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In No Substitutions
, recorded live in Osaka, two guitar session-masters hand down a punishing lesson in controlled thuggery. Carlton has played some of the greatest electric solos ever, gunslinging for everyone from Joni Mitchell and the Crusaders to Steely Dan and LA Express. Ex-Toto axe-king Lukather made his name stoking the mega-rock flames, but has also plied his pick to recordings by Patti Austin, Herb Alpert, Chet Atkins, and America. The fact that fusion has fallen on hard times doesn't deter these two from giving their all in five numbers that display equal measures of bombast, artistry and brilliance. With drummer Greg Bissonette, bassist Chris Kent and keyboardist Rick Jackson, the band kicks off with the testosterone-addled thump of "The Pump", which initially recalls some escapees from Def Leppard until they settle into a mellow, grand groove and a web of coiled solos. Lukather is more at home in this kind of shredding setting, but that gives Carlton plenty of space to do the lyrical, sensitive-guy thing. Both spin walls of heavy sound on the bruising shuffle, "Don't Give it Up". A reggae-fied "All Blues" sounds a bit street-worn, but Carlton's understated Jim Hall tone transforms the song until a schizophrenic speed demon takes over and momentarily kills the intimate vibe. No Substitutions
will be gobbled up by guitarists and fusion heads, but its punch and grind also give it a more general appeal among rockers. --Ken Micallef