I like pop music. I like rock music. I like soul, and jazz, and funk, and blues. And one of the only bands to combine all of these elements is the great Steely Dan.
When choosing an album , I chose to go with their greatest hits compilation a A Decade of Steely Dan. Released in 1985.
FM Black Friday Babylon Sisters Deacon Blues Bodhisattva Hey Nineteen Do It Again Peg Rikki Don't Lose That Number Reeling In The Years East St. Louis Toodle-oo Kid Charlemagne My Old School Bad Sneakers
Oh, velly velly nice. I enjoy some Steely Dan. It always makes me feel classy when I listen, even if I'm sitting around in my underwear, eating Doritos out of a bag.
FM – Such a silky smooth song, like most SD tunes. I think Yes may have “borrowed” the bassline, in part, for “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”. Ironically, this song probably got a lot of play on AM radio, too.
Black Friday – I love the electric piano (if that’s what it is), on this song. In parts, this one reminds me of The Alan Parsons Project. Strange, huh?
Babylon Sisters – I’m pretty sure that’s legendary jazz drummer Bernard Purdie, doing his famous “Purdie shuffle” on this song. A tad too jazzy, for my tastes, but still a gem of a song. Sort of interesting that Becker and Fagen are two East Coast boys, and could come up with one of the most evocative songs ever about California.
Deacon Blues – A real classic from their smash hit album “Aja”. “I crawl like a viper, through these suburban streets.” Man, I love that lyric. I love the sax on this song. Great, great stuff.
Bodhisattva – Buddhist be-bop meets jazz, with a blues chaser! Kickass guitar solo, with some futuristic synth thrown in for good measure. Truly one of the most unique songs in the Steely Dan songbook. And I love the Middle-Eastern flavored crescendo, at the end!
Hey Nineteen – As soon as you hear the opening, you know it’s Steely Dan. To me, this is the quintessential SD song. Very clever lyrics, as the older guy finally gets the hot, younger girl and it turns out they have nothing in common. Ouch. Hah! Some really good synth work on this one, too.
Do It Again – Always loved the rhythm section on this one, and that funky ass sitar solo! Some very dark, cryptic lyrics, as well, which is a Steely Dan trademark.
Peg – Doobie Brother Michael McDonald contributes some fine backing vocals to this track. I watched a documentary on the making of the “Aja” record, and Becker and Fagen tell the story of how they had to audition five or six different guitar players, before finally settling on Jay Graydon to bring the sound they were looking for on this song.
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – Along with ELO’s “Livin Thing”, the lyrics to this song have probably been debated, interpreted and misinterpreted thousands of times. What’s “the number”? A joint? A phone number? A song? To his credit, Donald Fagen has remained tight-lipped about what the lyrics really mean, allowing fans to make whatever they want of the song. Love the bass on this song, and a fantastic guitar solo by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.
Reeling In The Years – The guitar that kicks off this song is absolutely iconic. This is pretty much a masterclass in Songwriting 101-great lyrics, great hooks, amazing musicianship. Just a standout song, in my opinion.
East St. Louis Toodle-oo – I like this Duke Ellington tune. Some real stellar playing on this one, especially that wah-wah guitar, courtesy of Walter Becker.
Kid Charlemagne – Funky and sophisticated, but not my favorite SD song. It’s good, but it just doesn’t stand out as special, to me.
My Old School – Probably in my top three Steely Dan songs. Some hilarious and clever lyrics, along with some killer guitar and horns! I could listen to this song five times a day, and not get sick of it.
Bad Sneakers – A very cool song, with the trademark Steely Dan ambiguous lyrics. I guess it can be interpreted any way you want, but I see it as a guy who might be fed up with fame?
Great choice this week, Brax. A definite four star album!
I was only somewhat familiar with Steely Dan before listening to this whole album. I just did a stream-of-consciousness review, giving my first impressions of each song.
FM ... jazzy, cool, very "big city" sound. The lyrics are probably about versatility heard on FM radio, at the time, as compared to the more pop oriented AM radio.
