2010’s All’s Well That Ends Well suffered from a fundamental identity crisis as it limped from one tone and one mood to the next. There were a handful of inspiring instrumentals and a selection of slick melodic hooks, but the album rarely fired on all cylinders. Lukather felt most at home (and most essential) when he assaulted celebrity culture, political vitriol and the impersonal distance fostered in the Internet age. His frustration boiled over and it gave his playing a sense of urgency and direction.
Unsurprisingly, Lukather’s 7th solo album Transitions picks up where “Brody’s” and “Flash In The Pan” left off. The former Toto frontman’s vocals might be smooth but his subject matter touches a raw nerve. The idea of a wise old head sitting back aghast at the extremes of society certainly has potential, and “Right The Wrong” feels timely. Lukather’s nostalgic reflection “Remember When, Before The Age Of Virtual Friends, People Looked Into Each Other’s Eyes” mirrors the feelings of an entire generation of Americans who are struggling to comprehend how one of their nation’s most inspiring sporting icons could possibly have entered into a four year loving relationship with a fictitious online girlfriend.
Tapping into a growing generational divide alone is not enough. If you’re going to risk sounding like a crotchety old grump you have to give modern culture hell – punches must not be pulled. Instead of ripping the 21st century a new one Lukather’s easy style is happy to sway and saunter. “Creep Motel” pussyfoots around employing painfully stilted humour while “Last Man Standing” fails to conjure the feeling of finality expressed in the song’s lyrics.
Perhaps, Lukather was aiming for a level-headed approach. He despairs at vitriolic nonsense so it stands to reason that his solos and vocals would preserve an even keel. “Right The Wrong” certainly offers a pleasing alternative to tub-thumping post-hardcore, but when it comes time for a Springsteenian rallying cry Lukather is overcome by lethargy. “Do I Stand Alone” is lifeless. It’s supposed to be a vital call to arms designed to incite civil unrest, but sadly it’s so glossy and placid that it makes brainless submission seem oddly appealing.
A sprinkling of intriguing solos and virtuoso sequences are buried between the underwhelming outrage and the dreary dated ballads, but they prove too few and far between. The instrumental title track captures a sense of malaise and “Rest Of The World” provides a satisfying conclusion without injecting either the energy or the excitement required to salvage Transition. Lukather remains a consummate professional who has mastered a silky, soothing tone that sadly stifles the irritation and urgency he’s desperate to express.
Buy If: You enjoyed a taster of Lukather’s displeasure and are in the mood for the main course.
Skip If: You want to be roused into action.
Best Track: “Right The Wrong”
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