Something Else! Featured Artist: Steely Dan

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by S. Victor Aaron

1) Aja (1977)
Strong set of songs + note perfect production + top notch musicianship = masterpiece.

High point: The Wayne Shorter and Steve Gadd exchange during the extended instrumental passage of the title cut.

Low point: Didn’t come with a second LP.

2) Pretzel Logic (1974)
Early period ends on a high note, just as they get the mixture of folk, rock, jazz and various other influences down pat.

High point: “Any Major Dude” is the Great Lost Hit

Low point: The obnoxious, skronky bass on “Monkey In Your Soul”

3)Katy Lied (1975)
First record by Becker/Fagan relying entirely on studio musicians; the shift toward jazz-rock proceeds in earnest.

High point: “Gold Teeth II”’s sublime guitar solo (Larry Carlton?) coupled with Jeff Porcaro’s Elvin Jones-like waltz.

Low point: Songs are a bit short.

4) Everything Must Go
The boys’ comeback is now complete.

High point: Becker and Fagan duke it out on “Green Book”.

Low Point: The Walter Becker lead vocal experiment is, um, less than successful, even if it was not serious.

5) The Royal Scam (1976)
Reggae and guitars take a front seat.

High point: Larry Carlton’s legendary solo on “Kid Charlemagne”

Low point: Everything about “Everything You Did.”

6) Two Against Nature (2000)
SD takes a 20 year sabbatical, then takes the top Grammy.

High point: The catchy sax/guitar synched riff on “Jack Of Speed”

Low point: Becker’s annoying one-note guitar solo on “Gaslighting Abby.”

7) Countdown To Ecstasy(1973)
Sophomore effort reveals a big jump in songwriting development.

High point: Rick Derringer’s wicked slide on “Show Biz Kids”

Low point: The cheesy synths on “King Of The World”

8 ) Can’t Buy A Thrill(1972)
Uneven debut is still a well-produced affair and contains several gems, including the hits “Do It Again” and “Reeling In The Years”

High point: “Only A Fool Would Say That” hints at both the sharp jazziness and witty cynicism that would become SD hallmarks later on.

Low point: “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again” is possibly their worst song on record. But hey, they were just pups back then.

9) Alive In America(1995)
A live album two decades after they last had a touring band. Answers a big “what if” question.

High point: Creative reworking of “Reeling In The Years”

Low point: No songs from Pretzel Logic or Katy Lied represented.

10) Gaucho (1980)
Aja was a too tough an act to follow, as it turned out.

High point: The opening “Babylon Sisters” makes you think they were going to pick up right where they left off.

Low point: “Glamour Profession” is a nod to disco just when the backlash against disco was going into full force

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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