Revinylization #33: 21st Century (Steely) Dan

Steely Dan’s very last two studio albums, Two Against Nature (2000) and Almost everything Should Go (2003), are anomalies. The music is stellar, at or near the level of the band’s ideal early get the job done, but it is practically mysterious, even amid supporters. (Again in 2011, a person night of a week-extensive gig at the Beacon in New York City was meant to emphasize songs from these two albums—the system was identified as “21st-Century Dan”—but the concept was dropped when nearly no one bought progress tickets.)

A shame. Two Versus Character, which marked the return of Steely Dan just after a 20-yr hiatus and won the Grammy that 12 months for Ideal Album, commences in the place Gaucho still left off: a streak of literary sparklers glossing oddball tales, commonly about loss, illusion, or unfulfilled goals, sung by a narrator who’s possibly blithely clueless or self-loathingly conscious of his dim potential clients, backed by doo-wop backup singers, skylark guitar licks, a challenging-slam backbeat, and slick jazz horn charts—much too slick for some, but those people detractors skip the stage: It really is the contrast amongst the polished preparations and the warbly narrator’s cri de coeur that sparks Steely Dan’s charm. And, of class, you can find the wit, fashioned by the band’s co-founders and composers, Walter Becker (who died in 2017) and Donald Fagen (even now going strong), each Bard Lit majors steeped in Tin Pan Alley and junkie Conquer poetry, a cool-breeze brew for our dyspeptic instances.

Fagen, the lead singer, was the era’s cogent troubadour, a successor to Dylan other than that Dylan’s persona was a rebel who storms off Maggie’s farm whilst Fagen’s was, and is, the planet-weary Sybarite who sees “the blood orange sky” higher than the freeway but, emotion way too conquer for rage, takes refuge in “the extensive unhappy Sunday of the early resigned.”

Those people lines are from two tunes on All the things Have to Go, which, if people bothered to hear, would reign as the most prophetic pop album of the past two decades. (It hit the bins just as “album-oriented rock” was taking its steep slide.) It begins with “The Last Shopping mall,” finishes with the title tune (about merrily dissolving a company), and, in the interim, handles a broad waterfront from “Points I Miss out on the Most” (about a dissolute divorcee), “Blues Seashore” (the aforementioned “extended sad Sunday”), “Godwhacker” (think Shaft fulfills Nietzsche), “Pixeleen” (a prescient tale of cyber-romance), and “Lunch with Gina” (about getting hounded by a mad lady but loving her anyway).

The backup musicians on equally albums are best notch. Chris Potter (sax) was taking part in with the band for a couple of many years close to the time of Two From Character his solos jolt the affair with a scorching jazz vibe. By the time of Anything, Steely Dan had resumed yearly summer season excursions, and a full-time band was locked in area and cooking (even though Potter had returned to jazz clubs).

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In the ’70s, specially with Aja and Gaucho, Fagen and Becker have been infamous for their command-freakish methods in the studio, pushing choose right after get, dialing the knobs just so on the mixing board, and this obsession persisted when they acquired back alongside one another. (I viewed Fagen mixing some tunes on his solo album, Morph the Cat. A usual instruction to the engineer: “Convey up the flute by one-quarter dB.”) Two Versus Nature was the previous album the band recorded in analog, though the overdubs had been laid down in electronic, and the combine was digital, the latter oversampled at 192kHz. Almost everything Should Go was recorded digitally, at 24/48, and whilst it appears very good—all Dan albums seem at the very least quite good—the format’s limits are obvious. In contrast with Two From Character, the percussion is papery and the horns a little bit flat, nevertheless only a bit.

All the things appeared on vinyl in Europe soon just after its launch, and Rhino put out a 2-LP Two Versus Mother nature (with the fourth side blank) for Record Retailer Day in 2021. I have not listened to the Euro pressing, but I have the Rhino. The Acoustic Seems reissue is pressed from the exact same electronic learn (by Scott Hull), so its only distinctions are the QRP urgent and 45rpm pace, but that helps make a big variation. Fagen’s voice is clearer, the guitars are pluckier, the horns are brassier, the drums are additional eye-blinkingly smacked, and the rhythm is far more coherent. The improvement is not large, but it truly is clear. (The improvement above the CD is pretty huge.) The Rhino LP package deal is out of print and sells on Discogs for hundreds of dollars, so the Acoustic Appears package deal, at $60, is a relative deal.

Every thing Need to Go was introduced on vinyl in Europe, and whilst it too is much better than the CD (I have both of those), the Analogue Productions reissue, which is mastered by Bernie Grundman, is considerably better continue to. Listed here, also, comparisons are educational, as the Euro LP is out of print and providing for a few-digit selling prices on the secondary marketplaces.

Both albums are also among the AP’s handsomest productions, with a Tip-on gatefold jacket, lush colour copy, and useless-peaceful 180gm virgin vinyl.

If you missed these albums when they came out, at the start off of our century, it really is time to catch up, considering that the situations have caught up with them. There’s never been a far better way to do so.

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