Black Friday .... good harmonies, and a good groove. They made a song about economic collapse sound upbeat. lol .
Babylon Sisters ....this makes me want to drive some LA freeway at night.
Deacon Blues ....I have no earthly idea what this song is about, but maybe that's the whole point. It sounds like winter in NYC.
Bodhisattva .... This is one crazy song! So many things going on, especially the mystical lyrics. My favorite part is where it sounds like a cat is running across the keyboards. lol
Hey Nineteen .... This sounds like a guy I used to date. LMAO.
Do It Again ....I had always thought this was Santana! /facepalm. I think this song is about reincarnation, but I might be wrong.
Peg ....There are some very weird chords here.
Rikki Don't Lose That Number .... They really don't do songs like this anymore. It almost makes me cry, it's so beautiful. I don't know who Rikki is, but I hope they kept that number.
Reeling In The Years .... In the top 100 classic rock songs of all time, this should be in the top ten for sure. I write songs, myself, and if I could come up with something this perfect, I'd be the happiest human being on earth.
East St. Louis Toodle-oo ... Oh my gosh! They covered The Duke? Big props!
Kid Charlemagne ....People my age probably know this song because Kanye West sampled it. They should go give the original source a listen.
My Old School .... I'm going to try to learn this one on piano! "William & Mary won't do". bahahaha!
Bad Sneakers... I've drank plenty of pina coladas while walking around wearing old sneakers, so I can relate. hehehe.
OK Brax, below is my review of Steely Dan's "A Decade of Steely Dan" CD.
Was quite a pleasure to listen to and analyze all of these great classics.
01. "FM" - Vintage Steely Dan all the way; just don't like it's sleazy view of women and seeing how close they can get to the f-word with "funked up" music.
02. "Black Friday" – Very cool straightforward rocker Steely Dan style!!!
03. "Babylon Sisters" – Seems like kind of a prelude to Donald Fagen's sub-sequent solo material starting with 1982's "The Nightfly", where this song would fit perfectly. Very cool and unique vintage Steely Dan classic.
04. "Deacon Blues" – A very moving musical masterpiece, from the stunning album "Aja".
05. "Bodhisattva" – For all of its ethnic feel and themes, actually has a very Allman Brothers feel to it as well. A catchy and fun Steely Dan classic.
06. "Hey Nineteen" – I found this one very catchy but a little bit blah and lite FM as the first-single follow-up to the Aja material. I must say the harmonies and melodies are fantastic though, all tequila, dope, and perverted references in them aside.
07. "Do It Again" – A sober view of addictions to gambling and sex. Great music, an instant classic.
08. "Peg" – One of those perfect singles that's just perfect. A lot of hard work to make a great song perfect, and they did. Always a pleasure to hear.
09. "Rikki Don’t Lose That Number" – A very soulful classic. Absolutely love Michael Omartian's keyboard work on it; good choice for them to use on a song like this. For my part, based on the bridge lyric, I lean towards the meaning of the song being simply he gave his number to a girl named Rikki, and hopes she might call him some day. :-)
10. "Reeling In The Years" – Another perfect song like "Peg", everything about it.
11. "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" – Nice, but just kind of there with all respect to The Duke!
12. "Kid Charlemagne" – I like the somewhat Spanish-southwest feel to the chorus, other than that always felt the main keyboard riff at the beginning, etc. needed to be developed a little more to make it a little more interesting.
13. "My Old School" – One of the songs that is pretty decent; but never understood all the fuss over it. The people who like it, REALLY like it. For my part, I find it to be a slightly above average song, but rank a lot of their other hits a lot higher.
14. "Bad Sneakers" – A decent enough Steely Dan tune, like it, though nothing too special.
Star Rating: 4.2 out of 5 Prime Cuts: "Peg", "Reelin' In the Years", "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", "Do It Again" Bottom Line: Vintage stuff from a vintage band.
Was cool to get a little more familiar with "Black Friday", "Babylon Sisters", and "Bad Sneakers", songs I don't ordinarily hear as much, but are pretty decent, for sure! (They have a lot of songs that start with "B", don't they; those and "Bodhisattva", etc. ) .
