Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Morning Vault: Steely Dan--My Old School (1973)

     I know, I know...this isn't a "hidden" classic, but it's a classic nonetheless. We went out to see a Steely Dan tribute band last night (and if you think that's don't know your Dan very well), and was blown away. The name of the band is "Twelve Against Nature" and are made up of some of Nashville's best musicians. From the beginning of the show until the encore, the musicianship was outstanding. The arraignments were many times spot on to the originals, but with just enough improvisation  to keep you on your toes. Watching the band members mix like perfect pieces to a complex puzzle, one admires the talent of the band playing, but even more so, one again pay respect to Steely Dan.

     Looking back they were a perfect band for the 70's. For many who liked jazz, the charts were full of chordal and rhythmic twists and turn, but never went fully jazz. They always had an eye for the commercial, but forced listeners to come into their seamy world of characters that were a snapshot of the underbelly of society. The lyrical content was as layered as the music with the wordplay alternating between fun and just plain dense. All of this and much of it was danceable as well (don't think lightly of this, some of their greatest success on the charts was during the disco era)  Given the optimism of much of the 60's, Fagen and Becker mirrored much of the cynicism of the 70's. All of those things created a sound that was popular in it's day but has more than stood the test of time. Complex music that you can dance too....that's generally too much to ask for in a band, but then again, Steely Dan makes it happen, even after all of these years.


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