Nine solo studio albums, however many Toto has sold by the truckload, and countless hi-fidelity session guitar performances with some of the top performers in the music business in a several decade career. It’s not as if Steve Lukather has anything to prove. But here he is, with a new album, because that’s what musicians do; they make music.
Toto as a recording outfit are no more, and I’m sure there’s some legal reason for that but it’s not today’s concern. Thus, this is about the closest you’re going to get because the guitarist has brought on a whole bunch of guys from that band to co-write numbers and play on tracks, thus attesting that friendships made in years gone by still count or are being rekindled here, as indicated in the record’s title being Bridges.
Is the material representative of that band? Well, sort of, but not always, and more about quality of sound technique and sophistication brought to bear on the actual recordings. It’s a coastline away from being yacht rock, but to both port and starboard you can make out The Royal Scam-era Steely Dan and Boz Scaggs, whose records many of his old band played on.
What we get are songs, not big raving ego-maniac solos; not that there’s necessarily anything wrong them, in fact Lukather reins himself in more than he needs. What’s a most pleasant surprise for this listener is that Lukather comes across rather well vocally, in a gruff but earnest manner – for some reason I’ve fell upon several filmed interviews with him recently and for a Californian he sure comes across as someone with that stereotypical New Jersey lazy brogue, or maybe that’s just been my wax-filled Brummie ears.
Heading out on a family-friendly fusion riff-and-a-half bounces ‘Far From Over’, some lowkey funking while guitar melody alights something of a Beatles feel about it – Lukather is also a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band, and I get the impression, that aside from his own experiences, working with one of the Fab Four has further reinforced the importance of ensuring the kitchen sink is well-plumbed, not overtight, if giving a song everything you can. The song’s statement of intent being he ain’t over the hill yet, and we join in amiably in our rockers’ equivalent of the time-honoured daddy dance, the music meshing rather well between assorted repeats of its main sections. Fatter-assed with a more strident walking-right-atcha with a baseball bat in my hand riff between more white-funk and Abbey Road psych-pop is ‘Not My Kind Of People’, which again is likely to appeal to age-related fans’ sociological frame of mind with some knuckle-clenched lyrics.
Clock-ticking, ambient prog with a celestial bent not a million miles removed from Tears For Fears but so too, a little, The Police. Where previously there was anger and exasperation here in ‘Someone’ there is the intent of optimism. Frustration stirs lyrically in the ballad ‘All Forevers Must End’ however it’s a minor song as delivered here, and you suspect that given to a female, be that Celine Dion, Tina Turner or some lesser talent it would be a hit 20 years or so back.
But then we get ‘When I See You Again. A real charmer, the kind of tune you cruise down to the beach with the top down as it blasts out the car. There’s an initial thrust that comes from that that AOR place ‘90s Genesis cornered, but with more oomph and drive, then it spreads its wings and flies like some lost Todd Rundgren gem with vocal and guitar hooks aplenty, crushingly near-seductive minor asides, and a tasty anthemic guitar solo. This is why God in his infinite wisdom gave us both rock ‘n roll and pop music, then left it down to us mere mortals if we made good on that gift.
‘Take My Love’ is basically a slow blues number with a Steely Dan groove, even more so vocally title track ‘Burning Bridges’ where the piano delivers a brisker roll, and featuring a sharper pinched guitar sound. Creamy, a little warm and dreamy as it floats in prog pop waters is final number ‘I’ll Never Know’, that kind of says it all, as many of the song titles do so; no matter how old we get, the wiser we think we get, were constantly facing challenges, some we can fix, others aren’t worth the fight and we have to let them wash over us.
Eight songs that dance through the rock, pop, prog, funk, soul and all those other genres Steve Lukather and the members of Toto present here have been doing most of their adult life. They’re not going to change your life, but listening to them just might help your day pass that little bit easier, and there’s some that could have you smiling as you find yourself singing along.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Bridges is released via The Players Club/Mascot Label Group and is available here.
- Official Website
- 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