Walter Becker, “Ghost of Hipness Past” (early 1990s?): One Track Mind

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The fine folks at Walter Becker Media, an official outlet for all things about the late Steely Dan co-founder, has been very busy these days. With some audio cleanup help from WB ‘superfan’ Dan Belcher, they’ve been tackling old, creaky 11 Tracks of Whack outtakes that have been floating around the interwebs ether for years, buffing ’em up and dropping ‘em on us unsuspecting masses. We’ve already presented a few of them in this space, and now there’s another one to ponder over (and, natch, enjoy).

I don’t have much metadata on “Ghost of Hipness Past,” but it’s relation to Whack gives us a fair guess as to the time frame and possible personnel. I’ll leave that guesswork to others.

What I hear is a song very similar in structure to a tune that *did* make it on that album, “Girlfriend.” Like “Girlfriend,” Becker is stitching together two or three song fragments chock full of jazz chords, giving it some jarring transitions and a complexity that pulls back the curtain on his role in putting together those uber-sophisticated, harmonically advanced Steely Dan songs. The programmed bossa nova beat and perhaps the synth lines give up small indications that the track wasn’t quite ready for prime time, and Becker’s vocal is exposed more than usual but it holds up great under the microscope. And with the simple utterance of “now kick it,” a tenor sax solo is cut loose, not of the soul-drenched Pete Christlieb variety but an edgier growl that tests the limits of tonality a time or two.

With Walter Becker himself now truly a ghost, he is singing about himself in the literal sense today so more than then. But his hipness will never be merely a thing of the past. It’s timeless.


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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