Manafonistas

on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2021 24 Jul

„Are we reliving the years“ – Die Magie von Steely Dan

von: Manafonistas Filed under: Blog | TB | 9 Comments

 

Ich erinnere mich noch an eine down beat-Rezension von „The Royal Scam“, bei welcher der Kritiker erst mal klarmachte, dass diese Musik, im Vergleich zur archaischen Songwelt eines Neil Young, auf den ersten Eindruck eher nach neunmalklugen College-Kids klingt, aber dann doch einige ihrer Betriebsgeheimnisse enthüllte und vier Sterne parat hielt.

Und nun das in der New York Times, ein exzellener Essay von Derek Robertson, aus der Perspektive von 2021: ein Trip in die Welt dieser Meister des doppelten Bodens und Gentleman-„Repackager“ – denn das genau waren sie, und einmal stahlen sie so unverschämt aus der Keith Jarrett-Platte „Belonging“, dass ECM einen kurzen Prozess in allen Belangen gewann. Manchmal ist Thomas Crown eben doch zu fassen! Und – die scharfsinnige wie lustvolle Analyse von „Deacon Blues“ sorgte fast schon zu einer sicheren Buchung des Songs in meiner letzten Radio-Show im Dezember.

Würde mich nicht wundern, wenn in der finalen Folge der finalen Staffel von „Bosch“ ein jazzgetränkter Song der Zwei seine einsamen Runden durch ein nächtliches Los Angeles dreht. Nebenbei bemerkt, ist das Duo auch eine konstante Quelle cooler Bonmots, hier eins von Walter Becker: „That‘s sort of what we wanted to do: conquer from the margins, sort of find our place in the middle based on the fact that we were creatures of the margin and of alienation.“

 

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9 Comments

  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Zeitlos heisst immer, dass es Bestand haben wird, und das ist bei ihren besten Album ganz und gar sicher. Katie Lied würde ich nicht dazu rechnen, aber das ist Ansichtssache:)

    Und sie werden immer wieder inspirieren, ein weiterer feiner Aspekt des Zeitlosen. Wenn man immer wieder mal Kult ist, schmälert das auch nicht „the thing called timeless“…

    Toll, was und wie in diesem Essay alles aufgedröselt wird….

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Was für Brian Eno Julia Holter und für Jan R. Lana Del Ray und für Lajla Joni Mitchell und für mich Joanna Newsom ist, scheint für dich Taylor Swift zu sein …

    😉

  3. Jochen Siemer:

    Ja, ich mag ihre Songs und ihre Stimme.

    Wer es noch nicht kennt, hier eine Analyse des zeitlosen „Deacon Blues“.

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Immer gut, etwas von vielen Seiten einzukreisen….

    Ich war heute Nacht mal anderthalb Stunden wach, da fand ich diesen tollen Essay….

    So viele tolle Passagen, zum Beispiel das, was Donald Fagen dem Autor über Aspekte der Entwicklungspsychologie schreibt, die Sache mit dem Geissvater 😅

  5. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Vorsicht vor den Wölfen im Schafspelz!

    Ich hatte anfangs, damals, ein zwiespältiges Gefühl zu Schlüsselwerken wie AJA und GAUCHO: ein Teil von mir empfand die Musik als glatt, aseptisch, epigonal, zu cool, um cool zu sein etc.

    Das hatte sich erledigt, als ich tiefer in die lyrics eindrang, und die Musik ihre tieferen Schichten offenbarte, all die frappierenden Seltsamkeiten im perfekt geölten Räderwerk! Die abgrundtiefe Melancholie beispielsweise, die hier und da von dem flow der Rhythmen und gechmeidigen vocals raffiniert kaschiert wurde.

  6. Lorenz:

    Letztes Jahr hielt ich lange die Doppel CD „Steely Dan live in Chigago 2009 feat. Larry Carlton“ in der Hand. Das Cover sieht schwer nach Bootleg (vielleicht mit Lagerfeuer-Sound-Qualität?) aus. Ich habe sie blind gekauft und weit gefehlt: Klasse Sound, eine tolle, große Besetzung. Ich höre sie sehr oft seitdem. Ich gebe nur 4,9 Sterne, da „Babylon Sisters“ nicht in der set list war und weil zwischen den Songs aus- und wieder eingeblendet wird.
    Aber dafür gibt es ja „Alive in America“.

