September 3, 1997 - October 28, 1997 - November 28, 1997- December 12, 1997
"Held in Ron Wood's converted sheep barn, the session for 'Unsung Heroes' unfolded like many of the early Elvis dates. Scotty settled into a chair in the center of the main room, plugging his late-80's Gibson Chet Atkins Country Gentleman into Boss delay and chorus pedals and a tweed Fender Twin. Beck, hearing him warming up, dashed from the control room and hurriedly unpacked his guitar while Ron got him a vintage Vox AC30. 'I'd planned to bring a large rig from London,' Beck smiled, 'but decided that ran counter to the spirit of the meeting.' Instead, he showed up with only a Strat Plus and a 10-foot chord. As D.J., Ron and Jennings joined in, Beck picked the melody of 'Blue Moon of Kentucky'. For nearly an hour, politeness prevented everyone from suggesting any specific direction, and, as on the first Elvis session, the players bogged down after jamming on a few standards. A break was called, during which Scotty began to play around with a funky lick that caught Ron's ear. 'What's that?' he asked. 'I dunno,' Scotty replied, 'just something I was fooling with a week or so ago.'
'Well, that's it! Keep that going!' With that Ron grabbed a '54 Strat and started chunking rhythm and ad-libbing lyrics about meeting his two heroes. Beck suggested an occasional line between otherworldly bends and fills. Eventually, 'Unsung Heroes' became a song. 'This is incredible,' observed executive producer Dan Griffin. 'It's just the way they used to do things-somebody gets an idea and they just go with it. The amazing thing to me-and Jeff was saying this too-is that Scotty and Bill came up with that original stuff completely out of the blue. They didn't have any real precedent to go on, and that's the very last time that happened in rock and roll. Everyone who came along after that had those guys to listen to. You take Jeff Beck-he and the Yardbirds were a big part of the British Invasion, and he'll tell you they were bouncing off what they'd heard from America. Then American bands bounced it back, and so on and so on. And the guy sitting right in there (points through the control room window to Scotty) started it all.'
Later, over pints of Guinness, Scotty and his host listen to a working mix of 'Unsung Heroes.' He and his contemporaries, Scotty says as Ron Wood's eyes begin to mist, have done their part. 'You guys have to carry the torch now-you and the younger guys. We did our thing.'"
Boy, we can't wait to hear this!
Beck, the legendary British guitarist whose album "Truth" (1968) was the blueprint for hard rock, could never be labeled prolific. In fact, his last collection of original material under his own name was "Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop" almost nine years ago.
Since then, he released an album of incidental soundtrack music for a cable TV miniseries called "Frankie's House" (1992). The following year saw "Crazy Legs," a tribute to Gene Vincent guitarist Cliff Gallup.
"It was originally going to be a blues-based rock record, and now it's gone completely in the other direction with a different rhythm section and different players," Lukather said during an interview at the Steakhouse, the North Hollywood recording studio he owns and operates.
Lukather said players on the record have included fretless bassist Pino Palladino, keyboardist and longtime Beck collaborator Tony Hymas, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., and percussionist Lenny Castro.
"Jeff is my favorite guitar player and one of my favorite human beings," Lukather, 40, said. "He does his parts five times, and he's still not happy. But he keeps getting better, so you can't really argue with him. Jeff is a very unique person. He never wants to repeat himself or sound like something he did before, which is good and bad."
Lukather's third solo disc, "Luke" (Miramar/BMG), was recently released. On the album, the guitarist covers "The Pump," a Simon Phillips-Tony Hymas piece Jeff Beck recorded on "There & Back" (1980).
"My record isn't a big guitar solo record," Lukather said. "I mean, the solos are there, but it's not like, `Hey, dig my chops!' I purposely restrained myself. I don't need to prove anything to anybody anymore. Live, I can ham it up a lot more. It's much more impressive to see somebody play really outrageously on stage than to hear it on a record. I'm really a songwriter who plays better than average guitar."
Lukather said Beck is happy with about a half-dozen tracks. A few of them were played for the head of Epic Records, Beck's long-suffering, longtime label.
"I guess I'm the great white hope here," Lukather said. "Jeff really trusts me. I'm really on his side, and I can speak the language on both sides of the fence. I'm there as a record producer to help him make the music the way he wants to hear it and see to it that it gets done."
Lukather sees his role almost as an arranger and cheerleader. "I'm there to put a package together, help arrange the rhythm tracks and get something on tape," he said. "Jeff doesn't need me to tell him how to play guitar. We sit there and work on stuff, and we'll do a bunch of takes, and I'll put something together. But he's not a schooled musician in the sense where you go, `You should play this in blah blah blah.' "
"A guitarist-producer who Jeff respects can only result in an exciting album to follow," said longtime Beck fan Dick Wyzanski, who operates a Jeff Beck Web site (www.wsvn.com/~staff/beck). "Three cheers for Steve Lukather being able to get Jeff out of his street-rod garage and the British pubs long enough to finish the album that has been formulated so painstakingly since 1991."
Lukather explained the recording process. "I might say, `That was really great!' and he'll say, `What?' and forget what he just played," Lukather said. "That's why everything is recorded. That red light is on all day long. He is truly the most unique guitar player we have. So full of soul. The hum of his amp blows away most people, you know."
Lukather said we live in an era where everybody hates guitar solos, "but then you hear somebody play great and everybody goes, `Wow! What was that?' "
The guitarist said he got burned out doing sessions 10 years ago and rarely does them anymore.
"The great ones are maybe 5 percent of 100," he said. "To me, it's become uninspiring. When you're first starting out, you do everything because you want to be a session guy. When I was doing it, you played live with these incredible rhythm sections. It was really fun to be creating on the spot."
Lukather said things changed in the studios when the Linn drum machine came along in the '80s, replacing live drummers at many recording sessions.
"I prefer non-machine music," Lukather said. "I like real people to play. I mean, I've done machine music. Believe me, on some of Jeff's record, he loves that stuff. So, we got into a little of the techno thing. But I wanted to mix real guys with it, real drums with samples."