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  Steely Dan




Click below for a Steely Dan sample:

Haitian Divorce







Steely Dan was one of the most popular rock bands of the 70s, going from a traditional band to an act who utilized studio technology.  The core of the band was Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who had worked at staff writers for ABC in the early 70s.

Formed in 1972 with singer/vocalist David Palmer, guitarists Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias and Jim Hodder on drums, and named after a William S. Burroughs character, Steely Dan was the vehicle for Becker/Fagen compositions, with Can't Buy A Thrill being released later that year.  The record had the hit singles "Do It Again" and "Reeling In The Years," but a tour wasn't widely supported by the public. Palmer and Hodder left the band, the first of several personnel shifts that became a Steely Dan trademark. 

Their frustrations with producing a live act resulted in Becker and Fagen's refusal to tour after 1974.  Starting with Katy Lied, Steely Dan relied on top-notch session musicians to bring their songs to life, recruiting Michael Omartian, Larry Carlton, Wilton Felder and a pre-Doobie Brothers Michael McDonald to the fold.

On the charts, the impact of the change from performance to studio recording was minimal, with "Doctor Wu," "Haitian Divorce," and "My Old School" becoming major hits.  During this time, the use of sidemen such as Wayne Shorter, combined with their intelligent, cynical lyrics, made them a critical favorite, especially after the Horace Silver-influenced "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" became a massive single in 1975. 

With each sucessive release from Katy until Aja, Steely Dan's fan base grew beyond rock critics to jazz fusion listeners, who made Aja one of 1977's most celebrated albums.  Business difficulties (namely ABC's sale to MCA Records) delayed a follow-up LP until 1980, when Gaucho was released, although they contributed the title cut to the FM soundtrack. 

After Gaucho, Steely Dan split up, with Donald Fagen making a series of well-received solo albums.  The band concept was considered a relic of the past until Becker and Fagen surprisingly decided to tour in 1993.  The extreme popularity of the reunion led to Two Against Nature, the first Steely Dan LP in nearly 20 years.  

Steely Dan's Deepest Grooves

Can't Buy A Thrill (ABC, 1972)
The catchiness of "Do It Again" and "Reeling In The Years" made them radio favorites alongside the Doobie Brothers, but "Change of the Guard" serves notice of the things to come.

Countdown to Ecstasy (ABC, 1973)
Another critical favorite, "My Old School" is the crucial cut here.

Pretzel Logic (ABC, 1974)
The jazz influence announces itself with "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."  

Katy Lied (ABC, 1975)
Perhaps their second-greatest record, Katy is helped out by the appearance of  Michael McDonald.  The instrumentation becomes a bit more stretched out, edging ever closer to jazz-rock. Home to "Doctor Wu," "Bad Sneakers" and "Any World."

The Royal Scam (ABC, 1976)
Killer collection of witty cynicism and guitar-driven rock.   "Haitian Divorce," "The Fez" and "Kid Charlemagne" addressed topics there were ahead of their time.

Aja (ABC, 1977)
One of the most celebrated rock LPs of all time, Aja is considered by many to be the most fully realized Steely Dan LP.  With a supporting cast that includes Tom Scott, Wayne Shorter and the Crusaders, Becker and Fagen came through with some of their most memorable songs, including "Black Cow," "Deacon Blues" and "I Got the News."

Gaucho (MCA, 1980)
Last gasp from the glory days.  Realizing that the rising popularity of synths and their reclusivity would make them outdated in the age of MTV, they exit with grace on "Hey Nineteen" and "Glamour Profession."

Gold (MCA, 1982)
Not really a greatest hits, Gold focuses on the songs that were FM radio staples in the 70s.  The cd adds a couple of solo Fagen songs and a live version of "Bodhisattva."

A Decade Of Steely Dan (MCA, 1985)

Citizen Steely Dan (MCA, 1993)
Massive box set for serious fans.

Alive In America (Giant, 1995)
Who woulda thought that it would be a concert tour that brought Steely Dan back together?  The highlights from their very successful American tour with an all new band that includes Dennis Chambers and Bill Ware III.

Android Warehouse (Dressed to Kill, 1999)
Collection of demo-quality recordings that shows the Becker-Fagen combination in its earliest stages.

Two Against Nature (Giant, 2000)
A surprise Grammy winner, highlighted by "Gasline Abbey" and "Cousin Dupree."

Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story (MCA, 2000)
A more affordable compilation of Steely's best, contains all the essential tunes.

Copyright 2002  All rights reserved.

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