Steely Dan Sunday, “Slang Of Ages” (2003)

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I’m calling Shenanigans on Steely Dan! Shenanigans!

In 1972 Steely Dan fans got a hint of Walter Becker’s singing voice in the song, “Turn That Heart Beat Over Again”. Even prior to the forming of the band Walt and Don sang duets like Sam and Dave (remember the song “Brain Tap Shuffle”?) Becker continued to provide background vocals on Countdown To Ecstasy and on stage until they quit touring the original band in 1974. Becker once joked that he had to choose between cigarettes and singing and cigarettes won.

Flash ahead almost 20 years to the Steely Dan tour of 1993. Not only does the duo put together an effective touring band, but Becker steps to the microphone to sing two new tracks from his upcoming album. While he is no Michael McDonald (or Donald Fagen or Royce Jones or even David Palmer or Jim Hodder) he can hold a tune and has a solid octave range. In fact on every tour since, Becker has sang an original Becker song (i.e., “Hard Up Case”) or a Steely Dan classic (“Midnight Cruiser” and the almost sacred “Gaucho”). Anticipation of a Becker lead vocal was heightened in 1996 when he sang lead on the then unreleased song, “Jack Of Speed.” If you look back to the review of the Two Against Nature album, you’ll know my great disappointment over the fact that the studio version did not feature Becker on vocals.

Now comes Everything Must Go and Becker does step to the mic for the song “Slang Of Ages.” Unfortunately, Becker almost raps his way through the track and gets the support of no less than five background singers. The support wasn’t really needed, as the song mines familiar territory of drugs, alienation and lustful middle aged men.

The rhythm track fits perfectly and the lyrics display the typical biting humor you’d expect on a Becker solo track. Add to that a tight and funky groove forged by Becker’s bass and drummer Keith Carlock. Additionally, Walt Weiskopf, Steely Dan’s touring tenor man since 2003, delivers a lustful solo to help things along.

Cool debaucheries and longing. Unfortunately, this song was also the last ‘new song’ with Becker on vocals…so far.

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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 [email protected]; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Preston Frazier
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