Monday, January 15, 2007

Album Of The Week And Cool Music Vids

A hat-tip goes out to Vilmar who sent me the link to a cool site. You could lose yourself for hours in this place. There are A LOT of music videos (including garage band "covers"); and not just the new flash and trash, but older - I mean older, older - stuff, too. Like The Animals, The Byrds - that old. And I highly recommend Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years" with pretty close to the original studio line-up, featuring the great guitar work of Denny Dias (the dark haired, bearded, heavy-set bloke) and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (the blonde one with the glasses).

I mention some bits about the Steely Dan video because their debut album from 1972, Can't Buy a Thrill, is the featured Album of the Week on the right sidebar. "Reeling in the Years" and "Do It Again" were the two big hits from that album and instantly put Steely Dan in a class by themselves with their own unique, top-shelf mix of blues, jazz, rock, and pop. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker form the nucleus of a band whose supporting members historically change nearly from album to album. With Fagen playing keyboards (mostly piano) and singing (with very few exceptions) most of the lead vocals, and Becker on (some lead but mostly back-up) guitar and back-up vocals, they have collaborated to write dozens and dozens of timeless songs with often complex chord changes complementing and supplementing intricate, unconventional melodies and harmonies; odd time signatures and irregular syncopation; and deep, sometimes unfathomable lyrics. Like Frank Zappa or Miles Davis, Becker and Fagen often rotate and shuffle some of the best available studio musicians as they see fit, in order to get a particular sound they are looking for on a given song. Ironically, though, Steely Dan is about the music, not the musicians. And there would be no Steely Dan without Becker and Fagen.

Throughout all Steely Dan's albums, consistently high quality musicianship is demonstrated, no doubt with an emphasis on lots of great guitar work from players like Baxter and Dias in the early days, to Larry Carlton who can be heard on later albums like The Royal Scam and Aja. That is not to say that the music is great soley because of great musicians involved; the probability of that outcome eventuating is higher, all other variables being equal (which occurs almost never), but it's no guarantee. There are numerous bands and "supergroups" comprised of great musicians in their own right who just couldn't "gel" together, resulting in technically superior but spiritually lifeless music: The music becomes a vehicle for the musicians' demonstration of skills. Steely Dan, however, is all about the music: The musicians are the vehicle for the music. As did other composer/conductor/musicians from Frank Zappa to Miles Davis or Duke Ellington, Becker and Fagen have the ability to pick the right people and get the best out of them in order to create music that is, as a whole, greater than the sum of its parts. And that is what makes for great music.



Blogger Vilmar said...

Becker and Fagen are awesome. Steely Dan's in the top 10 of my favorite groups.

11:29 PM GMT+13  
Blogger Joe said...

Me too. I hope a few people around the world will dig out their old vinyl or cd of the album and other Steely Dan albums and give them a listen again.

8:38 AM GMT+13  
Blogger BobF said...

Vilmar, you still have your album collection? I remember back in England you had over 1,000.

11:25 AM GMT+13  
Blogger BobF said...

Check out Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks

2:14 PM GMT+13  

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