languid and bittersweet

So DaveG linked Musical Taste in one of his increasingly sporadic posts, and I went to check it out last night and found that it’s quite cool indeed.

One of the most recent track recommendations on the home page is Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne,” from The Royal Scam. Although the person who recommended it cited it as being from A Decade of Steely Dan, and that’s technically true, it was first found on TRS.

And man, do I love that song. So I had to listen to the Dan today on the way in to work, and I chose A Decade of… as my musical selection for today. Well, after Sam and Jay and I listened to BSB on the way to their schools, that is.

Steely Dan is quite possibly the greatest studio band ever. If you consider yourself a fan of good music and don’t know Steely Dan, shame on you. Go immediately and find some of their stuff.

In a nutshell: brilliant songwriting and musical genius.

In addition to all that, Donald Fagen has the most incredibly wry quality to his voice that I find irresistible. In the same way that you know without thinking twice that Michael McDonald is singing backup vocals on “Peg,” I think I’d recognize Fagen’s voice speaking softly on a crowded subway car.

I almost hate to make this comparison, but here it goes. Art Alexakis of Everclear has this tendency to kind of tilt his head from side to side when he’s singing. Look for it the next time you run across one of their videos. It’s a really affected physical tic, and when you see it, it sometimes has the effect of making you feel as if he’s telling you a story you should already know.

Fagen doesn’t need to put on a head tilt, because he achieves the same effect with his voice, and because Fagen and Becker’s lyrics are just so smart. And I really wanted to give an example but I just don’t know where to begin.

I saw a question posed somewhere about music that changed one’s life. This is some of mine. Surprisingly, the first song that ever stuck with me was “Dirty Work,” and Fagen doesn’t even sing lead vocals on it. And that’s probably why it’s not one of my favorites anymore.

“Kid Charlemagne” is up there, but “Deacon Blues” wins, hands down. It’s on Aja, and while I agree with many critics who cite Aja as Steely Dan’s musical peak, and I do love that album, I still have a special place in my heart for every track on Can’t Buy a Thrill.

I’m not a snob. If you were to buy only one of their albums, A Decade of Steely Dan is a good solid place to start. I’m not a huge fan of their recent work, but nearly everything else is a winner.

And with that, I’ve got some stuff to do.

6 Replies to “languid and bittersweet”

  1. I heard “Reelin' in the Years” on the way into work…”Peg” is always fun to sing along to…And can't forget “Hey Nineteen”…the cuervo gold…the fiiine co-lum-bian… :)

  2. So your musical tastes are at the same level of sophistication you exhibit elsewhere; no surprise there. The Dan was a leading force; I enjoyed playing their material in club bands.

  3. In high school I had a friend named Asia, whose parents had named her after the album… that was a good story. I should tell it again.

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