Steely Dan


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1972-73):

- Jeff Skunk Baxter -- lead guitar

- Walter Becker -- lead guitar, backing vocals

- Denny Diaz -- lead guitar

- Jim Hodder (RIP 1990)  -- vocals, drums, percussion

- Donald Fagen -- vocals, keyboards

- David Palmer -- vocals, keyboards

 

 

 

- Bead Game (Jim Hodder)

- Walter Becker (solo effort)

- The Big Wha-Koo (David Palmer)

- The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald)

- Donald Fagen (solo efforts)

- Michael McDonald (solo efforts)

- New York Rock and Roll Ensemble (Donald Fagen)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose the Beat

Company: Spark

Catalog: SPA-02

Year: 1971

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promotional copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4911

Price: $40.00

 

Okay, okay, I know technically this isn't a Steely Dan album (in fact it's actually billed to "The Original Sound Track"), but for convenience I've dumped it my other Dan offerings.  Sue me if you feel like it ...

 

The late 1960s found Walter Becker and Donald Fagen working as songwriters for Kenny Vance of Jay and the Americans fame and ABC Records.  With little success placing songs with artists, 1970 found the pair picking up some spare change writing the soundtrack for the quickly forgotten flick "You've Got To Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose That Beat".  Produced by Peter Locke, the 'counterculture' film was actually made in 1968 but was apparently so lame that it sat on the shelf until 1970 when someone decided to take a stab at capitalizing on Richard Pryor's brief appearance in the film (I believe he played a wino).  The film plotline seemed pretty stupid.  Anyone ever actually see the movie?

 

Produced by Vance, "You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It" wasn't essential Becker and Fagen, but stood as a marginally interesting precursor of what would shortly evolve into Steely Dan.  In creative terms the pair didn't seem to have busted a gut with the whole project clocking in at just over 30 minutes.  The soundtrack only featured four real songs, flushed out by three throwaway instrumentals and a brief reprise of the title track. The four 'songs' (the title track, 'Roll Back The Meaning', 'Dog Eat Dog' and 'If It Rains') weren't half bad, though they all had a rough demo edge to them and uncredited singer Marty Kupersmith didn't have much of a voice - on the title track he sounded like a second rate Randy Newman. Vance and Fagen were much more impressive as lead vocalists (check out their performances on 'DogEat Dog' and 'If It Rains' respectively).  Album highlights included 'Roll Back The Meaning' (which would have sounded good on the forthcoming "Can't Buy a Thrill"), the rocker 'Dog Eat Dog' (with Fagen handling vocals) and the instrumental 'Flotsam and Jetsam'.  

 

- As mentioned above, with Marty Kupersmith handling lead vocals, the jaunty title track actually sounded like a an out-of-tune Randy Newman outtake.  Good if you enjoyed Randy Newman.  Not so good otherwise ...   I always smile when I hear Kupersmith saying "lay it on me Donald ..."   rating: ** stars

- Yeah, it was clearly a throwaway instrumental that sounded as if it had been recorded in a bathroom toilet stall, but 'Flotsam and Jetsam' was actually worth hearing, if Fagen's fuzz keyboards (?) and the occasional 'whip' percussion.  The track had a very Steely Dan-esque sound !!!   rating: ** stars

- Basically nothing more than a minute of discordant noise (think along the lines of musique concrete), 'War and Peace' showcased Fagen turning in a discordant piano meltdown segment and an equally needless drum solo.  rating: ** stars

- A wonderful slice of bouncy country-rock with a typically dark lyric balanced by some sweet CS&N styled harmony vocals; with a stronger lead vocal 'Roll Back The Meaning' could have provided the band with a commercial hit.   Danny Diaz turned in a first-rate lead guitar performance on the song.  rating: **** stars

- Side one ended with a brief reprise of the title track (sans Kupersmith's lead vocal); the song ending with what sounded like a fart sound.   rating: ** stars

- Probably the standout performance, propelled by Fagen's lead vocals (hard to believe he really didn't want to sing), 'Dog Eat Dog' had an instantly attractive rockin' melody with Diaz turning in a scorching lead guitar and the rest of the band generating considerable heat.   Would've made a great single ...  rating: **** stars

- The third and final instrumental, showcasing Diaz's lead guitar, 'Red Giant/White Dwarf'' was actually a pretty mood piece.  Easy to picture this one having morphed into one of Steely Dan's prettier ballads had they invested a bit of time and effort into the song.   rating: *** stars

-- With Vance handling lead vocals, ' If It Rains' started out as a spare keyboard-powered ballad that only really kicked into gear when it hit the chorus and the rest of the band slowly joined the arrangement.  The track has always struck me as suffering from a bit of Paul Simon-styled uber-sensitivity.    rating: *** stars

 

Again, casual fans probably wouldn't find much to get excited about, while hardcore fans probably already have most of the material in their collections. 

