Steely Dan Sunday, “Downtown Canon” (2008)

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

I have a deep love for Walter Becker’s second solo effort, 2008’s Circus Money. It’s a love that far surpasses any other solo effort to date by Donald Fagen or Becker himself. Yes, a love even bigger than the highest charter of the lot, Kamakiriad, or the solo debut by Fagen, The Nightfly. Heresy? I think not. Quite frankly, Walter Becker is a much more interesting lyricist than Donald Fagen! Oh sure Fagen is a great rhythm, horn and vocal arranger, the reviews of Morph The Cat allude to this, but Becker’s lyrics are great.

There are plenty of examples of Becker’s prowess at lyrics all over Circus Money, and “Downtown Canon” is at if not near the top. The story inspiring the song may be one Becker and his cowriter/producer Larry Klein share. The story of a sophisticated couple in a metropolis finding love, culture and muse in the city. The couple then discovers that part of the rule — or canon — is that there are temptations and distractions on the way. Unfortunately for the couple, they don’t survive the temptations and crossroads in the relationship and they learn the final canon ” …Writ large- in the downtown canon, It goes up and it must come down…”

Klein is a perfect cowriter for Becker. Additionally, Becker, himself a skilled and sympathetic producer with a proven track record in jazz and pop, enlist the Grammy winning bassist and composer Larry Klein to produce this album with remarkable results. Becker has never played bass better and is the appropriate foil for Steely Dan/new Toto drummer Keith Carlock. Carlock sound inspired on every song on Circus Money and his talents were wisely used with the challenging reggae, rock and blues arrangements.

Becker also plays a supporting role on guitar on “Downtown Canon” along with Steely Dan friends Jon Herington and Dean Parks. Ted Baker and Larry Goldings provide subtle and effective Fender Rhodes and Hammond B-3 Organ support. While three fantastic guitarists are present, the space often reserved in a song for the guitar solo is occupied by an amazingly soulful vocal interlude by singers Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, Carmen Carter and Kate Markowitz. Sorrow never sounded so sweet as “Downtown Canon.”

According to iTunes, this is the most played song in my entire collection. Every time I hear it I know why.

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Preston Frazier

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

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