Longtime L.A. studio guitarists and friends Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather lead a quintet rounded out with keyboards, bass, and drums on five instrumental tracks recorded live in Osaka, Japan.
No Substitutions opens with the Jeff Beck tune "The Pump," featuring repeated guitar solos over a long, static bass groove of steady eighth notes. After a blissfully contrasting quiet middle section, the song plods on to its total length of over 14 minutes. The next track, a 12:8 shuffle called "Don't Give Up," is just as dull, only in a different rhythm and with a blues chord progression. The slight funk they insert into a slowed down cover of the Miles classic "All Blues" just drags out a strident and tedious rendition of this tune, that other rock guitarists like Gibb Droll have covered with passion and delicacy.
The band feels rigid, particularly Chris Kent on bass, and the music lacks any sense of interaction between the musicians that should be present in a live situation. The two guitarists dominate the sound, over keyboards mixed too low to add much tonal contrast, save a refreshing piano solo in "Don't Give Up." When Carlton switches to a clean tone, his subtle touch outclasses Lukather's distorted honk and flashy chops, but most of his distorted lead playing feels just as dreary as Lukather's.
No Substitutions sounds like a rock band trying to play in a jazz or fusion format, with long vamps and solos going around the band. The stiff interpretations of these extended jams and the focus on the dull playing by both guitarists fail to convey any spark these musicians might have had in this live setting. On the back of the record, Favored Nations label president Steve Vai says "This is the kind of music that real guitar lovers live for." Maybe, if you like repetitive guitar solos over unimaginative grooves, but it isn't the kind of music that real _music_ lovers live for.
More Info: http://www.favorednations.com/artists/larryluke/carlton_lukather.html
Track Listing: 1. The Pump, 2. Don't Give It Up, 3. (It Was) Only Yesterday, 4. All Blues, 5. Room 335.
Personnel: Larry Carlton - Guitar, Steve Lukather - Guitar, Gregg Bissonette - Drums, Chris Kent - Bass, Rick Jackson - Keyboards.