*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***
“I’m Not The Same Without You” is a fine leadoff single from Sunken Condos. The song reached number 12 on the Billboard 200 and charted well in Japan in Europe as well.
Producers Fagen and Michael Leonhart served in a dual capacity as rhythm section with Fagen credited as Harlan Post on bass and Leonhart credited on all the songs as drummer “Earl Cooke, Jr.” At least on “I’m Not The Same Without You,” the tandem worked perfectly.
Fagen’s bass track played I suspect on a Prophet 5 synth is particularly punchy. Leonhart’s drums lay down a laid back R&B beat which fits the song and leaves space for a funky guitar part from Jon Herington that propels the song along.
The solo spaces are gamely played by William Galison on harmonica. This space could have easily been filled by Herington’s guitar but Galison goes for the gold and it pays off. As Galison recounted to SER around the time Sunken Condos was released, attaining that gold wasn’t easy:
I often compare improvising over changes to skiing down a mountain (though I’m a better improviser than skier). Knowing the chord changes of a tune is like knowing a particular ski slope; where are the rocks, the lift poles, the icy patches, the trees, etc.
In both cases, you try to get from the beginning to the end in an elegant and interesting way, and familiarity with the terrain allows you more freedom and creativity. To extend the metaphor, improvising on a Fagen song can be a bit like skiing down a lovely intermediate slope with perfect snow conditions, but laced with the occasional land mine. “Ooh … look at me!…. KABOOM!!!”.
So it was on “I’m Not the Same.” I kept skiing over the same harmonic landmine, until Donald kindly and patiently took me to piano and said, “hey Will, you sound great… let me just show you this chord here…”
Fagen and Leonhart collaborate on the horn charts leading three of the four Steely Dan horn players through the paces in a rather aggressive and funky arrangement which is never intrusive.
The music is so upbeat and jaunty you almost forget Fagen is lamenting the outcome of a failed relationship. Sure, the lyrics are good and the contrasting mood against the music is effective, but they aren’t Steely Dan lyrics (or Walter Becker’s for that matter). Only in this comparison do they fall short.