Steely Dan Sunday: “Change of the Guard” from Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972)

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So, we’re discussing Jeff Baxter for the second week in a row, but most of Skunk’s showcases are found on Side Two of Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill. The prior two tracks found him lending his steel-guitar services, but “Change of the Guard” rocks too hard for the pedal steel, and Baxter knows just what tool to use for this song.

Skunk Baxter was hired by Steely Dan to play guitar solos, and even though he didn’t get to do so on the album’s two hit singles, he’s shown elsewhere he’s plenty qualified for the job. The author of many memorable leads that came later for Steely Dan (and afterwards for the Doobie Brothers on songs like “Take Me In Your Arms“), he’s all over “Change of the Guard.”

The results provide a good glimpse of Baxter’s ability to jump head-first into his part, put out sharp, piercing phrases that never sound hackneyed, and then cleanly end it with some sort of a punctuation mark – in this case by scraping the strings. Like Steve Lukather, he’s on that 10 All-Time Great Session Guitarists list that Gibson Guitars put out – and for good reason.

Skunk was just beginning to make his mark in 1972, but it was pretty evident then that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen landed the right man for the job.

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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