Steely Dan appreciation thread

Discussion in 'Music and Recordings' started by ColtMrFire, Jan 3, 2019.

  1. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Friend

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    What other band can claim to be named after an oversized strap-on dildo in a William S. Burroughs novel?

    Anyway I remember hearing and liking some of their more popular songs as a youth but didn't become a true fan until a couple years ago.

    First with their masterpiece Aja. I swear I must have listened to that album every day for weeks at a time at one point. Then I slowly got acclimated to their other stuff. My favorite Dan album is probably Countdown to Ecstasy, as it's the only one I can listen to all the way through without wanting to skip certain songs.

    But my progress has been slow. I still have not gotten Cant Buy A Thrill or Gaucho yet, or their later works, Two Against Nature or Everything Must Go. Even with being exposed to only half their work they are easily my favorite band. The sound the managed to put out is so odd but unique and very catchy.

    From what I've read they were absolute bastards in the studio, cruel to many they worked with in order to get the uniquely perfect soundscapes that have come to define them. Even going so far as to spend hours on a single lyrical word. I guess the old adage "pain is temporary, art is forever" comes to mind. Not as a justification for cruelty, but like it or not, it's shaped a huge number of artistic endeavors the public has enjoyed for decades. Just because artists are talented doesn't make them nice people. But is being nice a prerequisite for creating? And would "nice" artists create works half as memorable?
     
  2. murray

    murray Friend

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    Becker and Fagen’s recorded work is great. Get it all, there’s not that much. However, they were “difficult” personalities. Sort of like Steve Jobs’s of Jazz Pop. The hard work paid off.

    There’s a finely honed mean sense of humour buried deep in their songs, sort of like a cryptic crossword with obscure oblique references.
     
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  3. murray

    murray Friend

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    I’ve read quite a few biographies of artists and and innovators and came to the realisation that many are not at all nice. They can often be self-centered narcissists or egotists , not caring for their fellow man.
    It is important to understand that the creation stands apart from the creator. You may love the art but that doesn’t relate to loving the artist.
    Of course, there are exceptions.
     
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  4. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Friend

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    Yup, the lyricism was sharp and biting, but the harmony was so good it kind of lulled you into a sense that it was inoffensive enough to enjoy guilt free. That's the great magic trick the band was able to pull off.
     
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  5. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Friend

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    This is especially important to remember in this new era of "woke" and artists getting karma for past bad deeds. Some people go so far as to avoid a person's work they even enjoyed, because they did some terrible thing. I always want to say to them that if we burned the DVD or CD of every person who's done reprehensible things, there'd hardly be anything to watch or listen to.
     
  6. winders

    winders Compensating for micropenis

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    I am a big fan of these 6 albums:

    Can’t Buy a Thrill
    Countdown to Ecstasy
    Pretzel Logic
    Katy Lied
    Aja
    Gaucho

    I am not a huge fan of “The Royal Scam” or anything after “Gaucho”. “Can’t Buy a Thrill” is my favorite followed by “Pretzel Logic” and “Aja”.

    I am a fan of the music they created and really couldn’t care about how the were in their personal lives. Well, as long as the were not kicking dogs and selling women into sex slavery.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  7. murray

    murray Friend

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    I agree, not the best musically, but still worth it for songs like:
    - Don’t Take Me Alive (mass killers)
    - Haitian Divorce (based on a true story)
    - Everything You Did (humour and snark)
    - The Royal Scam (US immigrants).

    It’s worth it for the guitar on “Kid Charlemagne” and “Don’t Take Me Alive” alone.

    Did I mention that I love “Don’t Take Me Alive”? ;-)
     
  8. murray

    murray Friend

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    I have the DVD “Steely Dan Aja” in the series “Classic Albums”. It’s essential for fans. Don and Walt chat and pass wry comments about the making of each track. The songs on the master tapes are broken down to isolated tracks to show the detail of how they were put together. They also show parts that were rejected from the final songs. Interviews with all the collaborators like Chuck Rainey (disobeyed direction to not slap the bass on Josie) and Denny Dais (no fart jokes).
    You may be able to find it on YouTube now, I don’t know.
    Highly recommended.
     
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  9. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Friend

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    I love Royal Scam, musically I find it very pleasing. Katy Lied is my least favorite so far... a little on the esoteric side for me.
     
