Steely Dan Sunday, "Any World (That I’m Welcome To)" (1975)

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On occasion, Becker and Fagen would bring in one of their heroes to the studio to make a guest appearance on a track. We noted previously that Ray Brown contributed his acoustic bass to “Razor Boy” and later on we’ll find Wayne Shorter playing sax on “Aja.” “Any World (That I’m Welcome To)” boasts the drumming of the great Hal Blaine.

In discussing an earlier track I opined that Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro were heirs to the Blaine legacy, but in terms of chart success of the songs Blaine drummed for, there’s been no one even remotely close to him. Forty, that’s right, 40 of those songs topped the charts and a total of 150 made it into the Top Ten. For six consecutive years (1966-71) the Grammy award for Record Of The Year went to songs he played on (he drummed on two more such Grammy winners). He was the big booming back beat on The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the tender pulses on songs like Elvis’ “Can’t Stop Falling In Love With You” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He was also a favorite of Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and The Beach Boys. Not surprisingly, in 2000 he was one of the first sessionists inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame.

“Any World” is one of many Steely Dan songs where the drumming sounds easy, but that’s only because the drummer is making it sound easy. The verses are low key, but the transition to the chorus is more uptempo and the chorus itself shifts to a fills-laden crescendo and then back again to the gentle gait of the verses. Blaine was able to handle with aplomb all the discreet modulating of cadence and timekeeping the song demanded.

Surely Porcaro, who handled the drums on the rest of the album, could have tackled this song, too. But sometimes you gotta make room for the champ (or, as been reported, Porcaro slept in that day), and a Hal Blaine appearance on a Steely Dan song is something that just had to happen. For whatever reason it happened, I’m glad it did.

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