Thanks again for the CD, Brax, got you marked down for a couple months from now as well, and I will keep you posted as your next turn approaches!
Sorry I'm late, been a bit busy traipsing after that Muse all over the place and moshing fit to bust for the past two weeks. Brilliant, but hard on the feet I can report.
But now, back to business. I'm glad this is a greatest hits because I know Steely Dan are very highly thought of amongst some of the musical people I admire and I've always meant to have a bit of a wallow. Some of the tracks are immediately familiar as good songs, and I'm looking forward to more of the same. Here goes:
FM - Smooth is the word which springs to mind. Did this come out in the late '70's? I seem to remember it being on the radio all the time about then. You know it's Steely Dan immediately, the same as when you hear something where Jeff has been involved. Having a signature sound, good or bad, is surely a sign of an interesting talent. Good opener and scene-setter.
Black Friday - Liking the fade-in intro with the nifty keyboards. Clips along nicely, the underlying keyboards remind me a bit of Turn to Stone. Nice bit of guitar here, good one.
Babylon Sisters - A different beat again from the first two, very cool. A bit too long and laid back for my taste, but there's obvious quality for lovers of this sort of song.
Deacon Blues - Some of the vocal harmonies remind me of America. Nothing stands out particularly, it's a trademark Steely Dan type song to the uninitiated like me. Again a bit too long.
Bodhisattva - The title is familiar, but I've not heard it before. Nice and lively, like the snappy opening and neat guitar work.
Hey Nineteen - This sounds like something I'd have heard on the radio in the '70's, nodding along here. Sounds more punchy than Babylon Sisters and Deacon Blues.
Do It Again - Great intro, I'm surprised when I realise I know this, having read the title I'm expecting the Kinks song This is a classic single and deserves its place on a Greatest Hits list.
Peg - Another generic Steely Dan song for me, like the whole album it would sound great in the background if you were having a barbecue or something, it's very classy.
Rikki Don't Lose That Number - Straight back to my teenage years, I remember hearing this and liking it a lot because it was a bit different to everything else on the radio.
Reeling In The Years - Another great intro and instantly recognisable, it's a classic and very catchy.
East St. Louis Toodle-oo - Completely differently to all the other songs, great guitar sound mimicking a jazz trumpet. Nice little instrumental with a period atmosphere.
Kid Charlemagne -Nice bit of funky bass on this. The vocals are starting to wear a bit thin for me by now but I'm hanging in there.
My Old School - Oh, I recognise this too! Is it quite an early track? It reminds me of my early teens, great guitar break and catchy tune. Nice one.
Bad Sneakers - Best thing about it is the twangly guitar sound. Otherwise it's standard Dan fare for me.
Having listened to this it feels like I've ticked off a "must listen" item, so if Steely Dan come up in conversation some time I'll be able to have an opinion. I know loads of of serious musicians rate them very highly but a lot of their technical talents may be lost on me. It's not a genre I listen to much but I can appreciate the skill on show, the lyrics are interesting and the singles bring back my youth right away. I'd give it 6 out of 10, thanks for sharing, @brax
It's all good entertainment, it doesn't cost a penny
Horacewimp: I did, it sounds interesting
Aug 30, 2020 7:27:36 GMT
Horacewimp: Hi elophile good to see you, hope you are keeping well.
Aug 31, 2020 20:25:03 GMT
elophile: Hey-hey! Horacewimp Livin' the dream here in crazytown, er, I mean America! How goes it with you? ::c0112::
Sept 2, 2020 18:11:21 GMT
Horacewimp: We are all good thanks, just wishing I could go on a foreign holiday, it’s just not worth the risk with Covid and the possibility of a 14 day quarantine, we may do some short breaks in the U.K.
Sept 2, 2020 20:30:46 GMT
BSJ: *sniff* no meet up in Detroit's airport. *sniff*
Sept 2, 2020 21:56:17 GMT