Saturday, May 27, 2017

Double Dan

I've been listening to a lot of Steely Dan lately.  In the rock era, there were few groups (okay, they're really a duo) who had such sophisticated songwriting.  In fact, there's a lot of Dan hatred out there, and I think it may be because people like their rock basic and powerful.  So do I--when it gets too arty, it can lose its essence.  But when it's smart, and fun, why complain?

For most of the 70s the band released an album a year, and, with the occasional successful single, sold well.  They started out more pop-rock, and as they went along they verged into a more jazzy feel.  The new sound produced Aja, their biggest album, but I can't say it was a positive development.  It led to Gaucho, the last original album in their early run, which is where I get off the Dan train.

But listening to something like their second album, Countdown To Ecstasy (their worst-selling, probably because there was no single), it's just one great song after another. Even the lesser-known material still brings pleasure.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Some bands hit a peak, where their best albums are all clumped together. (Yes did that.)

But Steely Dan's best are #2 (Countdown to Ecstasy), #4 (Katy Lied), #5 (Royal Scam). I'd put Aja higher than you, because of the title song and "Deaon Blues" (a song so good that being endlessly overplayed hasn't ruined it).

Gaucho is overrated, as I think you indicated ("got off the train" after it, or because of it?). It has the excellent "Babylon Sisters" and the very good "Third World Man". But as you pointed out, every single track on Countdown is stellar, so two great tracks is a letdown.

Steely Dan has been endlessly touring for many years now. They have a variety of shows, so they can play several nights in a row and get repeat crowds. Or you can choose your favorite, since they advertise each show's format in advance: "Monday we will play all of Aja and Royal Scam, Tuesday we will play our earlier stuff," etc. A few years ago they did six nights in a row in New York, and one of the six shows was dedicated to their forgotten albums from 2000 and 2003!

9:13 PM, May 27, 2017  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Why do I have to prove that I'm not a robot every time I post a comment? Had I been a robot, I would have asserted that Gaucho was their best album.

9:14 PM, May 27, 2017  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I like all six of Steely Dan's 1970s albums, but I'd probably take the first three over the next three.

Gaucho, their seventh, has its moments, but is only so-so. They didn't make another for twenty years. Maybe they knew they'd peaked.

Of their solo stuff, the best is easily Donald Fagen's Nightfly. I'd take it over Gaucho.

11:10 PM, May 27, 2017  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Interesting. I consider #3 (Pretzel Logic) to be very weak, yet it's in the midst of what I consider their best run, as I noted above.

The first album has a few classic tracks (which have been overplayed endlessly), but the rest didn't impress me. "Dirty Work" is a song I knew well for decades without realizing it was by Steely Dan, as it sounds nothing like their other stuff.

I admit that the later songs on Royal Scam are weak, but the first three tracks are among their best.

(I just noticed that I use "song" and "track" interchageably. CD are now in my blood, I guess. "Track" is a CD word; the LP equivalent is "cut.")

11:15 PM, May 27, 2017  
Blogger New England Guy said...

I have a hard time using the "best" in reference to Steely Dan (or Yes but I did like their foray into videos with "Owner of a Lonely Heart"). Always sounded like the music of people who had given up on being young.

2:48 PM, May 28, 2017  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can it be music for old people when all Steely Dan's best stuff was done when they were in their twenties?

5:11 PM, May 28, 2017  
Blogger New England Guy said...

They got old young

4:49 PM, May 29, 2017  

Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter