition, his second Mascot Records album, finds him at a creative pinnacle. "I equate recordings to paintings," he explains, "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 are all about. So if it's a sin to make massive sounding records with huge production values, then I'm going to Hell."
Fat chance, because 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 and others, live band members Steve Weingart, Renee Jones, and mega-drummers Gregg Bissonette, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Lukather's longtime keyboard foil and co-writer/co-producer C.J. Vanston - actually weaves a tale of redemption.
"[The title track] 'Transition' is a turning point for the album and a turning point for me," Lukather explains. "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."
Lukather, Weingart and Vanston's closing instrumental rendition of the Charlie Chaplin classic "Smile" has a very deep connection for the guitarist. "That was my mother's favorite song," he relates. "We've been playing it as an encore live, and it seemed like the perfect way to close the album, too."
A five-time Grammy Winner and member of the Musicians Hall of Fame, Lukather has also worked with an A-list of fellow guitar giants: Eddie Van Halen, 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, Roger Waters, and other rock and pop royalty. And he's done all that while 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 cliche. 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."
Also available with Autographed CD Booklet:
All's Well That Ends Well