Favored Nations
Release date: October 7, 2003

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Be warned, Dear Listener, Steve Lukather’s SantaMental is not your grandmother’s Christmas record … and it isn’t the Pop-infused offerings that have become so popular with the “A Very Special Christmas” series. This is a serious Rock/Fusion take on the traditional carols of old. If the name Steve Lukather hasn’t already enticed the guitar player in you, then maybe names like Steve Vai, Slash and Eddie Van Halen will peak your interest.

Lukather is best known as a studio mainstay and the guitarist for Toto; chances are, even if you have never heard his name, you have heard Steve’s work on the radio. The album was originally released in 2003, but is now being given wider distribution on the Favored Nations label. Besides the traditional standards, Steve demonstrates his superior songwriting skills with two original numbers. “Broken Heart for Christmas” is a killer Bluesy Rock number with Steve handling the alley-cat-wailing vocals, giving the song it’s authentic down-and-out feel. “Look Out for Angels” is a catchy Pop number that really doesn’t sound very Christmas-like, more in the vein of something Toto would have recorded.

But on with the show … it is those holiday classics that you have grown up with all these years that take on a new life with Steve’s arrangements and performances. Starting with “Joy to the World,” this version is played double time and features Steve’s longtime friend Eddie Van Halen; you know it’s a rocker featuring blistering guitar wizardry. Next up is the classic “Greensleeves,” also known as “What Child is This;” this interpretation has a very outside feel to it, with keyboard and sax solos that are very exploratory and step way beyond the basic melody of the song. “Jingle Bells” features a recording of the late Sammy Davis Jr., and the format stays standard to the Big Band/Vegas sound. “Carol of the Bells” starts out similar to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version, very meaty and with a screaming guitar, but then switches to a mellow groove that has a Doors “Riders on the Storm” vibe. Here, the mighty Steve Vai trades licks with Lukather, while Trevor Lukather, Steve’s son, lends his guitar talents to the mix by adding some big power chords.

Slash appears on the aforementioned “Broken Heart for Christmas,” and it fits him like a glove. Edgar Winter lays down a mean sax on “Greensleeves” and “Winter Wonderland,” as well as singing on the latter. Gregg Bissonette is the lone drummer on the disc; you may remember the name from David Lee Roth’s band.

These are not the traditional arrangements you have grown up listening to in the past. You probably won’t sit around the tree this Christmas Eve cranking this one for family, but when you are looking for some Christmas cheer, something with a beat, this is a wonderful offering. When it is time to wrap presents and spruce up the home for the visiting neighbors, or if you want to really liven up the company Christmas party, those would be great moments to get a little SantaMental.


  • Jeremy Juliano

    Jeremy was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He's been involved with and has been following the Metal scene since the early 1980’s. He started out his Metal journey with heavy doses of Maiden, Accept, and Saxon. And in recent years, he has enjoyed the new age of Metal with bands like Hammerfall, Edguy, and Nightwish, to name a few.

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