    Und dann gibt es auch noch dieses schöne Cover von „Deacon Blues“ von Bill Callahan und Bonnie Prince Billie:

    https://billcallahanbonnieprincebilly.bandcamp.com/album/deacon-blues-feat-bill-mackay

  7. Michael Engelbrecht:

    AJA wird immer mein Favorit sein. Meine Lieblingsplatte. Einst besass ich sie als LP, die schon klase klang, seit 2014 ungefähr als SHM SACD. Ja, die verrückten Formate. Ein StereoMix, der klanglich absolut überragend ist, und sicher beruht das nicht auf Einbildung.

    In the words of another listener:

    Every aspect of the music of the SHM SACD version is rendered flawlessly. Bass is warm and deep…….drums are crazy real……vocals warm..guitar.piano..I could go on and on. I guess the best way to explain or express what I really want to say is that this disc is an experience and that music happens to the listener when he/she presses play. And it also kills with head phones on.

    Aja is an entirely different animal and is so life like and musical it keeps you into the music from start to finish like music is supposed to. When you listen to this disc its almost like you are in a studio.

    Please………….play this several more times and see if it improves.

    BEI SOVIEL KIKI DRINKS UND KOKS IN DEN SONGS UND SOVIEL KLANGBESESSENHEIT WIE BECKER UND FAGEN EINST AN DEN TAG LEGTEN BEI DER PRODUKTION VON AJA, DARF MAN SCHON ETWAS SOUNDFIXIERT SEIN 😂😂😂

  8. Lajla:

    Bin auch Steely Dan Fan, schon immer. Dann kam die super Group Traveling Wilburys und jetzt würde ich am liebsten die gesamte Ostseeküste mit m Zug entlang fahren mit Taylor Swift im Ohr.

  9. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Ich werde mir mal nach den JazzFacts eine Taylor Swift CD zi Genüte führen. Hoer ist ja ein Nest.

    Lesefutter zu AJA:

    https://variety.com/2017/music/opinion/steely-dan-aja-40th-anniversary-masterpiece-1202564168/

    https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/steely-dan-aja/

    DARYL EASLEA [BBC]:

    If ever a record knew its worth, it was Aja, the sixth album by Steely Dan. Released in late 1977 when half the world seemed to be down the disco and the other half were pogo-ing, here came an album that oozed detached sophistication, using every trick that keyboard player and vocalist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker had mastered over their first decade together.

    Following on from 1976’s The Royal Scam, any notion of Steely Dan being ‘a band’ had gone, with a huge stream of well over 40 highly skilled session musicians creating textures to support Becker and Fagen’s musical vision. As a result, you get a masterclass in laidback solos and awkward time signatures, all beneath a highly polished surface.

    At the time of the album’s release, Fagen said, „We write the same way a writer of fiction would write. We’re basically assuming the role of a character, and for that reason it may not sound personal.“ Becker added, „This is not The Lovin’ Spoonful. It’s not real good-time music.“ It’s true – these seven tracks are like miniature works of fiction, paying no mind to length or rock convention.

    Aja was (is) a very influential work. In Scotland Ricky Ross heard the song Deacon Blues and named his band after it, while Peg is widely known because of De La Soul’s sampling of it for Eye Know. The jaunty Josie and the sublime title-track are further stand-outs on a record that barely breaks its bossa-nova beat. It is impossible to hear this record without thinking about LA sunshine, even though Fagen’s lyrics were often nostalgic, ironic and bitter; hardly suspiring for a group that named itself after a – ahem – marital aid from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

    To complete the feeling that you were holding an old jazz album in your hands, the original pressings came in a gatefold sleeve with a note from ABC Records’ president Steve Diener and the mock reverential critique by ‘Michael Phalen’: „In this writer’s opinion, Aja signals the onset of a new maturity and a kind of solid professionalism that is the hallmark of an artist that has arrived.“ Phalen was, of course, Becker and Fagen.

    To emphasize its importance, in 2011 Aja was deemed by the Library of Congress to be „culturally, historically, or aesthetically important“ and added to the United States National Recording Registry. But with or without such an accolade, Aja remains a remarkable piece of work.

    https://classicalbumsundays.com/album-of-the-month-steely-dan-aja/

    THE CAST:

