The Weekend Concert Series: Steely Dan, Two Against Nature

The Hunt For New Music
When we lost Walter Becker on 3 September 2017, we lost one of America’s great and innovative musicians. As one half of the music group Steely Dan (named after an item in a William Burroughs novel…so you get immediately the drift of the intellect of these two), Walter Becker teamed with Donald Fagan, to produce some of the most memorable music of our times. It is not an easy music to classify and anyone hoping to to “sum it up” with a label like “modern pop” or “pop rock” was going to find their description woefully inadequate. Perhaps the best place  to spot them on the musical spectrum would be Jazz Rock (the band is heavily jazz influenced) but the very fact that they can’t be easily classified is a statement of their originality and one of the reasons we like them so much. Enjoy it. Starting in 1972 with “Can’t Buy A Thrill” and continuing to their last album, “Everything Must Go” in 2003, the duo produced a series of classic songs that had a particular resonance for their generation. Songs like “Reeling in the Years” , “Do it Again”, “Ricki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Deacon Blues”,  and “My Old School” captured the zeitgeist of the post-Flower Power era of the 1970s and 1980s, simultaneously West Coast in attitude/musicianship and East Coast in cultural references. Becker, who went to Bard, where he formed an early band with Fagan and future SNL member Chevy Chase (on Drums) and Fagan were a perfect match in terms of their technical skills, musicianship, and ability to take big creative risks.  After the success of their first two albums, Steely Dan(i.e. Becker and Fagan) backed away from touring and become a studio band. The move suited their personalities and also one of their primary creative traits: perfection. They operated like film director Stanley Kubrick, who was notorious for doing up to a hundred takes of a single scene. In Becker and Fagan’s case, there were rumors of musicians being asked to do over 40 takes on a single song. But the music proves the effort was well worth worth it–you can’t go back and redo a CD once it’s released. The two–in sync creatively and professionally–disliked “messy”, and wanted their music tight and focused and controlled. They took big chances with compositions, no chances with musicians (they always worked with the very top musicians), and were industry leaders in recording performance, winning a Grammy in 1977 for “Best Engineered Recording-Non-Classical” for the album “Aja.” The group’s drive for perfection put a screeching halt to their musical production, as troubles surrounding the recording of “Gaucho” in 1980 resulted in a hiatus from recording and touring that lasted some 20 years. After the release of “Two Against Nature” in 2000, Steely Dan toured again. This weekends’ concert is from their “Two Against Nature” tour and was recorded in 2000 as part of a PBS In The Spotlight series of musical documentaries. Recorded before “Two Against Nature” was actually released, the set list includes songs from that album and some old favorites. We thank MatheusNews for posting this video (March, 2016) and making it available for sharing. The best way to honor Walter Becker is by playing and enjoying his music…and so we are. As with all of our weekend concert series presentations, we advise you to kick it to the flat screen and–especially with these guys–run the audio portion through your hifi or component audio system. And, of course,  turn it up.
The Fine Print: This video is made available through YouTube. All rights belong to their respective rights holders. We thank all for sharing. The Weekend Concert series is organized by The Media Bunker and HNM Productions. We thank Wilson Audio for their support. 

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