Lukather and Friends, Steve - SantaMental

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Favored Nations
Catalog Number: FN2540-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:28:00

The last week of December may be the most "wonderful time of the year," but it's also the time of year when everywhere you go - everywhere - there's Christmas music playing. Fast food restaurants, department stores, gas stations, elevators, co-workers' offices ... everywhere. And this starts in July! Okay, it doesn't, but the whole "Christmas push" seems to start something like right after Labor Day (first part of September), pausing only to promote Hallowe'en. For me, this gets to be a bit much - for so many reasons, but let's just mention weary repetition.... It's enough to make me want to play some black metal or something .. or burst into that co-worker's office and start singing my own Christmas renditions. I do not sing well at all... thus, this would be as much fun for them as the incessant Christmas music is for me. So I don't listen to Christmas music until just about the week of the holiday itself. My staples over the past few years have been varied - Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Russ Freeman, David Benoit, Barbra Streisand and Mannheim Steamroller (with alternating insertions of a few others including Anne Murray, John Boswell, editions of the A Very Merry Christmas series ...others).

This year instituted a new tradition - Steve Lukather and Friends' SantaMental. Fiery guitar solos; brassy sax and trumpets; a mix of jazz and guitar rock, it's the kind of Christmas album that doesn't become treacly or wearying... except in that good, I'm so exhausted from air-guitaring kind of way. It's a fun time giving the holiday favorites a new twist.

The idea for the CD was born in 2002, and, as Lukather says on the special SantaMental website (linked below) and in the liner notes - the album was recorded in 6 days, no rehearsals, no computers, no click tracks... and the results are pretty amazing, even more so with that in mind. This was originally released in late 2003, to coincide with Christmas 'natch (not in July; remember I was only kidding about that... I think) -- October to be exact -- but gets a new issuance this year from Favored Nations, guitarist Steve Vai's label, who sent it our way to review. Vai appears on "Carol Of The Bells," the fourth track in. The other Friends involved are many - Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Babko, Edgar Winter, Gregg Bissonette, Slash, John Pierce, Simon Phillips, Lenny Castro, and others, including Lukather's son Trevor.

Included amongst the refashioned holiday classics - a searing "Joy To The World," a jazzy "Greensleeves" (including some tasty Rhodes piano from Jeff Babko, sax from Edgar Winter, and throaty guitar leads from Lukather), "Angels We Have Heard On High," and "Silent Night" (lovely and emotive, Lukather's guitar tone sweet and warm) -- are two originals - "Broken Hearted Christmas" and, what I think is the better of the two, "Look Out For Angels"... The first is a funky-blusey strutting piece, with music by Lukather, lyrics by Stan Lynch, and guest guitar from Slash. The latter is a mellower piece, written and arranged by Lukather and his cohort in this project, Babko (who plays a variety of instruments including keyboards, horns, and synths). Lukather sings lead and has a rough and husky voice, that - interesting enough - made me think of those Trans-Siberian Orchestra albums, though musically this has more a mid-west feel... Bruce Hornsby-like, I guess you could say. Quite nice.

With the sampled vocals of the late Sammy Davis, Jr., and vocals from Lukather, we get a big band jazz version of "Jingle Bells" that truly recalls the heyday of the Rat Pack. On "Winter Wonderland" Lukather and Edgar Winter share vocals, and Winter also guests on sax (also on sax is George Shelby, Walt Fowler on trumpet). Listen carefully and I think you'll find some words have been changed a bit; and humourously, methinks.

One of my favorite holiday songs is "Carol Of The Bells" - Lukather's jazzy version is all instrumental with the exception of some subtle "Merry, Merry Merry Christmas" vocals from Babko and Lukather that sound more like an engine revving than vocals. It also features a Rhodes solo from Babko, followed by a Babko guitar solo... and some taut, rolling drums from Bissonette; the guitar "power chords" here are performed by Trevor.

The bonus track is a version of "The Christmas Song" arranged by Lukather with Larry Carlton and features "just" guitar - a round, open, and fat sound that reverberates throughout.

Yeh, I'd have to say, this made the Christmas listening period much more fun (not to take anything away from my staples, mind; they got almost equal playing this year). It's going to sound... trite or hyperbolic to say, but this is a Christmas collection you want in your collection - it's cool, it's hip, it's fun, it rocks, it swings... so, have yourself a merry little Christmas with Steve Lukather and Friends and friends. And if even Christmas isn't your holiday, for whatever reason (it really isn't mine, either), I think you'll enjoy the energy and performances brought to these pieces.

Joy To The World / Greensleeves / Jingle Bells / Carol Of The Bells / Broken Heart For Christmas / Angels We Have Heard On High / Winter Wonderland / Look Out For Angels / Silent Night / The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)

Steve Lukather - guitars, vocals


Jeff Babko- keyboards, Rhodes, synthesizers, piano, trombone, organ, horns
Greg Bissonette - drums, trumpet
Lenny Castro - percussion
John Pierce - bass
Walt Fowler - trumpet (3, 7)
Scott Hamilton - sax; background vocals (3)
Mike Landau - guitar (8, 1st solo)
Trevor Lukather - guitar power chords (4)
Simon Phillips - tambourine (1)
George Shelby - sax (3, 7)
Slash - guitar (5)
Steve Vai - guitar (4, 3rd solo)
Eddie Van Halen - guitar (1, 2nd & 4th solo)
Edgar Winter - vocals and sax (7)

Toto - Toto (1978)
Toto - Hydra (1979)
Toto - Turn Back (1981)
Toto - IV (1982)
Toto - Isolation (1984)
Toto - Dune (1984)
Toto - Farenheit (1986)
Toto - The Seventh One (1988)
Lukather (1989)
Toto - Past To Present (1990)
Toto - Kingdom Of Desire (1992)
Toto - Absolutely Live (1993)
Candyman (1994)
Toto - Tambu (1995)
Luke (1997)
Toto - XX (1998)
Toto - Mindfields (1999)
Toto - Livefields (1999)
No Substitutions (w/Larry Carlton) (2001)
Toto - Through The Looking Glass (2002)
SantaMental (2003/2005)
Toto - 25th Anniversary Live In Amsterdam (2003)
El Grupo Live (w/El Grupo) (2005)
Toto - Falling In Between (2006)

Genre: Rock

Origin US

Added: December 28th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1024
Language: english


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