 

"You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Peter Locke) - 2:58
2.) Flotsam and Jetsam (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Kenny Vance) - 3:29
3.) War and Peace (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 
4.) Roll Back The Meaning   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - White) - 3:43

5.) You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It (reprise)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Peter Locke) - 


(side 2)

1.) Dog Eat Dog   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 
2.) Red Giant/White Dwarf (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Kenny Vance) - 
3.) If It Rains   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 7:01 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose the Beat

Company: Visa

Catalog: IMP 7005

Year: 1978

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4912

Price: $30.00

 

 

With Steely Dan raking in huge amounts of cash it was only a matter of time before someone decided to repackage Becker and Fagen's earlier soundtrack work.  The success of "Aja" apparently provided that financial incentive.  Released by the small Visa label, the reissue featured the same music as on the original soundtrack, but different (less interesting) cover.  The inner sleeve included some marginally interesting notes form a June 1978 Harvey Kubernik story on Steely Dan in Melody Maker.  

 

- As mentioned above, with Marty Kupersmith handling lead vocals, the jaunty title track actually sounded like a an out-of-tune Randy Newman outtake.  Good if you enjoyed Randy Newman.  Not so good otherwise ...   I always smile when I hear Kupersmith saying "lay it on me Donald ..."   rating: ** stars

- Yeah, it was clearly a throwaway instrumental that sounded as if it had been recorded in a bathroom toilet stall, but ' Flotsam and Jetsam' was actually worth hearing, if Fagen's fuzz keyboards (?) and the occasional 'whip' percussion.  The track had a very Steely Dan-esque sound !!!   rating: ** stars

- Basically nothing more than a minute of discordant noise (think along the lines of musique concrete), 'War and Peace' showcased Fagen turning in a discordant piano meltdown segment and an equally needless drum solo.  rating: ** stars

- A wonderful slice of bouncy country-rock with a typically dark lyric balanced by some sweet CS&N styled harmony vocals; with a stronger lead vocal ' Roll Back The Meaning' could have provided the band with a commercial hit.   Danny Diaz turned in a first-rate lead guitar performance on the song.  rating: **** stars

- Side one ended with a brief reprise of the title track (sans Kupersmith's lead vocal); the song ending with what sounded like a fart sound.   rating: ** stars

- Probably the standout performance, propelled by Fagen's lead vocals (hard to believe he really didn't want to sing), ' Dog Eat Dog' had an instantly attractive rockin' melody with Diaz turning in a scorching lead guitar and the rest of the band generating considerable heat.   Would've made a great single ...  rating: **** stars

- The third and final instrumental, showcasing Diaz's lead guitar, ' Red Giant/White Dwarf'' was actually a pretty mood piece.  Easy to picture this one having morphed into one of Steely Dan's prettier ballads had they invested a bit of additional time and effort into the song.   rating: *** stars

-- With Vance handling lead vocals, ' If It Rains' started out as a spare keyboard-powered ballad that only really kicked into gear when it hit the chorus and the rest of the band slowly joined the arrangement.  The track has always struck me as suffering from a bit of Paul Simon-styled uber-sensitivity.    rating: *** stars

 

"You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Peter Locke) - 2:58
2.) Flotsam and Jetsam (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Kenny Vance) - 3:29
3.) War and Peace (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 
4.) Roll Back The Meaning   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - White) - 3:43

5.) You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It (reprise)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Peter Locke) - 


(side 2)

1.) Dog Eat Dog   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 
2.) Red Giant/White Dwarf (instrumental)   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen - Kenny Vance) - 
3.) If It Rains   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) - 7:01 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Rotoscope Down (Pleasantly Retired Behind the Curtain)

Company: TAKRL

Catalog: 1924

Year: 1974

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5704

Price: $50.00

 

Were it not for the lousy sound quality, 1974's "Rotoscope Down (Pleasantly Retired Behind the Curtain)" would be the classic live Dan set ...  Unfortunately the sound is simply hideous, suffering from severe distortion and post-production efforts to clean it up that seemingly made it even worse.  Even with those technical limitations for anyone who thinks of these guys as nothing but a perfectionist studio entity, these nine tracks should come as a revelation in terms of what a great live band the Dan were (at least back in the mid-1970s when the line up featured Becker, Fagen, Jeff Skunk Baxer, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder, and Royce Jones (replacing David Palmer)).  Recorded before what sounded like a small crowd at L.A.'s Record Plant, the band rolled through a mixture of tracks from their first two albums and a couple of selections from the forthcoming "Katy Lied".  Elsewhere the album included two rarities - 'untitled instrumental' which was later reworked into 'Your Gold Teeth II' and the surprisingly good 'Mobile Heart' (which I've also seen listed as 'Home' and 'This All Too Mobile Heart').

