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Steely Dan - Any good?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by Judge, Sep 1, 2004.

  1. Judge


    Mar 26, 2004
    I've never rally listened to Steely Dan, but recently on a plane trip I was listening to an excellent track on the in-flight radio only to find out afterwards that it was Steel Dan. The bass playing was excellent and it may have come from the Aja CD. Anyway are they any good? Is Aja their best CD, which appears to be the opinion of a couple of websites I've just checked out.

    How is Becker as a bass player, or was I more likely to have been hearing Chuck Rainey?

    I'd just like to get some TBers opinions on them.
  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Steely Dan are definitely worth listening to. Chuck Rainey played on a lot of tracks but you'll also hear some good stuff from Becker and a number of other players. Most of the Dan's output was done through an intensive studio process which involved Becker and Fagen getting together a roomful of top studio cats, deciding it didn't sound quite right and getting another bunch together (rinse and repeat...). It was a very meticulous process but the result was some very carefully crafted albums.

    I've only got Aja and a Greatest Hits collection but definitely enjoy their music - Aja would certainly be a worthy starting point.

  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've got everything they've ever produced on CD and they have been discussed a huge amount around here - I would say they are one of TB's favourite bands!

    Do a search on Steely Dan and you'll find a lot !!
  4. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    Steely Dan - fantastic!

    I'd say Aja is probably the best place to start for a newbie to the 'Dan, but you won't be shortchanged by anything in their back catalogue, i'd also recommend: Gaucho, The Royal Scam, Katie Lied, Pretzel Logic (damn, I just realised I nearly named all of them)

    You also can't go wrong with Fagen's solo album 'The Nightfly'

    The bass playing is mostly understated, subtle & oozes quality... exactly what Steely Dan is all about

    Becker's bass playing isn't in the same league as Chuck Rainey or Anthony Jackson's but it's functional & it works well enough
  5. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    I'm not sure who plays on what Steeley Dan cut but if you go to see them live Tom Barney will be surely playin bass!

    Oh, we hung out last week!
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Tom Barney is great - I love his playing on the DVD of 2 against nature - but he'll never overtake Chuck Rainey as the best of the Dan's bass players!! IMO ;)
  7. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    I was totally unaware this was a "who's the best Steeley Dan bassist tread" sorry. ;)
  8. Judge


    Mar 26, 2004
    Thanks guys.

    How does the DVD compare with their studio output?
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think if it was good bass playing around the Aja era, then it's most likely to have been Chuck Rainey!!

    How many e's?? ;)
  10. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    it should probably be second on your shopping list after the original albums...

    it's great to see them alive and performing, and the band is tight & cooking in a kinda polite and unobtrusive way, Tom Barney is supergreat (except for that little fill at the beginning of 'Peg' which he does slightly early :ninja: :) )

    Donald's vocals were never supposed to be the greatest, but his unique tone & delivery really made Steely Dan, unfortunately his voice on the DVD lets things down a little - still, he's Donald Fagen so I'll forgive him anything :)

    Walter's guitar playing doesn't compare particularly well to John Herrington's, who is excellent and stands comparison to Dan greats like Larry Carlton

    my 2 cents: worth a watch, but get the albums first
  11. supermonkey


    Mar 15, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I agree with cows: the original studio output is like the gospel. The DVD is more apocryphal.

    I actually enjoy Becker's playing on the earlier records. Not busy, but very tasteful -- much like his guitar playing.
    Which is IMH too tasteful and not fiery enough to compete with the spectacular Dan guitarists of the past.... but I digress.

    I'm a massive Dan fan. Check out Pretzel Logic, Royal Scam, and Aja. You won't be disappointed.
  12. I remember noticing on Josie that they had dropped the tune down a whole step to accomodate Donald Fagen's aging voice. I'm not sure about the other tunes though.

    The Steely Dan video about the making of Aja is great too, if you interested in the studio process.
  13. mr e

    mr e

    Nov 17, 2003
    what about Deny's guitar playing!?!

    yes, listen to aja (asia)
    but,i'd recommend getting them in order. on vinyl.

    all you showbiz kids that haven't seen the 'classic albums' dvd for aja
    do so

    learn how becker/fagan didn't want rainey to slap on 'peg'
  14. adam on bass

    adam on bass Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2002
    New Braunfels, Texas
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, GK, EMG and D'Addario
    Katy Lied has some of the best lines I have ever heard. The lines define how punchy and clean you can make a busy bassline. I grew up with it and learned how to not play 3 million notes in a song from Steely. Kick back and flow. If you can find the vinyl get it, the sound is so much better than the CD.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I prefer the CD!! ;)
  16. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    Steely Dan is life. Everything else is just background noise! Now go out there and buy every Steely Dan CD you can find! Go! Stop reading this, and get out there! March mister!!!!
  17. nobody mentioned that Anthony Jackson plays on a couple of tracks on Gaucho...great stuff. As Chuck Rainey tells it, they had 3 different 'bands' do the whole record and they picked the best cuts from all 3.

    The other bassist was Will Lee. He didn't make the record.

    It's not my favorite, though. My faves are the Royal Scam and Aja.
  18. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    One of the greatest bands in history. Get all of the albums, now! :D

    Personally, I would recommend getting the albums in chronological order, which is as follows:

    Can't Buy A Thrill (1972)
    Countdown To Ecstasy (1973)
    Pretzel Logic (1974)
    Katy Lied (1975)
    The Royal Scam (1976)
    Aja (1977)
    Gaucho (1980)
    The Nightfly (1982)
    Kamakiriad (1993)
    Two Against Nature (2000)
    Everything Must Go (2003)

    The Nightfly and Kamakiriad were Donald Fagen's solo albums, but they're both very much in the Steely Dan style.

    I think (at the moment, anyway) The Royal Scam is my favourite, because it has both great songs, and a lot of energy. Although Aja and Gaucho also had great songs (and more advanced than those on The Royal Scam) they are a more polished, and lacking some of the energy of The Royal Scam.

    Becker also did a solo album - "11 Tracks Of Whack", which I haven't heard, maybe someone who has can comment on it. There is also "Showbiz Kids: The Story Of Steely Dan 1972 - 1980", which is essentially a best of, but it has two tracks not on any of the other albums - "FM" and "Here At The Western World", which AFAIK are both from the Aja era, and both great tracks. If you're a mug like me, you'll go out and but that album just for those two songs :)

    Anyway - you have to get all the main albums. IMO, Donald Fagen & Walter Becker are up there along side the greatest songwriting partnerships of the last century.
  19. Get the box set Citizen Steely Dan....it'll save you the trips to the record store. :cool:
  20. Steely dan is my fav prog band, Wonderful Music, my favorite album is the first , "Can t Buy a Thrill" and the best song on it is Fire in the Hole.