    Personnel: Walter Becker: Bass, Guitar, Guitar (Electric), Vocals; Larry Carlton: Guitar, Guitar (Electric); Pete Christlieb: Flute, Saxophone, Sax (Tenor); Gary Coleman: Percussion; Denny Diaz: Guitar; Donald Fagen: Synthesizer, Keyboards, Vocals, Vocals (bckgr), Whistle (Instrument); Victor Feldman: Percussion, Piano, Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Vibraphone; Venetta Fields: Vocals; Chuck Findley: Horn, Brass; Steve Gadd: Drums; Jay Graydon: Guitar, Guitar (Electric); Ed Greene: Drums; Paul Griffin: Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Vocals; Don Grolnick: Keyboards, Clavinet; Jim Horn: Flute, Saxophone; Paul Humphrey: Drums; Richard Hyde: Trombone; Slyde Hyde: Brass Plas Johnson: Flute, Saxophone; Jackie Kelso: Flute, Horn, Saxophone; Jim Keltner: Percussion, Drums; Steve Khan: Guitar; Clydie King: Vocals; Rebecca Louis: Vocals; Rick Marotta: Drums; Shirley Matthews: Vocals; Lou McCreary: Brass; Michael McDonald: Vocals; Michael Omartian: Piano, Keyboards; Dean Parks: Guitar; Bill Perkins: Flute, Horn, Saxophone; Bernard „Pretty“ Purdie: Drums; Chuck Rainey: Bass; Lee Ritenour: Guitar; Joe Sample: Keyboards, Piano (Electric), Clavinet; Timothy B. Schmit: Bass, Vocals; Tom Scott: Flute, Saxophone, Sax (Tenor), Lyricon; Wayne Shorter: Flute, Saxophone, Sax (Tenor).

    …………………

    To come to an end, speaking with Daniel Lunghorst from Scotland:

    Review Summary: Aja is very close to being the perfect pop album, being both enjoyable for people seeking a lighthearted tune and music enthusiasts in search of unpredictable and amazingly executed compositions.

    Upon first listen, it may be difficult to actually pin down why Aja is considered to rank among the best albums that the legendary decade of the 1970’s has produced. Being best described as „easy listening“ music, not many things immediately stand out. All the different sounds, styles and influences are being blended into one simple, easy digestible package which sets the mood perfectly for a moment of peace and content. This is an album of zero extremes: you won’t find fast riffage, long-winded guitar solos, frenetic drumming or a bombastic wall-of-sound. Lyrically, deeply personal thoughts or screams against the establishment are also absent. Again, why is it then that Aja is considered to be an absolute 70’s classic?

    The answer is: just because of the very things it omits. Seemingly living on its own isolated musical island, separated from the continents of glam rock, punk and proto-metal, Aja resulted from Steely Dan’s deep love for all things jazz. Although early albums already hinted at that love, they went to the next level on this record. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (the only constant members of the group) recruited a whole army of guest musicians, all masters in their respectable fields, to make sure the combination of those jazz influences with their already established brand of soft-rock would be nothing less than magical.

    Although they played live shows in their early days, in essence, Steely Dan were a studio band. The studio was their natural habitat, their playing ground. Both Becker and Fagen were classically trained musicians, who put equal parts knowledge as heart and soul in their music. Practically nothing you hear on the record results from improvisation, and every guest musician that was given a spot, was selected after a long series of auditions. If you look at the production notes, you’ll also rarely see the same two musicians appearing on different tracks. That knowledge and technicality may come off as very sterile and it may seem as if the album would be a very boring accomplishment as a result, but in fact it’s what gives Aja such a timeless character.

    What further amplifies this, is that the replayability of this record is unbelievably high. Smooth guitar licks are rapidly and seamlessly followed up with extremely funky bass lines, organs straight out of that crimi TV series, which was popular in the day, and piano parts which complement perfectly with that whiskey you just ordered in that shady bar downtown. The lyrics are splendidly sardonic, but also paint a canvas of vivid imagery in your head. What at first listen seems to be a fairly simple but enjoyable listen, evolves with each consecutive listen into a real treasure hunt for small delights scattered across these seven tracks: the perfectly harmonized vocals on the opening track „Black Cow“, for example, and the buildup to the brilliant chorus in „Peg“, followed by the legendary guitar solo of Jay Graydon. Or the tempo changes, xylophone melodies and, ultimately, the utterly beautiful saxophone moment, provided by none other than Wayne Shorter!

    In the hands of lesser gods, this would all have probably turned out very disjointed and gimmicky, but Becker and Fagen’s studio wizardry has made Aja a very cohesive album, in which the whole is still better than the sum of its uniformly quasi-perfect parts. It also should come as no surprise that the production and sound quality of the songs here is downright excellent. Although the description of jazz-meets-pop would make many a purist jump out of their skin of rage, this is not at all a case of the style being dumbed down for the masses. In fact, over the years, the record has gotten its fair share of critical acclaim, even from the jazz world and rightly so. Aja is very close to being the perfect pop album, being both enjoyable for people seeking a lighthearted tune and music enthusiasts in search of unpredictable and amazingly executed compositions. But most of all, it’s a testament to all the great studio bands, who spend years trying to achieve perfection through countless hours of hard labor and gallons of blood, sweat and tears, and proves that such a process actually can result in a true masterpiece.

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