Steely Dan Sunday: The Five Best Steely Dan Deep Cuts

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*** STEELY DAN SUNDAY INDEX ***

We previously picked our most beloved Steely Dan singles, now we choose the finest five of their deep cuts.

A characteristic that separates the great artists like the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan in the rock era from other artists is the ability to go deep. Dozens of songs buried into the discography that gleam like rare, polished gems.

Steely Dan devotees Preston Frazier, John Lawler and S. Victor Aaron dig into the deep seams for Steely Dan gold, a treasure trove of nuggets that weren’t released as singles but are every bit as good, if not better. Click through the song titles to read the orginal, full rundowns on them.


PRESTON FRAZIER

5. Midnite Cruiser: Sometimes played live now and also back in 1994 but originally delivered by drummer/vocalist, the late Jim Hodder. Great Allman Brothers-like harmony guitar interlude and a strong solo by Jeff Baxter. A timeless rocker.

4. Night By Night: Tight drumming delivered by a nineteen year old Jeff Porcaro perfectly matched to Walter Becker’s bass and David Paich’s clavinet. A timeless horn chart punctuated by a stinging Jeff Baxter guitar solo.

3. Jack Of Speed: Streamlined, funky and jagged. Walter Becker delivers the goods on bass and all guitars while Fagen spits out a dark, dank and pessimistic vocal.

2. Slang Of Ages: The classic Steely Dan pick up attempt but Walter Becker delivers the slimy yet comical come-on which is boxed in by Walt Weiskioff’s sassy tenor sax solo. Slang Me!

1. Green Book: Donald Fagen amazes with his futuristic lead vocal supported by the lovely and talented Carolyn Leonhart. Things get messy and yet enchanting with the dueling Fagen/Becker solos overtop of Becker’s sublime five string bass licks.


JOHN LAWLER

5. Any World (That I’m Welcome To): Katy Lied has a pocketful of diamonds clouded by some “downer surrealism” and the noise reduction snafu. Jeff Porcaro slept in and Wrecking Crew alum Hal Blaine fills in remarkably. Emotion and frustration boil over (a rare event in the SD catalog) in a truly melodic tune that features incredibly tight harmonies from Michael McDonald.

4. West of Hollywood: 21st Century Dan at its finest. Walter and Donald complete a tune from the aborted 1980s Steely Dan sessions. Walter conjures his finest solo on the album, and Chris Potter takes us home with a masterful, extended sax solo above really complex chords on the Rhodes. Check out that bubbling Wurly over another sad story.

3. Aja: The extended suite that defined the album Aja. Steve Gadd delivers the performance of a lifetime, complete with stick click. Wayne Shorter guest stars on a marvelous set of outside the lines saxophone swatches. Dias, Carlton, and Walter take turns on the guitar solos. The pinnacle of musicianship for Steely Dan as a studio entity.

2. Home at Last: This LA-dazed take on the Ulysses legend is frequently covered on tour. It’s a tour de force on bass, piano, and drums with Chuck Rainey, Victor Feldman, and Bernard “Pretty” Purdie simply laying down da business. Donald Fagen jumps in with a memorable blues synth harp solo to be used as a central player on The Nightly album.

1. Doctor Wu: The song, the legend, the Wu. If there were ever a magical song about a love triangle and drug addiction, this is it. Possibly referring to a Eastern Medicine physician for the stars and politicos of the same name, Katy and presumably heroin are two fixes the narrator can’t shake. Dr. Wu to the rescue? A gorgeous song bisected by the iconic Phil Woods’ sax solo.


S. VICTOR AARON

5. The Caves of Altimira: Steely Dan once covered an Ellington song but this deft blending of jazz orchestration with rock is their best ever tribute to the Duke.

4.Doctor Wu: A song of heartbreak, addiction and disillusionment represents one of the finest examples of Steely Dan’s signature mastery of an intricate yet soulful harmonic progression. This artful combination of prose, melody and execution — dig that Phil Woods sax solo — ranks up there as one of their best ever moments on record.

3. Babylon Sisters: A pristine melody, sassy-girl harmonies and Bernard Purdie’s hard grooving shuffle winning the battle against wound-tight production. “Sisters” just swaggers too much to be soulless.

2. Your Gold Teeth II: A jazz swing pulled off with uncanny finesse, this second chapter of “Your Gold Teeth” raised the level of sophistication to heights few other rock bands could ever attain. Denny Dias and Jeff Poracoro had rarely sounded better.

1. Aja: Becker and Fagen threw all notions accessibility out the window when they put together their opus, a sweeping, eight minute semi-suite that has too many standout individual performances to summarize in a paragraph. The full manifestation of this duo’s vast artistry.

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