In June 2002 Lukather started the recordings for a solo album with jazz-rock style covers of classic and brand new Xmas songs, (re)arranged by Luke himself and Jeff Babko. The album (almost entirely instrumental) also will contain two new songs as a surprise gift. It's not the first time Luke recorded Xmas songs. In 1997 and 1998 Luke contributed to The carols of Christmas 2 and Merry Axemas 2 (produced by Steve Vai). Check out the covers section for the soundclips.
Lukather in June: "Well... I am starting June 17th for 7 days at the Steakhouse. It's tentatively titled A Lukey Xmas. The arrangements are awesome. Mostly instrumental stuff with a few vocals. I am having a few guests as well. Edgar Winter, Slash, Mike Landau. My son Trevor confirmed so far. There will be more and few big surprises. Elliot Scheiner is producing and engineering for the new label that he and Al Schmitt started and I think I am the first act on the label. The CD will be out late September for Xmas. A nice stocking stuffer for sure! Hahaha."
After the recordings Lukather decided to change the album title in Santamental. One of the special guests on the album is Eddie Van Halen. Lukather in July: "Ed and I have been friends for 24 years or so. I got him out of seclusion to come rip on one of the Xmas tunes." Van Halen joins Lukather on a rendition of the standard Joy to the world that Lukather tells will sound a bit different than what most people are used to: "I did a version of Joy to the world that sounds like it's Hot for teacher or Space boogie. It's that tempo, that groove, and we re-arranged the voicings around the melody. Me and him go back and forth on some solos."
Santamental is supposed to be the first album released by the new record label Bop City, started by Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt and Ed Cherney. Scheiner in August: "Four or five years ago, we got the idea to start an artist-friendly jazz label. We wanted to treat the artists more fairly than they've been treated before, like the original concept of United Artists, where artists share in the profits."
As for recording, Cherney looks forward to a traditional approach, with live musicians playing music together at the same time. "That's what we love to do most," he says. "Today a lot of music is done one instrument at a time on a computer. Our label can be a means for us to make music the way that inspires us the most, with live interplay."
In the first week of September it became obvious that the original release date (September 2002) had to be postponed. Lukather in September: "My Xmas CD is being held till next year due to a distribution fuck up. I am bummed but you can't release a Xmas record in January, hahaha. There is no time left and no marketing plan etc... Everyone will have to wait till October next year to get it, but it will be worth the wait."
Lukather about the essence of the album in Gitarre & Bass, November 2002: "Actually it's a pretty funny album, with traditional standards that we really mixed up. I sampled, for example, the vocals of Sammy Davis Jr. and made a duet with him (Jingle bells). The album sounds like a Big Band based on Weather Report, Frank Zappa and Van Halen."
Lukather in December 2002: "I did my new Christmas record in six days - all analog on a 24-track, no click. Old school. Ninety percent of the solos were live, except for the guests who played on it."
Lukather about Van Halen (Toto99.com August 2003): "Eddie and I , and Alex for that matter, are very good pals. We hang and talk all the time. They have an amazing record in the can and they are still lookig for THE lead singer. I have sung backgrounds on a few of there records and yes, they asked me to help out on the new one at some point. I dont know WHEN that will be and they are candid about it all so I dont want to say too much but even IF they did ask me I don't think I am the right guy nor would I want the media heat and hate that would come my way IF such a thing actually happened. It is sometimes very difficult to mix business and friendship. I would rather stay friends. Ed and I play together on my Xmas record that is coming in Octobe, and I will always jam with the guys when asked and vice versa. I am a HUGE VH fan!"
Lukather in August 2003 (On Toto99.com): "Santamental is FINALLY coming out! It took some doing, but it's late October with a September pre-release so we can still make the Grammy cut-off. That is rather presumptuous BUT what the fuc, hahaha. There is alot on the table now and we are touring so much. I will eventually do another solo record and probably-hopefully do another with Larry Carlton as well. I am VERY fortunate to have so many oportunities and I will take advantage of them all when time allows."
Destined to become a classic, the album is specially packaged in an 4-panel Digipak.
The album is released in Europe by ulfTone Music on October 13th 2003. Distributors are Edel Distribution (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Bertus Distributie (Netherlands, Belgium), Night & Day Distribution (France), Border Music (Scandinavia), Cargo Distribution (UK), Mastertrax (Spain).
All songs arranged by Jeff Babko & Steve Lukather, except (11) arranged by Larry Carlton & Steve Lukather
Buy the album at ulfTone Music (world)
or at PopEye (Holland).
Steve Lukather: guitars, voacals
Trevor Lukather: guitar power chords (4)
Eddie Van Halen: guitar (1, 2nd & 4th solo)
Slash: guitar (5)
Steve Vai: guitar (4, 3rd solo)
Mike Landau: guitar (8, 1st solo)
Edgar Winter: vocals, sax(7)
Jeff Babko: keyboards, trombone, organ, rhodes, horns
John Pierce: bass
Scott Hamilton: sax
Walt Fowler: trumpet
George Shelby: sax
Greg Bissonette: drums, trumpet
Lenny Castro: percussion
Simon Phillips: tambourine (1)
Produced by Elliot Scheiner and Steve Lukather
The album is released in Europe by ulfTone Music on October 13th 2003. Distributors are Edel Distribution (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), Bertus Distributie (Netherlands, Belgium), Night & Day Distribution (France), Border Music (Scandinavia), Cargo Distribution (UK), Mastertrax (Spain). In the USA and Canada the album is released by Bop City Records and in Japan by JVC.