 

- The album started out on a high note with a toughened-up version of 'The Boston Rag'.  Kudos to Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias for the biting guitars and Jim Hodder's frantic drums.  Literally kicks the studio version in the teeth.   rating: **** stars

- 'Do It Again' lacked the studio version's polish and Fagan's vocals were a bit rushed, but the song benefited from a harder rock edge - notably another extended killer guitar solo from Baxter.  rating: **** stars

- I'm guessing that Royce Jones was handling the vocals on this breezy version of 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' - technically he certainly had a better voice than Fagan, but then you're not a Dan fan because of Fagan's voice.    rating: *** stars

- 'King of the World' was another track that benefited from having the live arrangement kick the tempo up a notch over the studio version.  Love the cheesy synthesizer and Baxter's jazzy licks towards the end.   rating: *** stars

- It took a minute to come around to the instantly recognizable melody, but once there they played 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' pretty close to the studio version.  Why mess with top-40 success?   rating: **** stars

- Overlooking about 30 seconds of needless noodling, side 2 started with a nice 'Pretzel Logic'.  Again, the live version was very close to the studio version with Jones turning in his best Michael McDonald impression.     rating: *** stars

- 'Untitled Instrumental' was a decent enough jazz-rock effort, serving as a platform for Baxter and Dias to showcase their chops.     rating: ** stars

- Unlike most of these tracks, 'Reelin' In the Years' didn't benefit from the live setting.  Speeding it up was a mistake (Jones sounding like a chipmunk) and the harmony vocals were pretty weak with the additional guitar work coming off as frivilous.      rating: ** stars

- For some reason 'Mobile Heart' never appeared anywhere else, which was unfortunate given it had a pounding beat and first-rate melody.  Would have sounded good on any one of the first three studio sets.   rating: **** stars

- And finally 'Bodhisattva' was another effort that improved with a tougher rock sound.   rating: **** stars

 

"Rotoscope Down (Pleasantly Retired Behind the Curtain)" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) The Boston Rag   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 6:20

2.) Do It Again   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 7:40

3.) Any Major Dude Will Tell You   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 5:06

4.) King of the World   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 5:06

5.) Rikki Don't Lose That Number   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 4:03


(side 2)

1.) Pretzel Logic   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 6:45

2.) untitled instrumental   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 5:33

3.) Reelin' In the Years   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 4:15

4.) Mobile Heart   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 4:35

5.) Bodhisattva   (Donald Fagan - Walter Becker) - 4:20

 



Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  + Fours

Company: ABC

Catalog: ABE 12003

Year: 1977

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing; 4 track 45 rpm EP

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4846

Price: $40.00

 

Unlike in the States, Steely Dan were never a gigantic act in the UK, which may explain why ABC released 1977's "+ Four" in the UK.  Pulling together four previously released songs, normally something like this wouldn't attract much attention from folks, however the track lineup included both sides of the band's impossible-to-find 1972 debut single 'Dallas' and 'Sail the Waterway' (ABC catalog number ABC 11323) which instantly created demand for the EP among Dan fans.  For whatever reasons those two songs weren't even included on the Steely Dan boxed set release.  By the way, in spite of what Becker and Fagen have said about the single, both of the songs were pretty good.  Not as immediately impressive as 'Do It Again' (still my favorite Dan song), or the reggae-meets-western-reality 'Haitian Divorce', but still nice with 'Dallas' showcasing a surprisingly enjoyable country-rock feel.  Anyone know who handled the vocals?  It wasn't Fagen, or David Palmer.  Maybe Jim Hodder who was their drummer at the time?  With Fagen handling the vocal the flip side was a more typical Dan track.  A mid-tempo piece it boasted a nice melody, catchy chorus and tasty twin lead guitars and wouldn't have sounded out of place on the debut "Can't Buy a Thrill".   Anyhow, since the original 45 is near impossible to locate (ABC reportedly pulled it out of concern the tracks weren't a good representation of the band's sound), this is probably your best chance to hear the two rarities. 

 

   

 

"+ Four" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Do It Again   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) -    rating: ***** 5 stars

2.) Dallas   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) -    rating: **** 4 stars  

 

(side 2)

1.) Haitian Divorce   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) -    rating: ***** 5 stars 

2.) Sail the Waterway   (Walter Becker - Donald Fagen) -    rating: *** 3 stars 

 

YouTube has a couple of these songs in concert performances:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiuMA-Q90lA

'Haitian Divorce' - Walter Becker handling the lead vocals

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXXmg2-6v-I

1972 television performance with David Palmer handling the lead vocals and Fagen on harmony vocals

 

 

 

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