Steely Dan Sunday, “Sign In Stranger [Live]” (1995)

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How do you follow-up an iconic rock, funk rave-up like “Kid Charlemagne”?

Well apparently that was a head scratcher for producer Donald Fagen. Part of the problem with Alive In America is that it’s not a true live album. It was recorded over a two year/tour period with two different bands, then resequenced (and remixed) to produce an album which was ‘alive’ instead of truly live.

Another problem was that it was too short (the Steely Dan tours in ‘92/’93 included a 2½ hour show). I don’t remember where “Sign In Stranger” fell in the set list, but it seems a little weird to put it after “Kid Charlemagne” and even stranger it was included on a ‘live’ album at all.

Still, the song does provide some highlights. New York vibraphonist Bill Ware gets to show his chops, which up until now have been buried too deep in the mix. The sax section (remember, just sax players Cornelius Bumpus, Bob Sheppard and Chris Potter made up the horn players), gets to play an entirely new and interesting horn modulation. Becker and Fagen got to write new lyrics to a verse (though why is still a mystery).

Still, the song leaves me scratching my head. How is this going to end? Tune in next week.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: We examine the original studio version of “Sign In Stranger” and marvel at the memorable piano expressions of the late Paul Griffin.]

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Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at
Preston Frazier
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