A portrait of the artist as a young man, The Nightfly is a wonderfully evocative reminiscence of Kennedy-era American life; in the liner notes, Donald Fagen describes the songs as representative of the kinds of fantasies he entertained as an adolescent during the late '50s/early '60s, and he conveys the tenor of the times with some of his most personal and least obtuse material to date. Continuing in the smooth pop-jazz mode favored on the final Steely Dan records, The Nightfly is lush and shimmering, produced with cinematic flair by Gary Katz; romanticized but never sentimental, the songs are slices of suburbanite soap opera, tales of space-age hopes (the hit "I.G.Y.") and Cold War fears (the wonderful "The New Frontier," a memoir of fallout-shelter love) crafted with impeccable style and sophistication.
It's not surprising that Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker's debut solo album sounds like a Steely Dan record. What is a little surprising, though, is that, in his lead singing debut, he sounds so much like his erstwhile partner, Donald Fagen. Not that you'd mistake the two (Fagen projects more and is slightly grittier), but they sing in the same register with the same sly phrasing and the same accent. Other differences from the Dan are equally subtle: Becker adopts a sparer musical approach, for one thing, the missing element being the prominence of Fagen's keyboards (although Fagen does play on the record and co-produced it). Nothing gets in the way of Becker's voice, and he proves to be a less ornate lyricist than Fagen, restricting himself largely to tales of romantic dislocation. On the whole, this album sounds like what you'd expect – one half of Steely Dan.
Released to Top Ten success in the Netherlands, Collected is a triple-disc compilation of Steely Dan highlights from 1972 to 1980. It's not technically a greatest-hits collection because Steely Dan never scored many hit singles (for instance, only three of their singles ever reached the Top Ten in the U.S.), yet all of the 47 tracks compiled here are great, starting with the band's 1972 breakout hit "Do It Again."
Notorious for shunning concert performances, Steely Dan's improbable live reunion in the mid-'90s eventually turned into a full-fledged reunion album. Since Steely Dan fans went two decades without even the hope of a new record, the very prospect was a delight, but it was also a little worrying, since a botched comeback would tarnish the band's legacy. Fortunately, Two Against Nature is as seductive and alluring as the best of Steely Dan's later work, with a similar emphasis on classy atmosphere and groove.
When Steely Dan released Two Against Nature in 2000, their first album in 20 years, it was an unexpected gift, since all odds seemed against Donald Fagen and Walter Becker reteaming for nothing more than the occasional project, let alone a full album. As it turned out, the duo was able to pick up where they left off, with Two Against Nature seamlessly fitting next to Gaucho and earning the band surprise success, including a Grammy for Album of the Year, but the bigger surprise is that the reunion wasn't a one-off – they released another record, Everything Must Go, a mere three years later. Given the (relatively) short turnaround time between the two records, it comes as little surprise that Everything Must Go is a companion piece to Two Against Nature, and sounds very much like that album's laid-back, catchy jazz-funk, only with an elastic, loose feel – loose enough to have Walter Becker take the first lead vocal in Steely Dan history, in fact, which sums up the Dan's attitude in a nutshell.
Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions.
The release of ‘Sun Mountain' completes the three volume set released on the Thunderbolt label and featuring the early work of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The first nine tracks on this release represent the first known recordings by the duo. Prominent throughout are the distinctive lead vocals and keyboard skills of Donald Fagen with Walter Becker providing the bass line and occasional harmonies. These have been compiled with four tracks each from the earlier two releases. The first four of these are taken from 'Stone Piano' and clearly illustrate the development of artists towards a more complex instrumental backing for their compositions…
With a bizzare mention of the recording equipment used on the session on the back cover of Katy Lied, rumour was the two main men of the band were not happy with the finished product. I was and still am today. This may not be the best album from the band but neither is this a poor effort as this album contains the songs Black Friday, Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More,Doctor Wu,Chain Lightning and Bad Sneakers. Not a bad list and there are even some more worth a mention but as the backing band had basically fractured with the departure of all the members bar Denny Dias.