Episode 96–Deacon Blues

Aja, by Steely Dan, was one of the first albums I purchased with my own money. It wasn’t that I was so enamored by Steely Dan; I’d just heard a lot of good stuff about it so I took a chance.

And while fourteen-year-old me heard a ton of good stuff in it, doing a re-listen these many years later has only cemented this album in my Top Ten of all time. (Small wonder that so many others agree with me on that one.)

Aja was released to rather mixed reviews, but over a relatively small amount of time, many of the critics who didn’t like it at first were won over. It just took a second or third listen to appreciate that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were doing something genuinely new, fusing multiple genres into a cohesive whole.

As I strongly suggested during the show, go back and listen to this album with headphones. You’ll be amazed at the intimacy of every element on it.

You’re welcome.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

2 thoughts on “Episode 96–Deacon Blues”

  1. Steely Dan’s music is a mix of highly complex chord changes and completely unexpected and unpredictable tangential deviations in the melodies.

    As such, their songs are mostly unsingable. (Try humming one). But instead of perplexing the listener with seemingly random notes and harmony, their renditions almost mesmerize the novice listener, keeping him/her fixated and curious about what odd turn the melody will take… measure after measure.

    After many listens, though, the strangeness that is Steely Dan’s signature trademark, becomes as familiar as an old friend and soon you ARE whistling “Deacon Blues”.

    1. In general I agree with this, but I’ll add in that while you CAN sing along with a Steely Dan song, you’re never going to be able to bend the notes the way Fagen does.

      I don’t know if it applies to the singing voice, but there’s a term used in playing musical instruments called “glissando”, where you start at one note and end up on another (best example I can think of at the moment is the horns in the chorus of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”). Fagen does much the same thing. So when you sing along, you sound kind of flat compared to him, but if you try to imitate it, you wind up sounding like a warped record.

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