Steve Lukather, “Right the Wrong” from Transition (2013): Exclusive Something Else! stream

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Toto’s Steve Lukather returns with Transition, perhaps his most confessional, hardest-rocking solo album ever, on January 21, 2013 from Mascot Records. Check out an exclusive stream of its first single “Right the Wrong” here!

One of the project’s more direct connective moments with Lukather’s soaring history of balladry as a co-founder of Toto, “Right the Wrong” was written by Steve along with Transition co-producer CJ Vanston and Lukather’s son Trev. Chad Smith, a newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, sits in on drums.

Smith is actually part of an all-star group of guests, in keeping with Lukather’s status as one of pop music’s most in-demand sessions guitarists: Also featured on Transition are bassists Leland Sklar, Nathan East and Tal Wilkenfeld; keyboardist Steve Weingart; drummer Gregg Bissonette; backing vocalists Phil Collen and Richard Page; and percussionist Lenny Castro.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Steve Lukather says he “dug deep” during the creative phase of what would become his seventh solo album away from Toto, yet he was intent on keeping it to the point.]

Transition actually works, Lukather says, as the third and final installment in a trilogy of albums that began with Ever Changing Times in 2008 and continued through All’s Well that Ends Well in 2010. That sense of continuity can be found even among the guest performers: Vanston, Weingart, Castro, Collen and Trevor Lukather have worked on both of Steve’s most recent solo recordings. Sklar contributed to Ever Changing Times, as well.

The new album was then demoed sequentially — something else that gives Transition this personal, narrative feel.

Up next for Lukather, a five-time Grammy award honoree and sideman on more than 2,000 projects, is another guest spot with the 2012-2013 edition of the All-Starr Band along the Pacific Rim. Lukather will then make a series of stops both as a solo artist and with Toto throughout 2013 in Europe.

An in-depth look into his stirring new project follows from Nick DeRiso …

Steve Lukather has, over the last few years, made a considered effort to embrace the underrated command of popular genres that made his band Toto such an ear-wormy pleasure. Transition adds a personal undertow.

Scratch the surface, and I’m not sure the guitarist has issued a solo album that feels more personal, more introspective, more real.

That said, Transition — due January 21, 2013 from the Mascot Label Group — hits all of the musical marks. From the AOR crunch of “Judgement Day,” to classic heart-filling balladry of “Once Again,” to the wide-open spaces of his album-closing instrumental “Smile,” Lukather continues reclaiming his portion of Toto’s legacy, even as he consistently reminds you of what made him a first-call sessions player over the same time frame.

“Judgement Day,” after a fun prog-influenced keyboard interlude, features a solo as anthematic — wind swept, tensile and then soaring — as any he’s ever unleashed. Elsewhere, Lukather explores a bluesy grit on tracks like “Creep Motel” and “Rest of the World.” The title track unfolds with a fleet aggression that finds a home somewhere between math rock and fusion jazz. “Right the Wrong,” an approachable mixture of pop, R&B and rock styles, might be the best song that Toto hasn’t yet issued.

But you can’t get away from Lukather’s angry admonitions, his devastating confessions, his brutal honesty on Transition.

The album’s language is that of someone with difficult questions about thorny issues, someone coming to terms and, maybe just as importantly, someone moving on: He laments broken promises of hope and change on “Right the Wrong.” In a moment of quiet resignation on “Once Again,” he adds: “My broken heart, it bleeds; I really must concede that it’s over now.” But he gathers himself once more within moments like “Judgement Day,” with its memorable song-turning phrase: “The table’s turned.”

One of the more deeply resonant tracks is “Last Man Standing,” which feels like a direct reference to the seasons of loss that Toto has experienced with the departure of two Porcaro brothers. There, Lukather wonders: “Is the end worth waiting for?,” then exclaims, before launching into a solo filled with a melancholy both searching and scalding: “Just show me the truth.” The unabashedly patriotic “Do I Stand Alone” might be the yin to that song’s ruminative yang, as Lukather leaps into a determined riff — and an even more determined theme.

And that sense of perseverance, finally, feels like the broader message of Transition, something embedded in its very title. Having established himself apart from the legendary band he co-founded, and all of the many sideman gigs that helped bolster his career, Lukather seems ready finally to write with the same revelatory honesty that has always marked his guitar playing.

The results are a triumph — over adversity, over expectations, over time. Steve Lukather may have just made his best record ever.

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