Don’t try to pin down Steely Dan as far as genre.  It can drive you crazy if you try too hard.  I’ve batted this around in my head for a while now.  Their music has heavy jazz influences.  One web site I’ve seen listed Steely Dan among the top progressive rock groups.

Steely Dan
Steely Dan (Photo credit: Marco Raaphorst)

When it comes to Steely Dan, I guess I just prefer to relax and enjoy them as nothing more than classic rock.  The key word here is relax.

I caught the Steely Dan “bug” as far back as 1972, when their debut album, “Can’t Buy A Thrill,” came out and the tunes “Reelin’ In The Years” and “Do It Again” were played a lot on the radio, even at a small-town station in some of the more isolated parts of Idaho.  I loved that music so much, on one of those occasions when I could buy a new record album I chose that one, and I played it to death, singing along to every song.  The “Pretzel Logic” album had the same effect on me with the tune “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

The first few Steely Dan albums were the only ones in which they could truly be called a “group.”  Otherwise, the perfectionism that was always demanded in everything from founders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker relegated them to a duo playing with studio musicians.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  After all, the studio musicians they worked with were no slouches — Michael McDonald, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter, Tom Scott, and some of the tastiest drumming you could ever find in a solo came from Steve Gadd in “Aja.”  The list of top-notch session players just on the celebrated “Aja” album alone is stunning.

As someone who appreciates thoughtful writing, Steely Dan’s lyrics are a joy to behold when you really pay attention to them.  They tell a story — along with plenty of humor — in a way that transports you through the music to the streets of Los Angeles or New York, painting vivid pictures.

Fagen and Becker are artists in the truest sense of the word.  They may be eccentric, but that’s part of their charm.  They may not be making new music any more (although they could turn around and surprise us someday, the way they roll — after all, they took about 20 years off from recording together before coming back with the Grammy-winning “Two Against Nature” in 2000) but if you keep your eyes open you may find them playing live somewhere.

When you “reel in the years” that they’ve been around in one form or another, anything Steely Dan’s done has a way of staying with you in the memory banks.


2 thoughts on “My music playlist for today (August 23, 2012 edition)

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