Steve Lukather – All’s Well That Ends Well (2011, Mascot Records)
- Darkness In My World
- On My Way Home
- Can’t Look Back
- Don’t Say It’s Over
- Flash In The Pan
- Watching The World
- You’ll Remember
Steve Lukather – all guitars, lead & bg vocals
CJ Vanston – keyboards, atmospheres
Steve Weingart – keyboards and atmospheres
Carlitos Del Puerto – bass
Eric Valentine – drums
Lenny Castro – percussion
Joseph Williams, Phil Collen (3) (4), CJ Vanston (3) – background voacals
Trev Lukather – power guitar (4)
Tina Lukather – background vocals (1)
Fee Waybill – background vocals (5) (7)
Bernard Fowler – background vocals (1)
Jory Steinberg – background vocals ((1) (2) (8)
Producers: Steve Lukather, CJ Vanston, Steve MacMillan
Total Time = 47:23
For those of you who don’t know who Steve Lukather is, let me refresh your memory. Remember the late ’70s/early ’80s AOR/Rock band Toto? You know the singles: ‘Africa’, ‘Hold The Line’, ‘Rosanna’? Steve Lukather is the founding guitarist of Toto and has been playing guitar professionally since the young age of 19. Aside from his best known work in Toto, Lukather has gone on to enjoy popular and critical success by doing session work with some of the biggest names in music: Michael Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley and Olivia Newton-John. Add a solo career that has now totalled six records since 1989 and it’s easy to say that Steve is one of the hardest working, and most respected, guitarists in the business.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL is Steve’s sixth solo album and it offers a wide range of musical styles along with some very personal and unique songwriting with a flawless production. The songs on this album range from ambient soft Rock, AOR, Jazz, Blues, Rock, Ambient and Pop all packed with one instantly recognizable constant…..Steve’s superb guitar work. The lyrics over the entire record have a very personal feel to them making each song memorable not only for it’s musicality but also it’s personal insight. There are a lot of darker lyrics, more of a sad and reflective nature rather then the usual Heavy Metal fare we are used to here, but there is also some that are upbeat as well. Great artists create some of their best work when the channel their emotion and life experiences into their work, it makes the music more genuine in my opinion. I’m not sure what’s going on in Steve’s life but some of the songs like ‘Darkness In My World’, ’Don’t Say It’s Over’ and ‘Watching The World’ really bleed a personal reflective tone.
The opening track, ‘Darkness In My World’, is an ambient rock song with very personal lyrics that sets the tone for the entire album…..this is going to be an emotional journey. The song opens kind of soft but it moves into a more mid-tempo groove with a solid guitar base. The one thing I noticed/remembered right away was how good Steve’s singing voice is! With all his accomplishments as a guitarist, it’s easy to forget that he has a pretty good soulful sound to his singing. I went back and quickly checked a couple of my older Toto albums, KINGDOM OF DESIRE (1992) and TAMBU (1995), and Steve is front and center at the mic. His voice has a touch of Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball to it but I think it’s a little raspier on this album. Moving to the second song, ‘On My Way Home’, I immeadiately thought of Steely Dan and I’m not far off. The song has that Jazz/Blues beat to it with the catchy melodies that make it instantly memorable…..it’s so Steely Dan influenced to me that it sounds like Steve just took over for Donald Fagen on the vocals! This is one of my favorite songs on the album. Another favorite is the more rocking ‘Can’t Hold Back’, a song that starts out mellow with the opening vocal, moves into a funky groove but picks up tempo with the bridge and chorus as the guitar really kicks in. The guitar solo is one of the best, very clean tone and sound.
The personal side of the album is completely evident with the emotional ballad ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’…..listen to the song and pay close attention to the lyrics, that’s songwriting at it’s purest. Steve breaks things up a little with the harder rock of ‘Flash In The Pan’, a song that basically speaks out on the state of the music industry and the age of instant celebrity. I found myself laughing out loud at a few lines of the song as he takes a few shots at the expense of Britney, Paris and all the other tabloid superstars. Great song, another standout on an album full of standouts. ‘Watching The World’ pulls the listener back into that reflective/emotional mood but is another solid soft ballad while ‘You’ll Remember’ follows ‘On My Way Home’ with the Steely Dan influence. It’s got to be the piano/keyboard arrangement that really gives both songs that Steely vibe and I love it. ‘You’ll Remember’ has hit single written all over it and I wouldn’t be surprised if this made one of the Billboard charts, maybe the ”classic rock/adult contemporary/jazz/blues” chart? Really, this is another catchy song with a great funky guitar and bass line and an awesome solo break with a perfect tone. I could honestly listen to this song over and over. ‘Brody’s’ is a slow blues rocker that kind of mirrors ‘Flash In The Pan’ with it’s look at current day trends by namechecking Facebook, “a war we can’t win” and “Tiger Woods’ ho”. You get the idea. Ending the record is the instrumental ‘Tumescent’…..Steve and the band cutting loose in a ’70s Rock style with plenty of fine guitar.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL isn’t really the usual fare at Heavy Metal Addiction because, well, it’s not Metal! One thing I’ve always tried to do with this website is reflect my personal tastes and, even though I headbang with the best of them, my musical roots can be traced back to the late ’70s and early ’80s with AOR/Rock bands like Toto. Some of the best music, and most talented musicians, came from this style of music…..and some of my favorite songs as well. Listen to Toto’s ‘Hold The Line’ and tell me that’s not Hard Rock! I like all kinds of Rock ‘n’Roll be it hard Rock & heavy Metal, AOR, Classic Rock, Soft & Pop Rock…..I even like some Pop music from time to time! Rock musicians have a wide range of influences and some of the best albums are the ones that bring these together to create something special. I don’t own any of Steve Lukather’s other solo albums but, if they are as good as this one, I’d be crazy not to search them out. The blend of musical styles and the personal/emotional lyrics create an album that not only pleases the ears but also pleases the mind, it’s great to hear quality music with heartfelt songwriting because it takes the listener on the emotional ride with the artist. Musically, the album kind of reminds me a little of Neal Schon’s instrumental album ELECTRIC WORLD (1997) because it gets me in a different mindset. For me, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL is a great way to start off a new year, it’s the first new album of 2011 that I’ve heard and I think it’s going to be one of this year’s best. If you’re looking for a change of pace from your Metal but still want solid musicianship and Rock, check this record out. Steve Lukather is a highly successful singer, songwriter and guitarist with plenty of gold and platinum albums, along with five Grammy awards, that prove how great his career has been. For me, I’ve just enjoyed the music he’s made…..and he’s always made great music.
This is a tough one because I really can’t find a bad song on the album but, if I have to be put on the spot, then I would choose the Steely Dan influenced ‘On My Way Home’ & ‘You’ll Remember’, the fun ‘Flash In The Pan’ and the album opener ‘Darkness In My World’.
(Note — This album is my ALBUM OF THE MONTH for January 2011 but, due to a website relaunch, I’m posting the review now in the middle of February.)