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  10. LetMeBeFrank

    LetMeBeFrank Won't tell anyone my name is actually Francis

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    Can't Buy a Thrill is my favorite and I was lucky enough to get a 1972 pressing on vinyl that sounds absolutely fantastic.
     
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  11. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Katy Lied and The Royal Scam are their absolute peak for me, incredible, diverse, dark, funny, moving music played absolutely perfectly.

    “Is there gas in the car?/Yes there’s gas in the car!”
     
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  12. winders

    winders Compensating for micropenis

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    No, you can’t leave “The Royal Scam” out of your collection....it’s just the worst of the best 7 albums.
     
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  13. abernardi

    abernardi Friend

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    Next to the Beatles, Steely Dan is my favorite band. I can't really break it down into albums, I look at them as pre and post Aja. The pre-Aja is sharp, quick, witty, kind of poppy, while the post Aja gets a little darker and lounge-jazz (not so much in a bad way).
    Donald Fagen's solo albums are hit and miss for me, literally, Nightfly - HIT, Kamakiriad - miss, Morph the Cat - Hit, Sunken Condos - HUGE MISS, I mean, what was that? And Walter Becker's (RIP) stuff, with all due respect, I couldn't get into it.

    I'm a bigger fan of their earlier pre-Aja work, even their demos are fantastic! Also, don't miss "The Rock and Soul Review - Live at the Beacon Theater", just re-released on vinyl, Fagen brings together a fantastic group of artists, Phoebe Snow, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, and lots of others I can't recall off the top of my head. GREAT album!

    I have a boot from the Katie Lied sessions where Larry Carlton is laying down his solo on "Green Earings" (I think). And right after he finishes you can hear Fagen in the background yelling "Holy fuck!". It's exactly the same reaction I had when I first heard that solo.

    I was at one of their concerts once and in the intermission my girlfriend noticed I was really depressed and she asked me why and I told her that I'd never be as good at what I do as they were at what they did. She laughed and said, "It's only entertainment." and I got so mad. I mean, she's right from one perspective, but Steely Dan's music, if it speaks to you, has a very deep and powerful emotional effect that is more than just entertainment, it's nourishment.
     
  14. murray

    murray Friend

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    @ColtMrFire - thanks for this thread. It has prompted me to start listening to the classic 70’s Steely Dan albums again, this evening. I’ve played them a lot in the past, but not lately. They are great to rediscover again. Excellent!
     
  15. dBel84

    dBel84 Friend

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    Me too! My early "audiophile" listening with friends was to Steely Dan, Ricky Lee Jones and others but these artists stuck with me. I have slowly bought a few Ricky Lee Jones' LPs again but only picked up an oddball Steely Dan release

    [​IMG]

    I have many on CD but they are in boxes in my basement as I hardly ever use physical media aside from vinyl anymore. Will have to load up the digital albums and play them through instead of the usual teenage playlists that dominate music in my house.

    .. dB
     
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  16. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Friend

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    Once I liked them, I just wound up getting the boxed set, so I'm nor sure which song is from where. Oddly enough I hadn't heard much of Donald's solo stuff until @Pharmaboy turned me on to Morph. Good stuff there.
     
  17. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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    Green Earrings is on The Royal Scam iirc.
     
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  18. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    The only one I currently have is the 2LP 'best of' collection (1979; post-Aja, pre-Gaucho). I couldn't name a favourite but remember on buying Gaucho that I didn't enjoy the style as much as I'd enjoyed their previous efforts (and I'd felt the same but to a lesser degree about Aja).

    I think the 1979 comp - at least, the original vinyl version - is all original ABC masters. I remember being impressed by the quality of the 1993 'remastered' 2CD set, but that was a library borrow, I never owned it.

    Edit: the sleeve tells me the ABC comp is 1978, not 1979.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  19. ufospls2

    ufospls2 Friend

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    Some Steely Dan stuff is completely horseshit, but some other stuff is awesome. I mostly just listen to the stuff with Steve Gadd and wish I had half as much of the feel he has.
     
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  20. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    They were these cool hipster guys who loves drugs and books up to Gaucho. The type that you want to hang out with on a Friday Night and talk about Miles.

    When they came back with Two Against Nature, they turned into former NY'ers who moved to Florida and living in South Beach type of way with an eye of younger girls (with a bottle of Viagra next to them).
     

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