Walter Becker, “Three Sisters Shakin'” (circa 1992): Steely Dan Sunday

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Though it’s still not an equitable trade off by a long shot, the one silver lining to come from the tragic loss of Walter Becker is that we’ve now seen a steady stream of officially released goodies from his vault. Enough so to dust off the mothballed Steely Dan Sunday series we ran here for a number of years until all the known Steely Dan/SD solo material petered out.

There’s one number that Becker’s estate left in our Easter baskets back on April 1 that is not just good for us Walter-philes, but astonishingly “why the fuck didn’t you finish it and put it out back then?” good. There’s not a whole lot of story behind “Three Sisters Shakin'” but we can deduce from the copyright year and the band lineup that this studio band rehearsal recording took place around the time 11 Tracks of Whack was coming together. One other interesting tidbit is that “Three Sisters” is credited to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, making this a de facto Steely Dan song performed by Becker and his solo band.

We got the advance warning that, as noted above, that this is a studio rehearsal recording, with no overdubs and a “rough vocal.” But the Roger Nichols recording is quite clean, especially compared to the demo that was floating around in the wild much longer.

And Walter put in a fine job with the vox duties. In fact it’s probably superior to some of the vocals that made it on 11 Tracks. He even scats and ad libs through the bridge, so maybe the song wasn’t quite finished but I’m fine with that wordless warbling left in. The song itself is a tight groove and maybe a few less chord changes than a typical SD song but still has that same air of sophistication to it. Curiously, it seems more like a track you’d expect to hear on a Fagen album than a Becker one, and maybe that’s why the Turk visited upon this tune when it came down to cutdown time.

This is hardly the only legit song Walter Becker had toyed with and ultimately discarded at the time he was laying down tracks for his debut album. I’m beginning to wish he had forged ahead with a double-disc record and called it 22 Tracks of Whack instead.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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