Steve Lukather: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Steve Lukather: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Photo courtesy of Steve Lukather – Photography by Jun Sato.

Hailing from San Fernando Valley, California, Steve Lukather’s personality is as cool, calm, and collected as his iconic solos, riffs, and licks. Most know him as the backbone of AOR staples, Toto, whose classic songs include “Hold the Line,” “Africa,” and “Rosana,” making up just a tiny portion of a discography that’s amounted to 14 studio albums, several Grammy Awards, and 40 million records sold worldwide.

If we look beyond Toto, Lukather’s session work, which includes, but is not limited to, records like Boz Scaggs on 1977’s Down Two Then Left, Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller, and Eric Clapton’s 1984 effort Around the Sun, might be even more impressive.

Those exploits aside, Lukather is still at it, releasing wonderful solo records, the latest of which is Bridges (2023), which harkens back to Toto’s sound and even features a few old friends in Joseph Williams, David Paich, Leland Sklar, Simon Phillips, and of course, Lukather’s son, Trev Lukather, who is a gifted guitarist and songwriter in his own right.

Given the breadth of his catalog and the myriad of styles he’s undertaken, it goes without saying that Steve Lukather’s listening habits are eclectic. To that end, during a break in the action, Steve Lukather beamed in with to run through the ten albums that changed his life.

# 10 – Meet the Beatles by The Beatles (1964)

This was the “On” switch to my life. George Harrison’s solo on “I Saw Her Standing There” changed everything. I realize that for kids today, it would be way too easy, but at that time, there was no sound like it to my ears. But I wanted to make that noise. And then, there’s the songs on the whole record, which never get old—not ever!

# 9 –  Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix (1967)

From the opening riff of “Purple Haze,” this record was akin to aliens landing in your backyard. It was simply mind-blowing, otherworldly music and sounds. I wore this record out. This album started my lifelong love of all things Jimi. No one sounded remotely close to this at the time or since, in my opinion.

# 8 – Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin (1969)

This came during the summer of 6th going into 7th grade for me. This was some new sound. I was heavy before we used that word to describe certain forms of music. Jimmy Page’s solos, riffs, and the bow were all “first-time” sounds for me. And really, the sounds on the whole album, like John Bonham’s drums and the unsung but genius ass and keyboard playing of John Paul Jones, and then you add Robert Plant singing the blues like no one before him, it was terrific.

# 7 – Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)

It was hard to pick just one Pink Floyd record, as they all mean so much to me. David Gilmour is a lifelong hero, and he really hugely influenced my ears. His playing, guitar sounds, taste, feel, and note choices are all one of a kind. David is one of the few guys who can come on stage and hit one bend, and the crowd, all the way to the nosebleed seats, is on their feet screaming.

# 6 – Close to the Edge by Yes (1972)

This is the greatest prog-rock piece ever written, in my opinion. And man, Steve Howe was a hero of mine back then. There was no one like him, and the band was so tight. I saw them live many times in the old days and saw the Close to the Edge tour, too. They sounded just like the record, and man, there was no fakery possible than it was in the band, which was very cool. The live production, just everything, the live sound, the album sounds; all of it was insanely cool! This album is truly genius, and everyone shines on it. It’s timeless music!

# 5 – Yer’ Album by The James Gang (1969)

This is one of my Desert Island disks. It was so ahead of its time in every way. The writing and playing are great. And Jim Fox is on killer drums, and Tom Kriss is on bass for this one. And the amazing Bill Szymczyk’s sound and production are superb. That aside, Joe Walsh is a lifelong guitar hero of mine, and I loved this band and saw them every time they played L.A. This disk is also sonically way ahead of its time. It’s on fire!

# 4 – The Royal Scam by Steely Dan (1976)

This was a massive influence on me. I have loved every Steely Dan record, and the amazing writing, playing, and production are world-class—the best of the best players on every song. The biggest one was Larry Carlton on this record. I heard bebop kind of licks with a rock sound, which hit me like a ton of bricks. And Night Fly by Donald Fagan gets an honorable mention because it is just a legendary piece of work in every way.

