Walter Becker, “Were You Close Today” (2018): Something Else! One Track Mind

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Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker would have been 68 today and since it’s the first time we’re celebrating his birthday without him, the event serves as a sad reminder that he went over to the hereafter side just this past September. But the blow has been softened a bit by the surprise release of a previously unheard Becker track.

“Were You Close Today” was dropped on us by his estate at the beginning of the day, listing Adam Rogers on guitar, Fima Ephron on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums (Dave Russell engineered the track). There hadn’t been any other info offered on this track but couple of other things are evident, i.e., Becker sung this track and that this is fairly rough demo. Since everyone listed on the credits had also appeared on Eleven Tracks Of Whack, it’s also a safe bet that “Were You Close Today” is a outtake from Becker’s 1994 debut album, despite the song not being copyrighted until three years later.

The recording sounds just as stripped down as you’d expect but it still grooves in a faux calypso cadence and with no production applied to it, it leaves everyone bare. Most importantly, it leaves Becker’s voice exposed and though he wasn’t blessed with a golden throat, it’s full of earnest soul that he delivers with no pretense whatsoever; you can’t imagine anyone singing his songs with the same emotional impact. It’s something that Becker fans have always appreciated about his way-too-underutilized singing but it’s more evident here than on any of his finished studio tracks.

And then there’s his trademark smooth turn of phrase that could keep you up at night pondering the true meaning of it, but all the same make you marvel at how easy he makes it look to put the metaphors together:

“Was your throughput clean
Was your picture steady
Were you duty free
Were you cable ready”

I always regarded Walter Becker as a self-effacing musical genius. This rough take on one of his compositions that wasn’t even deemed good enough to finish only affirms that conviction about him.

*** Download a free MP3 or WAV file of “Were You Close Today” here ***

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