With a Soaring New Solo Album, Steve Lukather Finds His Own Sunny Vista

Steve Lukather/I Found the Sun Again/The Players Club
Four out of Five Stars

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There are certain perks that accompany one’s status as a great guitarist. First and foremost, it often brings a hallowed designation as a “Guitar God,” a tradition that first took root in the mid ‘60s when graffiti littered the walls in London proclaiming the fact that “Clapton is God.” That regal title has been bestowed on nearly every great shredder that’s followed in his wake—Beck, Page, Hendrix, Bloomfield, Garcia and all the other icons that followed, up through the present day.

Add Steve Lukather to that list of guitar greats. Aside from being the sole remaining member of the classic rock band Toto, he’s a much in-demand A-list session player with approximately 1,500 studio appearances to his credit as a guest contributor. He’s also a long-running member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band (“I’m a jokester and we have a similar sense of humor, so he took a shine to me.”), a five-time Grammy winner (among his other accolades), and personally responsible for nine albums of his own, including his latest, I Found the Sun Again. A symbiotic effort tied to the release of his friend and fellow Toto band mate, Joseph Williams’ new effort Denizen Tenant, it’s released simultaneously and features both men playing under the other’s banner. The two also have plans to pursue the Toto legacy once the pandemic passes under the guise of “Dogz of Oz,” an ongoing worldwide tour that will find them replaying songs from the Toto catalog, as well as individual selections from their own solo repertoires. 

Indeed, Lukather remains fully committed to keeping the Toto legacy alive. “I didn’t want to stop,” he says. “After all, I joined this band when I was 19 years old. Some of the other guys in the group decided they didn’t want to do any more, maybe because of some medical issue, or maybe there was some sort of side issue that got a little weird with some of the people involved. But we’re going to pay respect to the legacy when we can tour as Dogz of Oz, and it will be the next chapter in the Toto legacy.”

Lukather says that in fact he’s itching to get back on the road once he’s able. “Who knows how long this thing is going to go on,” he muses. “It might not be until fall when we’re able to get out there again. Suddenly everything just came to a stop. I also had more dates to do with my fusion band, but now we’re all stuck at home. I just love to play music, and honestly, I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Fortunately, I Found the Sun Again stands as an apt testament to Lukather’s ample abilities. A series of songs that boast both searing originals—the Toto-cum-Steely Dan-like “Serpent Soul,” the riveting regalia of “Along for the Ride,” the harrowing twists and turns of “Journey Through,” the catchy pop-prone “Welcome to the Club” et.al.— and a pair of classic covers, Traffic’s “The Low Spark of  High Heeled Boys” and Robin Trower’s visceral “Bridge of Sighs.” Not surprisingly, the album features a host of his famous friends—Williams of course, Ringo Starr, keyboardist and co-Toto founder David Paich, drummer Gregg Bissonette, and bassist John Pierce, among them. Their efforts provide the album with a variety of shifting tones and textures, from the airy ambiance of “I Found the Sun Again” to the speedo funk of “Serpent Soul,” the latter a cowrite with Williams and original Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch. 

Lukather says that the original idea for the album was to go into the studio and keep things loose—blemishes and all—without overthinking the entire process. “I didn’t want it to sound over-rehearsed,” he insists. “I wanted to capture it all live, emulate the sound of the early ‘70s and bring it into 2021. So, that was the intent, to go back to the past, record as it happened, no overdubs, no tinkering, no machines. I didn’t want to slave over it and buff it out and try to make it perfect by cutting and pasting. The whole idea was to make the record sound spontaneous.”

Given Lukather’s lengthy list of studio and song credits—a who’s who that includes Michael Jackson, Boz Scaggs, Chicago, Donna Summer, Lionel Richie, and any numbers of others, as well as several side projects that include sometime ensembles Nerve Bundle, Toxic Monkey and Los Lobotomy’s, as well as collaborations with fellow axe aces Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Steve Vai, and Larry Carlton—it’s little surprise that the new album comes across as sonically sprawling and emphatically ambitious in scope. Indeed, there’s not a single song that doesn’t find his blazing guitar pyrotechnics taking center stage along with all the other instruments. In that regard, it’s no small feat that he’s able to emulate Trower’s soaring, seismic solo in the aforementioned “Bridge of Sighs.” 

“Some guys get complacent and they just xerox what they’ve done before,” Lukather reflects. “I strive to be more adventurous musically. I did three records in a row that were pretty well-written and well- produced, but I decided that this time, I wanted to do things differently, without all that pressure. I wanted to create my own scenario, and I knew that if I cast it right and picked the right players, it would play itself out the way I wanted it to. These guys on the record all know how to get it right, and they’re my friends, so I really wanted to capture the first impressions. This is the way I like to make music, and the way I feel it should be made.”

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