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Old Today, 02:05 PM
 
Location: San Gabriel Valley
485 posts, read 147,063 times
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I've never been what anyone would call a Steely Dan fanatic, but I grew up with them ever-present on the radio, and I like them enough that I still give their albums a spin once in a while. Sorry to see Becker go; a unique sound has been silenced.

They sure were a weird group; they really defy any pigeonhole. Some try the "jazz rock" label on them, but it really doesn't fit well (and they really chafed at the suggestion). Insofar as they were "jazzy", it was in the vocals a lot more than in the instrumentation, which was as calculated and lush as art-rock and couldn't really get improvisational. However, I certainly wouldn't call them art-rock either because they weren't quite art and they weren't quite rock. Some will try to shoehorn them into the "soft rock" catchall, but while they were included in the radio format, there was something a little dark and edgy about them that set them apart from the Fleetwood Macs, Eagleses, and Steve Miller Bands. You could call them pop, which they were strictly speaking, but they were so insular and melodically idiosyncratic that even that doesn't fit. Nobody would call them a straight "rock 'n' roll" band, especially after they pared themselves into a duo. They were also studio obsessives more in the Billy Corgan way than in the Brian Wilson way, if that makes sense; however, that says nothing about their music really... There really was no proto-Steely Dan in the 60's, and there was no obvious descendant in the 80's. They really were a world unto themselves; in retrospect, it's remarkable they sold as well as they did. Times sure were different then.

I've burned out on almost any FM soft-rock radio hit of the 1970's long ago, but whenever I hear Steely Dan, I still get off on little details in the recordings. Becker's inventive bass and guitar are still distinctive, signature sounds that are his and his alone; nobody else working that side of the street. For a musician, especially a rock(?) musician, that says a lot.
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