The Most Outstanding Steely Dan Songs Ever!
Steely Dan live at The Midnight Special, 1972 - Hal Griffin / Youtube
Steely Dan was like that weird kid sitting at the back corner of your room, who took music classes after school. They slowly creeped to fame along the years, and while the process wasn’t questionable, it sure was bizarre. Defying rockstar conventions with their un-rockstar image, the jazz rock pioneers couldn’t care less. Somewhere down the line, studio recording already involved session musicians playing on their behalf, and abandoned live performances to become a studio-only band. Nonetheless, Steely Dan provided the world premium jazz rock, and here are some of their quintessential tracks to boot.
“My Old School” – Countdown to Ecstasy (1973)
A look back to the duo’s days at Bard College in New York, it features the atmosphere created by frequent police raids on the institution for drugs and radicals. The honky tonk of the track hides the negativity profusely, with a brilliant employment of brass parts for well-time accents. The upbeat track is of a southern sound, more than their standard jazz, but is done so tastefully it doesn’t even matter.
“Kid Charlemagne” – The Royal Scam (1976)
The complicated arrangement inspired by drugs was Steely Dan’s move away from pop sounds to a more varied style. Its undeniable groove is provided by the conjunction of the different progressions and accents by the clavinet and bass, while the drums provide an upbeat tempo up to the challenge.
“Hey Nineteen” – Gaucho (1980)
With the group nearing its breakup, Gaucho was strewn with uninspired material all over, but “Hey Nineteen” was an exception. The midlife crisis-inspired track doesn’t overdo its arrangement, heavily relying on guitar accents to bring out exceptional sonic detail, not to mention some of their most immaculate vocal harmonies on record.
“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” – Pretzel Logic (1974)
While it’s pretty hard to imagine Steely Dan staples that provide a mellow and emotional vibe, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” does pretty much the unimaginable. The ballad eloquently deploys emotion, with the help from one of Horace Silver’s classic.
“Deacon Blues” – Aja (1977)
Weaving the tale of an aspiring musician youth into the world of jazz and the accompanying ups and downs with it, “Deacon Blues” perfectly captures the moment with its gloomy arrangement, mellowing down with the brass parts, for that laid-back track that is inspired by Fagen’s own experiences.