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No Substitutions – Live in Osaka marks the first live performance collaboration by these seminal Southern California-based studio guitarists and group leaders. Guitarist Steve Lukather’s long term involvement with the pop band, “TOTO” amid countless sessions has made him perhaps one of the busiest and most sought after musicians on the West Coast, as the same could be stated for guitarist Larry Carlton. According to the public relations information: “The combined sales totals of the albums that Carlton and Lukather have performed on over the years is staggering, in the hundreds of millions by conservative estimates”. No doubt, there are substantial reasons why Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell call upon these two stylish veterans to grace their recordings yet in most instances, the guitarists are simply adding their estimable goods to other artists concepts and orchestrations.
With this release, the twosome garners strong support from drummer Gregg Bissonette, bassist Chris Kent and keyboardist Rick Jackson as the musicians let their hair down in front of the recognizably receptive Japanese audiences. And while some might assume that this recording is all about flashy pyrotechnics and slick picking burners, that notion perhaps represents the antithesis of this production. Here, the duo renders compassionate lines and bluesy choruses while also exhibiting a flair for the dynamic atop a multitude of disparate interludes, whether bold and raucous or quietly subdued in scope and demeanor.
Larry Carlton’s lyrically rich and euphonic “Room 335” reaps a mild overhaul thanks to the twin lead attack while the band commences the set with a blistering fourteen minute version of Jeff Beck’s “The Pump”. Essentially, No Substitutions presents the listener with a bit more than a nuts and bolts approach, as the guitarists perform either exuberantly or tenderly atop the often burgeoning funk/rock backbeats and shifting momentum. Hence, students of the guitar may derive some additional value here, as Carlton and Lukather also demonstrate the virtues of restraint and nuance! Recommended!