The other day, one of my biggest blog followers (a select bunch!), he who shall be known as DC, requested a Steely Dan top ten. This stemmed from a show we went to last year, at the Half Moon, Putney, by the very excellent Steely Dan tribute band, Stanley Dee. They played some brilliant renditions of some of the classics and a few of the more obscure tracks, bringing out the strength of the melodies, and the sheer musicianship.
I wrote quite a long piece about Steely Dan in my book, I Was There – A Musical Journey (still available on Amazon and Kindle!). They were my introduction to jazz as a student, although they weren’t actually jazz. They took me into quality funk rhythms too. They could rock – in a sophisticated way of course – and their songs had some beautiful melodies. Melodies often with a dark heart, and sometimes a cynical heart. But melodies you could sing along to, especially on the early albums. I will always remember my own children, when they were little, singing in the back seat of the car to “Dirty Work”, off the first album. It’s number six in my twenty, but it would be number one purely on sentimental grounds. One of my girls thought the title was “Daddy Work”. And that had to be good!
At university, my favourite Dan album was absolutely “Countdown to Ecstasy”, with “The Boston Rag” and “Your Gold Teeth” my two biggest tunes. I loved the reach of these songs, and the amazing guitars. They still resonate with me, and are both in my top four. “Your Gold Teeth” is No 1, just for the musicianship, the keyboard and guitar solos, the rocking jazziness. A summary of everything I love about Steely Dan. The other two in the top four are from “Aja”, and ultimately, that has to be my favourite album. It is the most jazzy Steely Dan album. It doesn’t rock, though “Josie” and “Peg” get funky. It is just so cool. It was released in 1977, competing with punk for my attention (punk won at the time) and just hasn’t dated at all. “The Royal Scam” is another album that vies for favouritism – a funky, jazzy exploration of the good and bad in California. Or at least that’s what I think of it!
Anyway, here is my top twenty – it hurt too much to reduce it to ten – and for those of you with Spotify Premium, I’ve made a playlist of the twenty too. Enjoy!
1 – Your Gold Teeth – Countdown to Ecstasy
2 – Aja – Aja
3 – Deacon Blues – Aja
4 – The Boston Rag – Countdown to Ecstasy
5 – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number – Pretzel Logic
6 – Dirty Work – Can’t Buy a Thrill
7 – Kid Charlemagne – The Royal Scam
8 – FM – a track from another soundtrack, on all the Best Ofs
9 – Green Earrings – The Royal Scam
10 – Do It Again – Can’t Buy a Thrill
11 – Razor Boy – Countdown to Ecstasy
12 – Pretzel Logic – Pretzel Logic
13 – Black Cow – Aja
14 – The Caves of Altamira – The Royal Scam
15 – Josie – Aja
16 – Any Major Dude Will Tell You – Pretzel Logic
17 – Reelin’ in the Years – Can’t Buy a Thrill
18 – With a Gun – Pretzel logic
19 – Only a Fool Would Say That – Can’t Buy a Thrill
20 – The Fez – The Royal Scam
The Spotify version.