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.
Thanks John…I look forward to discovering more about this band so great to get your selection. Two of my favourites that you don’t mention are My Old School ( big brass and good guitar work) and Pearl of the Quarter ( covered by Boz Scaggs who I’m really,belatedly, loving recently). Also reckon Peg is worthy of their top 20 list ( guitar solo to die for)…but then again I have a lot to learn-and will enjoy doing so. Thanks again.
My pleasure! Can discuss before Bryan on Wednesday.
Love Steely Dan! However, I thought they had about 20 songs. Trust you to find a top 20.
My TOP 5 from your list are:
1 – Josie
2 – Brown Cow
3 – Ricky Don’t Lose That Number
4 – Reelin In The Years
5 – Dirty Work
They are a great band. Seeing them in London in November. Watch out for those brown cows!
My inner completist would like to thank Resa for her excellent Top 5, and to say to DC that a combined chart of Dan favourites is currently being compiled by John, Lano, Rogal and me – all total Dan nuts. Plenty of listening pleasure before our O2 trip in the autumn.
Many emails were exchanged! We’ll all be watching a different concert at the O2.