# 3 – Birds of Fire by Mahavishnu Orchestra (1973)

This music was so intense that it scared me the first time I heard it. I had to wrap my head around the music, writing, and virtuosity. Seriously, no one sounded like this. John McLaughlin is a madman in the best sense of the word. Coming from a place no one had, the chops were off the charts. This was really pushing the boundaries at the time. Honorable mention to Return to Forever with Al DiMeola Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, whom I saw live in 1975. Wow, that is all I gotta say regarding the fantastic compositions, soloing, etc.

# 2 – Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop by Jeff Beck (1989)

For starters, all of Jeff Beck’s records rule. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll go with it because this one is very special to me. Jeff’s playing had evolved into what we revered, and he was a one-of-a-kind player I watched up close many times. But Jeff Beck did not think, play, or sound like anyone else before him, and his shoes will never be filled. Jeff was the best of the best. Ask anyone.

# 1 – Van Halen by Van Halen (1978)

Like I have to explain this choice? This record changed everything! Like most on this list, Eddie was one of a kind, but Ed hit the scene, and everyone stopped. Here was a world-class rock band with great songs and a virtuoso on guitar in a way I and we had never heard before. Eddie was, is, and always will be a trailblazer who blew our minds, and the music was also fun!

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Rob De Luca of Spread Eagle, Sebastian Bach & UFO: 10 Albums That Changed My Life From humble East Coast origins to grandest stages worldwide, veteran bassist Rob De Luca has seen and done it all. De Luca first hit the local Boston rock and metal scene in the late 80s after meeting guitarist Paul DiBartolo, bonding over Van Halen before forming Bang. Regional success came quickly, but eventually, the members of Bang went their separate ways, with De Luca and drummer Tommi Gallo heading to NYC and hooking up with Ray West and, later, DiBartolo to form Spread Eagle. By 1990, Spread Eagle was on the fast track, with a contract through MCA Records and a self-titled debut album poised to crush skulls. But poor timing and MCA's sad indifference left Spead Eagle out in the cold despite being a hard-boiled answer to Guns N' Roses's West Coast sleaze. Spread Eagle's first chapter came to an end in '95. As for Rob De Luca, his nimble fingers and gift for melody and songwriting kept him moving forward. Soon, he found a gig with former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach and the legendary outfit UFO. And in 2010, after coupling up with Ray West and his cousin Rik De Luca, Spread Eagle retook flight. During a break from Spread Eagle's increasingly busy touring schedule, Rob De Luca dialed in with to run through the ten albums that changed his life. But only after adding, "I made a playlist of these songs, including some I've written or co-written. Do you hear any of these albums' influence on me?" Listen here: 10) Gentlemen by Afghan Whigs (1993) Here's an entry that was so important to me. This may be the darkest break-up album of all time. Greg Dulli has been in many projects, but I feel Gentlemen is his zenith. Somewhat undefinable at times but always profound and honest. Listen to "Gentlemen," "Fountain and Fairfax," and "What Jail Is Like." 9) In on the Kill Taker by Fugazi (1993) By this time, I had been sucked in and spit out by the major-label record industry. Glam came and went; grunge was history, too. I was searching for new sounds. When I heard Fugazi's twin guitar approach, I knew this was what was missing. Fugazi may be considered a less polished sound than the albums above; however, once you "get it," it hits you like a ton of bricks, and there's no going back. From the moment I heard Fugazi, I went to every NYC show after. It's easily some of the best concerts of my life, and possibly my favorite bassist in Joe Lally. And their DIY ethics refused to charge us more than $5 a show! In on the Kill Taker is a powerful album demonstrated in songs such as "Smallpox Champion," "Great Cop," and "Public Witness Program." 8) Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses (1987) I discovered many of these albums (sometimes long) after they were released. However, I was at the right place at the right time for this one. Steve Ostromogilsky had a Berklee College of Music lunch card and used to sneak out sandwiches for me. One day, he invited me to hang out at his place and listen to music. As we got off the train, he put Sony Walkman headphones on my ears and said, "Hey, check out this brand-new group." A song like "It's So Easy" was so different from the popular Sunset Strip sound at that time. Me and about 499 other informed rockers were lucky enough to see them on their first East Coast tour at the sold-out Paradise on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston (the same street Aerosmith started on). I saw Gn'R every tour after until I took a break when Buckethead joined. Gn'R is the band I've been lucky enough to see the most times live, almost 100! Everyone on this album is just stellar. Axl [Rose] had the tones, power, melodic sensibilities, and foresight to do what no other singer did then. Slash's playing was beyond memorable. Duff [McKagan] is one of the most underrated bassists in rock history, and learning his Appetite basslines is a masterclass. Steven [Adler] had the natural swing, and Izzy [Stradlin] was the secret weapon songwriter. Everything that's been heralded about this gem is deserved and true. Check out "It's So Easy," "Out Ta Get Me," and "Mr. Brownstone.' 7) Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd (1975) Another contender for my favorite album and band of all time. Using The Beatles machine (same recording studio, engineer, record label), Pink Floyd made what I feel is their strongest, most cohesive album (my second favorite of theirs would be Animals). This list mainly consists of bands with an instantly recognizable sound. Floyd is certainly no exception to that! This album included a solid handful of undeniable rock radio classics, bookended by two halves of the mind-blowing song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond.' That song was written about former band member and founder Syd Barrett. It would be hard to live in a world without this album. Check out "Welcome to The Machine," "Shine on You Crazy Diamond (parts 6-9),' or even better yet, listen to the whole thing in one sitting! 6) Decade by Neil Young (1977) About this time, I started playing guitar. As a beginner, it was comfortable jamming to this album because the chord changes were simple—a great "first ten years" retrospective of Neil's stunning, unique songwriting. Neil is a treasure who always writes from the heart and stands up for what's right. Check out "Southern Man," "A Man Needs a Maid," "Down by The River," and "After the Goldrush." 5) Highway to Hell by AC/DC (1979) When I heard this album, I was firmly "me." My life would be 100% focused on hard rock music forever. AC/DC are like air; they're ubiquitous. Everyone knows them and their incredible songs. 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I'll never forget it! Unfortunately, Bon would be gone in 6 months. Check out "Walk All Over You," "Touch Too Much," "Shot Down in Flames," and "If You Want Blood (You Got It)." 4) Toys in the Attic by Aerosmith (1975) By the time I heard this, I was now in my teens. I had a childhood friend up the street, Jim Linberg (we're still good buddies). His older sister had a great album collection, including Toys in The Attic. Once I heard that groove, my taste changed. I lost interest in rock music that didn't have some sort of "swing" feel to it. I think Rocks is a slightly better Aerosmith album (and possibly my favorite album of all time), but both are perfect or very close. Check out "Uncle Salty," "Adam's Apple," "No More No More," "Round and Round," and "You See Me Crying." 3) Alive! by Kiss (1975) When I was still a little kid, I asked for Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke album for Christmas. The entire family came over for an enormous feast, and I dropped the needle. When my mother heard the content, she turned off the album and said I had to exchange it. My mom was cool, but I was young and knew much more about life than she suspected. Anyway, the next day, she drove me back to the store. In the music section, promoted on an "endcap" was a Kiss Alive! display. I had never heard of Kiss, but that cover picture told me I had to have it! My first foray into hard rock. Check out “Strutter.” I went through my Kiss phase very quickly, I believe in a matter of months because I discovered the previous entry, Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic. 2) Honky Chateau by Elton John (1972) When I was a wee lad, my parents bought a used Volkswagen camper van from my uncle Ozzie. My favorite Elton John album is Yellow Brick Road, but Honky Chateau is great and easily one of his best. It sent me down a lifelong rabbit hole of loving everything about the 1970s partnership between Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin. 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