Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Steve Lukather is best known as guitarist and vocalist with Toto throughout their tenure as a band, as well as a session guitar monster who has played on hundreds of hit records over the past forty or so years.
However, he is also a man who has released a number of highly regarded solo albums since the late 1980s and here he is in 2023 with his latest solo offering, entitled Bridges.
Lukather has always been a songwriter who enjoys combining highly infectious melodies and chordal structures with more progressive and less ‘obvious’ almost jazz-based structures and melodic approaches. This is of course evident in a lot of his work with Toto and it is a regular feature of his solo work. He also has a wide range of guitar influences and is such a master of his instrument that how can pretty much play anything. He doesn’t have the widest vocal range, but he is possessed of a highly emotive vocal tone that is equally at home on more rocking tunes or soulful ballads. As such, a Lukather solo album is always an interesting prospect, especially when it includes such a stunning cast of contributory musicians as this does.
On Bridges we have drummers Simon Phillips and Shannon Forrest, keyboard maestro David Paich and vocalist Joseph Williams (who also contributes keyboards and percussion) and keyboard player Steve Maggiora, all of whom have played with Lukather in Toto over the years. Add bassist extraordinaire Lee Sklar and Govt Mule bassist Jorgen Carlsson and Lukather’s son Trev (who contributes guitar, keyboards, bass and background vocals on one track) and you have a stellar cast indeed!
Bridges opens with the grooving ‘Far From Over’ which combines clever stuttering riffs with funky chordal chops and highly infectious melodies on an absolute monster of an opening track. Grooving, dynamic and catchy as hell, it’s a fabulous way to open the album.
‘Not My Kind of People’ effortlessly combines influences as varied as The Beatles (the very cool and trippy pre-chorus), his own work with Toto and general Classic Rock (the huge, aggressive intro riff and melodic chorus) into a massive anthem where Lukather is clearly sounding off against some people who have given him cause for some displeasure!
‘Someone’ is less aggressive, with subtle guitar layers and delicate keyboards providing a glorious backdrop to Lukather’s gently melodic vocal while the drums weave clever patterns behind everything. The guitar solos when they arrive are short, sweet and highly melodic. It’s very similar to Toto’s more recent recorded works and is absolutely fabulous!
‘All Forevers Must End’ is absolutely stunning! Very much in the style of the ballads that Lukather has sung with Toto, it is dripping with emotion from every pore. Lukather’s vocal is tailor-made for tracks such as this: honey-sweet, with a warm and velvety tone. The combination of piano, synths and guitar, all layered to perfection over gorgeously restrained drums and percussion is absolutely wonderful. The guitar solo is very short, but soars through a delightful melody before the chorus returns. If Carlsberg made rock ballads, they’d sound like this: perfection!
First single ‘When I see You Again’ has an intro and chorus that could easily have been on any of Toto’s 1980s albums, especially the brilliant Isolation. This is intelligent and extremely musical AOR of the very highest order, the production and arrangement making wonderful use of David Paich’s classic keyboard stabs and huge swathes of guitar power-chording. The lead guitars are once again concise and melodic, Lukather resisting the temptation to shred for all he is worth and totally playing for the song throughout.
‘Take My Love’ is a brilliant combination of soulful jazz and blues influences, with a production that breathes beautifully through the track. The layered backing vocals lend an almost Gospel feel to this 6/8 time shuffle. The way that the lead guitars and keyboards weave their way together in the interludes between the vocals is heavenly and Lukather’s vocal is quite frankly sublime. The solo in this track is absolutely stunning! Soulful beyond measure, with aching string bends and vibrato, soaring melody and shredding flurries, it is a masterpiece of guitar composition and performance.
‘Burning Bridges’ is next and alters the feel completely with a relentless groove, driven by bass and delightfully retro electric piano sounds. Clever jazz-influenced chord structures and changes keep the interest levels high and prevent this from just being a common or garden plodding rocker and places this firmly in the territory of Toto’s later recorded work.
The album closes with ‘I’ll Never Know’ which once again sits in Toto territory on a delightful mid-paced track that combines clever writing and structures with stunning instrumentation and oodles of melody.
Overall, Bridges is a truly excellent piece of work. The songwriting and performances are sublime and Lukather’s guitar work in particular is beautifully restrained, yet absolutely perfect for the songs. Toto fans will absolutely lap it up, as Lukather has stated that the band will never record again and that he wanted this album to form a kind of bridge between his usual solo output and his work with Toto. That it does very well indeed!
Any fans of well-written classic rock with old-school progressive influences should also investigate this album immediately as it really is rather special! It’s great to hear the ‘old guard’ of Rock producing such wonderful pieces of work so far into their illustrious careers. Absolutely superb!
- Far From Over
- Not My Kind of People
- All Forevers Must End
- When I See You Again
- Take My Love
- Burning Bridges
- I’ll Never Know
When I See You Again” is one of the tracks featured Luke’s upcoming “Bridges” album, out June 16th. Pre-order: https://lnk.to/SteveLukather
For more information on Steve Lukather visit http://www.stevelukather.com/.