Monday, September 04, 2017

Walter Becker, R.I.P.

I saw today that Walter Becker had passed away. 

Along with Donald Fagen, he created unique and ageless music as Steely Dan. Even after 40+ years, the music of Steely Dan is almost as fresh as the day it was recorded. 

If you want to know how unique Steely Dan was (and is), just look at their closest "relations" on Music Map: Rush, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Boston. Music Map is usually excellent at parsing similar sounds, but none of those bands sound even remotely like Steely Dan, and on the map, they're not even located that closely. 

Nothing sounds like Steely Dan, except Steely Dan. 

Donald Fagen always received most of the attention, but Becker was a terrific musician, as well as being a fine composer and producer. If you want to hear how Becker sounded solo, I highly recommend 11 Tracks of Whack, which is an excellent album. 

One of Steely Dan's best qualities, at least for me, is how carefully every song they recorded is constructed. They are disciplined and complex, and a Steely Dan song is very tightly wound, full of little wonders if you carefully pull it apart. 

You don't have to, though. Another unique quality is that you can float along the surface of a Steely Dan song and have a great, pleasant time. They are a versatile listen. No matter how you listen, no matter what you want to find, it's inside a Steely Dan song. 

Here's their discography, and it's absolutely remarkable:
1972 Can't Buy a Thrill
1973 Countdown to Ecstasy
1974 Pretzel Logic
1975 Katy Lied
1976 The Royal Scam
1977 Aja
1980 Gaucho
2000 Two Against Nature
2003 Everything Must Go

Only two of those albums (Countdown to Ecstasy, which went gold, and Everything Must Go) didn't go platinum in the U.S. Maybe The Royal Scam is slightly weaker, and Everything Must Go (even though it's still compulsively listenable) is the weakest, by far, but that is an absolutely incredible series of albums.

Okay, I have a little treat for you here at the end. This is absolutely the most 70s music video ever, and it's Steely Dan performing "Reelin' in the Years" on the Midnight Special in 1973. You will revel in the outfits and the haircuts (and Michael Fagen's hilarious head toss), but you will absolutely stay for the music:
Reelin' in the Years.

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