Monday, October 12, 2015

Steely Dan Alive Alive at Last

In keeping with my resent pod cast, Bluegrass Blog Mixer on ITunes and my last blog I felt it was time to share my thoughts on Steely Dan. I have reviewed the solo works from Donald Fagen and Walter Becker but I haven't shared my thoughts on a Steely Dan album. Now I love them all and the best worst thing I ever bought was Citizen Dan.  It was a box set of all of the CDs, but with the band not putting out anything new I had bought all there was to get.  I was stuck until the guys reunited for a tour. 

I have yet to see the band live. I do greatly regret it. Something is always in the way. So for now their live album will have to and it does do quite nicely. Now Donald and Walter are known to be perfectionist in the studio and I had often wondered would that translate to a live performance?  Surprisingly enough it does. I was in Interlochen Michigan working at the Arts Academy when the CD came out and the sound engineer guys where quite impressed with sound on the CD. 

Now my first memories of the Dan are once again the AM radio in the Parents VW Bug or van. In college I bought a cassette that had Katy Lied and The Royal Scam on it and I got sucked into their world.  Now to the suburban white boy that I am the world of the Dan is the other side of the tracks, drug dealers and the underbelly of life. A musically mysterious realm that their songs bring me to.  The reason I am reviewing Alive in America is the other albums have been reviewed and analyzed to death and as I wrote about earlier the first new Dan in many years. 

The CD starts the mood with Babylon Sisters and it glides on their jazz, pop, rock blend from there. The tracks are mainly the big hits.  I have to admit I was surprised that the only solo work on the CD was a Walter track. I reviewed Book of Liars on an earlier blog about Walter solo but on this release was my listening to the song. It is a better song live than what he had on his solo CD.  Oddly enough the song is richer and musically layered live than in the studio.  The feel of the recording is almost like you're seeing the band on a late summer night laying on a blanket under the stars.  

I recommend Alive in America for anyone like me who haven't gotten a chance to see the Dan live. 

Till next time listen to the best your ears deserve it!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Kamakiriad Fagen Looks at Middle Age

I love Steely Dan,  I have already reviewed Walter Becker and it is time for Donald Fagen.  Odds are even people who don't love Steely Dan will recognize some of Donald Fagen's songs.  Commercially he achieved more success after the break up than his partner Walter did.

Donald's first three CD's were his takes and views on early, middle and twilight of a man's life.  The first CD The Nightfly had a few hits and most people know of it.  The second CD Kamakiriad never really hit the pop crossover like the first, but right now it is my favorite of the three and the one I will review.

I guess being middle aged it is closer to what I see and feel.  I won't say I am what you traditional think of as middle age,:mainly no kids.  But I observe and feel what I would describe as the middle of my shuffle on this mortal coil.  That's a lot of explanation on why these tracks speak more to me and the tracks off the other two CDs.

Keeping in that theme, the CD starts with the track Trans-Island Skyway.  It is a track about how men love cars and when we get that one "I made it car."  For the singer, the car is way over the top with the bells and whistles, not that I don't think having a vegetable garden in your car isn't great. I haven't quite gotten to that "I made it" car yet, but I know I will share in the pride of the singer of this track. Snowbound is another great track.  When I hear it, I always picture my time in Michigan and the fun, at least for the first couple of days, of the town being covered in snow.  The stand out track on the whole CD is On The Dunes.  Beaches are special places and the way Donald uses his words paint such a picture of the pain that he feels from the breakup I really feel I am there.  Finally Tomorrow's Girls, I was talking with the Mrs about this song.  She works on campus at UK and I see the Coeds at work.  At my age women in their 20's almost feel like women from another planet.  Like the city is being invaded by Tomorrow's Girls.  The song nails how time changes and how we look at the opposite sex.

I got a wonderful gift for Christmas last year.  A pair of wireless Bose Headphones.  Now Steely Dan and Donald Fagen have been accused of over production on their CDs but to all who say that listen to their works on headphones.  Their songs are made for to close your eyes and let the music and lyrics take you to the dunes and watch a man morn a lost love, or watch a suburban college professor walk across campus and marvel at the Coeds like they are from another world.  The music Donald and Walter make is meant to immerse yourself in the worlds they create.  If it is overproduced and slick or not I don't care, when I listen I am there.

Til next time- only listen to the best: your ears deserve it!