Editors Note: This is a user-supplied article, which we are grateful for. Music plays such an important place in our lives, listening to it, playing it, making lyrics a personal memory. Once again, we here at MFU thank you for your readership. Together, we can keep the history of Rock and Roll alive.
Hardly a soul exists in a developed country that hasn’t heard some Steve Lukather guitar playing at one time or another, and many have no awareness that what they’re listening to is his playing. He worked in the late 70s and 80s mostly as a session player for too many names to list but two of the big ones are Cher and Michael Jackson. He also got together with his session player buddies to form a band called Toto. Since 1989 he has also put out a variety of solo work. More recently, he’s been a part of Ringo’s all star band
I have listed this post as incomplete, because I have listened to a rather small amount of Toto’s catalogue, only 2 of their 14 studio albums. I found out about Toto while working at a grocery store. I would hear Hold the Line on the store radio and liked it. I later looked it up and that was the first time I heard the name Toto. I believe I’ve heard Rosanna on those “hits of the 80s” type CDs being advertised on TV in the 90s. In 2012 I found out that some guy called Steve Lukather was going to be playing a Joe Satriani’s G3 that year. My reaction was, “Who the hell is that?” So that actually got me to check out his solo records starting with 2008’s Ever-changing Times. Since then I have been meaning to give Toto a chance and only did so about half a year ago. I also recently finished reading Lukather’s book, so some of the information here is coming from that. He likes to go buy Luke as a result of knowing too many Steves like Steve Porcaro for example, so I’ll refer to him as Luke from here on.
What I remember from the book is that during the 70s Luke had a little high school band going. He did a little bit of session work, but somewhere along the way he got picked up by Boz Scaggs to be his touring guitarist not long after he was out of high school. He ended up doing two solos on Scaggs’s eighth studio album, Down Two Then Left.
This is a very Lukather-esque solo that works as a good representation of his style.
This was a one take solo that helped establish his session player career. Word tended to make its way around the music community of L.A. when something like that was down. I honestly prefer the A Clue solo to this one. It was also not long after that the his session player buddies decided to form Toto with him.
I’ve been thinking about how odd a band Toto is. All of the musicians in the band are really, really good but at the same time there’s a complete lack of the coolness factor in their music. They are a group of music nerds doing really great music but nobody is going to think you’re one of the cool kids (or cool, uhh, older guy) if they hear you listening to Toto. Some true rocker types might even put you down for it. So anyway, let’s start with:
The typical Toto approach was shared vocal duties, and Luke takes the lead on this one. I honestly find the sound of his voice to be quite good. He’s a baritone and no legendary singer, but he’s got a pleasant, natural tone to his voice. That’s actually Cheryl Lynn singing the “Georgy porgy” chorus. In this video you might also notice how dorky the members of Toto look. Totally not cool at all. Jeff Porcaro, the drummer, could play some drums but those glasses look so terrible. Anyway, Luke is bringing some nice slide guitar at 2:00 with an oddly-placed solo in the middle of the song.
Not surprisingly, this song started as a piano song, and Luke added that complementary guitar riff on top of the piano foundation. This is an excellent example of the kind of thing Luke (probably most members of Toto as well) did. He has an excellent ability to add a complementary guitar track that enhances a song and makes it even better. Some of Luke’s best work is not his soloing or lead guitar, but his additions to what end up being rather full mixes with a lot of instruments doing a lot of work.
Again, he’s singing on this one, and I find his voice quite pleasant. I love those two notes he plays in the transition from the softer sections to the rockin’ part (1:57).
After a pretty successful first album based off the success of “Hold the Line,” they decided to go for more rock credibility with their next effort, Hydra.
There’s a short transition solo at 1:20 and a much longer solo found at 2:19. He nailed it on both of them, and then there’s another sort of solo squeezed in there during the transitional section at 3:08 and outro soloing to take us home at 4:04. All well done.
I don’t have a solo to point you to here, but what I love about his song is his complementary rhythm playing that starts at 0:40 and repeats several times throughout the song. I’m assuming this was another Hold the Line type piano song that he added guitar on top of.
Yes, that famous song. Luke got to sing the verse and the higher stuff was done by Bobby Kimball, the tenor. The hardest rockin’ parts of the song are created by Luke’s guitar and makes the song more complex and interesting than the piano pop ditty it is in most places. He starts soloing at 3:13 and does the outro solo thing later on.
My knowledge of Toto stops there.
I do know the Luke is the one playing rhythm guitar and bass on MJ’s Beat It. He also contributed guitar work and solos to 80s/90s hits like (Solo at 2:17):
In 1989 Luke released his first solo album. I recall reading about how he got shafted as far as it being released in the USA. So he didn’t really have much success with it. The first two tracks might have had some radio success. The first one features an unlisted Eddie Van Halen in there. I’m not sure what he did on the track.
I haven’t listened to 1994’s Candyman much, but I enjoyed his 1997 release entitled Luke.
Songs like this reveal Luke is more than just a guitar player. He really did a great job on the lyrics and vocals here. I really like the continuous vocal drops during the chorus that mimic a slide guitar or other instrument that goes between the notes. His solo here does not disappoint either (3:16).
In 2003 he released a Christmas album called Santamental. Which features a lot of guests, so it’s listed as Steve Lukather and Friends. One of those guests is Eddie Van Halen on the first track.
After an instrumental presentation of the song, there’s a long soloing section featuring alternating solos between Luke and Eddie for a total of 6. This is probably the coolest and craziest version of Joy to the World you’ll ever hear.
I’m including this song, because it’s actually a modern, original Christmas song that perfectly mimics that traditional Christmas feel. Honestly, I thought it was a traditional Christmas song until I read in his book that he wrote it with help from a friend.
In 2008 he released Ever-Changing Times. Overall it is a good collection of rock songs and ballads, but I can’t choose a song that really stands out.
In 2010 he released All’s Well That Ends Well, which is a similarly excellent piece of work.
Again, Luke brings it as more than just a guitar player but as a singer and lyricist as well. He also got excellent keyboard work done. That additional guitar track at 0:46 was a brilliant addition. He starts a solo at 2:43 and just kills it. Another great solo in a great song.
He’s got himself a nice little riff going on this one with some masterful soloing starting at 2:56.
Finally, his solo career stops in 2013 at this point with an album simply named Transition. This guy puts out great stuff now and this is another overall great effort. The nine-track album starts off with 3 negative songs. The first two are about all the hate spewed on the internet by keyboard warriors, and the third about getting divorced. It’s followed up by a song called Right the Wrong and then the title track, Transition. There are then two positive songs and a love song written by a friend who gave him permission to use it. Finally, it ends on an instrumental cover of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile. I leave you with the opening track.
I kept my coverage of the solo albums pretty brief. I’m sure I left out some great work and great solos, and really, I would recommend checking out the full albums from 2008 to 2013 if you like a wide variety music with excellent musicianship. If you know more about Toto than me, you can contribute some Toto songs and moments I haven’t heard yet.