Let me first start off this post by saying I wasn't a Steely Dan one year ago, or even nine months ago for that matter. I don't know what compelled me to continue to dig deeper into their catalog, but let's just say I wasn't impressed with the surface hits of Steely Dan in the past, yet an inner voice called upon me to buy their albums and really listen to everything on their albums. And buy them I did. First Aja (largely considered their best, and great Michael McDonald backing vocals with one of the greatest jazz-rock songs in "Peg"). Then Gaucho (possibly my favorite of theirs but it changes by the day between this and Aja). Then later The Royal Scam, Can't Buy A Thrill, Katy Lied, and of course Donald Fagen's brilliant early 80's solo album, The Nightfly. Now it all makes sense. You can't compare any band before or after the Dan, they were truly originals. Lyrically, their themes were dark and at times demented (even the band name "Steely Dan" comes from the name of a dildo in William S. Burroughs novel The Naked Lunch), yet when you listen to an early 80's album like Gaucho, you can picture yourself listening to this album on a yacht with some middle-class yuppies drinking some Cuervo Gold. But everything inside the music--is so much more. A great example of this is in this clip where Becker and Fagen discuss the making of the song "Peg"
Becker and Fagen were the minds behind Steely Dan, and they built their songs around dozens of session musicians that would come in by the hour. They had a vision, and even if multiple takes of songs that lasted upon days on end (coke had to play a part, right?), they apparently knew what they were doing. Here's one of my favorite Steely Dan tracks, the title track off of Gaucho:
With all of the rare groove, psych-folk, boogaloo, and northern soul I have bought recently, apart from possibly Marvin Gaye's entire catalog, there isn't anything I've listened to more then Steely Dan's catalog in these past six months. I love every bit of it.
P.S. I need to apologize to my father, as I used to cringe and tell him to turn off the Dan whenever he would put on their Decade of Steely Dan album when I was a child. I loved most of the music he put on as a child (Stevie Wonder, George Benson, The Beatles, Hall & Oates, Grover Washington), but I couldn't connect with Steely as a child. I was wrong about them for over 30 years.
I know I featured Booker T & the MGs in a post not too long ago in regards to their Beatles Abbey Road homage album McLemore Avenue, but I've been listening to much of their catalog quite frequently recently, as I have most of their 60's and early 70's releases, with the exception of Uptight. It also felt right to feature another post on the MGs, as longtime bassist Duck Dunn passed away just recently. I would have to put their 1971 release Melting Pot among my favorite of their albums. The first time I ever heard the title track, I immediately realized that I did know this song long before I ever "knew" that I knew it, as I was familiar with Big Daddy Kane sampling it on his track "Another Victory". As much as I love their earlier releases like Green Onions and Soul Dressing, Melting Pot speaks to me the most, probably because it is more groove-oriented then their previous releases. Here's the real deal, Booker T & the MG's "Melting Pot".
Here's Big Daddy Kane "Another Victory" (sampling "Melting Pot").
"Light of Love" is off of Bonnie Dobson's 1970 release Good Morning Rain. This song's on fire. When I hear Bonnie's vocals, I can't help but think of Beth Gibbons from Portishead (sans the trip-hop beats). The fuzzed out guitar helps matters, as Portishead was known to sample some fuzzed out guitars in their day. Dylan dug her, and so should you!
Released in 1974, Magnum's Fully Loaded album was one of those many funk bands in that era that featured heavy percussive rhythms that I dig. "Witch Doctor's Brew" is probably my favorite off of this album, as it features some tasty electric organ sounds in the intro. I place Fully Loaded among those essential mid-70's funk albums, along with McNeal & Niles Thrust, Funk, Inc. Funk, Inc. or Chicken Lickin' album, and The Fatback Band's Let's Do It Again. All solid, many instrumental funk jams.
It's a very sad day in the world of hip hop, and pop music in general. When hearing this morning of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys (a.k.a. "MCA") death, I immediately felt like a big piece of my childhood was lost for good. I remember when "Fight for Your Right to Party" was all over MTV. I remember first hearing Paul's Boutique and not necessarily being blown away initially but by the fourth or fifth listen, fully realizing it's brilliance. I remember first digging Check Your Head and being amazed, as I didn't know they could play INSTRUMENTS! I remember Ill Communication in the summer of 1994, going into my senior year of high school, and playing the crap out of that album while driving around my hometown of Bellingham, Washington. I remember Hello Nasty, another summer album of mine in college, staying alone in a three bedroom campus home at the University of Portland, and playing that album and jumping around the house by myself (probably drunk). I must admit that I haven't listened much to their recent releases, heard good things about Hot Sauce Committee but just haven't checked it out. However, the Beasties have always been a part of my life, no matter what musical phase I was going through in my life. They were one of my introductions into the world of hip hop, and I got into the game because with them, along with Public Enemy. I still pull out Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head at least once or twice a year. I will always love their music, and will miss Adam Yauch.
This is the second post in a row that I've gone away from the usual soul-jazz type of thing, but I've been grooving on a lot of psych pop-folk sounds from the 60's recently. I have two albums by the psych-pop group The Free Design. Kites Are Fun is probably my favorite of their albums, but I also love their Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love album. Released in 1970, the album is a little more funky then their past releases. The second track on the album, "Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of My Life", blows my mind. It begins as a funky instrumental, then turns into a great pop song featuring the melting vocals of the Dedricks, and lastly, the song concludes in a jazzy, echo-y groove. Definitely one of my favorite pop songs from the 60's (and there are so many to choose from). One of pops treasures, The Free Design are one of the few bands that melt my heart whenever I listen to them, but especially when listening to "Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of My Life". (must note: the below clip is missing the first minute of the song, the funky instrumental section that really adds to the song in its entirety)