Steely Dan Sunday, "Green Earrings" (1976)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

“Green Earrings” has such a great, clavinet-laden groove to it, thanks to the Chuck Rainey/Pretty Purdie rhythm machine that keys up nearly every track on The Royal Scam, it doesn’t need any close inspection to appreciate. But when I sit down and dissect it, I find it kills in so many ways. There are no horns on this track, but the arrangement nonetheless has “big band” written all over it, and only Steely Dan can make it seem so easy to blend in the principles of Basie or Ellington into something as incompatible as rock. The groove frequently gets interrupted by a dramatic four chord pattern that serves to keep things from getting monotonous. In one of only a handful of times they did this, Steely Dan went with two guitar soloists for the song, with Denny Dias liquid jazz lines followed by Elliott Randall’s tense, acerbic enunciations and fills that continues right on to the fade out. And speaking of fills, the trick high-hat/bass drum fill Purdie drops to announce Dias’ sparkling solo at the 2:05 mark is the stuff of legend.

True to form for Becker and Fagen, the lyrics dwell on deviant behavior—a jewel thief who can’t even resist stealing from his lover—but it’s the way those lyrics are delivered which are most interesting. Fagen breaks up each line with pauses so as to place them on the beats and leave room for the music in between, like Elliot’s fills. “Green Earrings” is one of many instances where Steely Dan uses not a single gimmick but multiple, brilliantly conceived devices to lift a song out of the ordinary.

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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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