Favorites: Steely Dan (1988-1995)

They looked upon the promised land

Steely DanI’m doing Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands thing that J. Eric Smith did. He also picked Steely Dan, albeit at a far earlier period, 1976 to 1978. I liked them well enough then, but there were always other artists I was listening to more often.

But by the late 1980s, that was no longer the case. As I stated when Walter Becker died a few years ago, “I discovered that I owned all nine of their core albums, including that greatest hits album and Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly.”

And as Eric noted in his tribute to Becker, “The wisdom of Steely Dan was so sublime that one could get all of life’s answers from it.”

You’re at a party of people with diverse musical tastes. Yet almost everyone could at least tolerate Steely Dan, whether they were fans of grunge or pop or soul or jazz. There was a certain universality about them, that they were VERY GOOD and quite clever, to boot. As their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page begins, “Wry. Crafty. Cerebral. Acerbic. The perfectionists of Steely Dan made deviously slick music.”

Tunes

I was loathed to come up with a list three years ago, and that hasn’t changed. But I will anyway.

Haitian Divorce (The Royal Scam) “They wrangle through the night.”
My Old School (Countdown to Ecstasy)
Aja (Aja) “Up on a hill…”
Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Pretzel Logic) “But if you have a change of heart…”
Hey, Nineteen (Gaucho) – “That’s ‘Retha Franklin!”
Do It Again (Can’t Buy a Thrill, which was more of a band effort than the subsequent Becker/Fagan and session musicians)

Bodhisattva (Countdown)
Peg (Aja) As is true in a number of cuts, LOVE the Michael McDonald vocal.
Black Friday (Katy Lied)
Babylon Sisters (Gaucho)
Deacon Blues (Aja) “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide”
The Royal Scam (Royal Scam) – the first time I heard this song, I immediately played it again

Vaguely related, I was happy to see the Doobie Brothers were selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. That means original Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and contributing SD vocalist Michael McDonald got in.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Favorites: Steely Dan (1988-1995)”

  1. I struggled with my Dan list, too. Their catalog is of a reasonable, manageable size . . . . But the quality is so uniformly high that it is tough to pull out particular gems over the others surrounding them!

    I recently read Doobies producer Ted Templeman’s autobio, which was very good. The Doobies don’t quite have the cool factor that the Dan do, but at their best, they are a really enjoyable group, for sure.

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