Sunday, April 15, 2007

Steely Dan (1986)

It was some time around the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college that I popped into the cd player a copy of A Decade of Steely Dan that I found lying next to the stereo in Anders' house. I recall the house was full of guys sleeping off alcohol-induced hangovers, although I'm sure that wasn't the only substance involved. Of course, I had heard many, if not most, of these songs before, and had often enjoyed singing the lyrics to "Deacon Blues" while intoxicated, but this collection of hits initiated my desire to explore this musical territory further.

Within a year, I would purchase, in cassette format, all seven of Steely Dan's studio albums that existed at the time. In fact, years later, I would purchase all seven of these on cd, making this the only artist that I, at one time, owned their entire catalog (not including compilations) in two different formats. Of course, that no longer is the case since I don't own either of their 21st century albums in any format.

1976's The Royal Scam was my first purchase, although the hit-laden Aja would've seemed the place to begin, and remains my favorite to this day, despite being considered by some to be among their worst. In my opinion, as many as five of those first seven albums could legitimately be considered their best, with Gaucho and Countdown to Ecstasy being the exceptions. By the summer of '87, I would be so enthralled that I would declare it a Steely Dan summer, much to Scott's chagrin, as that moniker would describe the only music played on my car stereo during those months. Beau would later give me The Best of Van Morrison as a gift, just so I would listen to something else.

I was fascinated by the sarcasm and cynicism of their lyrics, even if I had no idea what many of the songs were about. I even drove through the upstate New York town that was the subject of the less than flattering "Barrytown", to try to learn what Donald Fagen was singing about. Barrytown was towards the northern end of the Hudson River, nearby to Annandale-On-Hudson, where Fagen and Walter Becker had met while attending Bard College. I found no evidence of the other worldiness that this song portrayed.

Steely Dan may very well be the band that I overplayed the most, thereby taking some of the enjoyment out of their music for years to come. I seem to have recovered from this, though, and I now consider their 70's output to be among the strongest decade long runs of any of my favorite bands.

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