Steely Dan Sunday, “Kind Spirit” (1980?)


“Kind Spirit” – A Friendly Ghost of a Song

As we navigate through the flotsam and jetsam of Steely Dan odds n’ sods n’ outtakes there’s another unfinished diamond in the rough that evokes a feeling of what could have been: “Kind Spirit.” In “Kind Spirit” we have a fairly well-flushed out melody for the verse and chorus with lyrics that sound like a first, partial run or even dummy lyrics. So dummy, in fact, that the verses are hummed.

This outtake is from probably the Gaucho period, although it has elements of an Aja sound (e.g., “Home at Last”). The doubled-up vocals though sound more Gaucho period, fuller and less of the nasally Jerry Lewis-like wheeze Fagen jokes about on the Aja Sessions program. There’s also a bounce to the tune, reminiscent of “The Second Arrangement.” The “Kind Spirit” recording that is floating out there in the ether features Rhodes, piano, bass, and drums as a possible live basic track, with Fagen’s vocals overdubbed. Some really nice, slick fills on the skins, which sound like Steve Gadd, particularly with his modified drum roll after the chorus thrown in. It could be Chuck Rainey on bass, Rob Mounsey on piano, and Don Grolnick (or Fagen) on Rhodes. Fagen “na na na na na’s” the verse with a robust and lyrical melody, tagged to a tasty counterplay on the ivories.

Then we are taken by the hand directly into a hook-filled chorus. Piano, bass, and drum musicianship shine.

Kind Spirit don’t go
Tell me why
The time has come to fly on by
Kind Spirit don’t go
Such as shame
The room won’t be the same
Don’t leave me here to fade without your flame

Back to the intro vamp, and then onto a very hummable verse two – literally. Following the second pass of the chorus, we are treated to a nice jazzy mini-jam session as an outtro. It’s an earthy and meaty tune whose corpus suggests that “Kind Spirit,” in some form, might have made for a very lively and full recording. Quite upbeat, even with the minor key inflections.

My guess is that this spirited demo was recorded not long before the initial incarnation of “The Second Arrangement,” the master of which was erased except for a 15 sec intro with Porcaro on drums, and not the 2nd attempt demo (Gadd drum loop) that was heavily WENDEL-ized (Roger Nichols’ drum sampling/looping computer device thingy that set the standard of fake drums and pre-fab production for decades to come).

No apparition…”Kind Spirit” had the bones to become the real thing.

John Lawler

John Lawler

J.M. Lawler is researcher living somewhere left of the Rio Grande, Texas, where he practices science - until he gets it right. He was first exposed to Steely Dan by a neighbor and the static of AM radio at a young age. Reach John at; contact Something Else! at
John Lawler