Steely Dan’s 20 Greatest Songs – Ranked! | Steele Dan

20. Any Big Man Will Tell You (1974)

Charming is rarely an adjective applied to Steely Dan’s patent trademark of cynical pessimism, but it fits in with the relatively simple Any Major Dude Will Tell You acoustic-guitar-driven style, which a depressed friend seems encouraged to see on the bright side: It’s a really sweet song.

19. Black Friday (1975)

Perhaps it’s Steely Dan that seems most appropriate in 2022: a financial meltdown so severe that businessmen kill themselves leads to the desire to escape into the wilderness to “do as I please.” In a classic twist of Dan, there is an implied indication that the protagonist is not an ordinary escape from the rat race, but a disastrous capitalist.

18. Biz Kids Show (1973)

Snappy slide guitar by Rick Deringer, a snappy lyrical attack on the titled, psychedelic characters who “don’t care about anyone else”: There’s a (relatively) looseness and roughness to the Biz Kids show that will later be erased by Steely Dan’s albums. You can understand why, but it’s still interesting to hear.

17. Dr. Wu (1975)

The lyrics are an excellent example of Steely Dan’s style of short story in the song – a drug addict discovers that his girlfriend who was helping him has also given up on a habit – but the real star of Dr. Wu is saxophone Phil Woods: smooth at first, she explodes into a frenzy when the story reaches its end.

16. Gaucho (1980)

Steely Dan’s last album 20 years ago suffered a catastrophe – addiction, car accidents, studio accidents, and the overdose death of their personal manager, who was also Walter Baker’s girlfriend. There was also a lawsuit: Keith Jarrett successfully sued over the title track, which doesn’t make the saga of social embarrassment any less fascinating.

15. Ritzel Logic (1974)

Steely Dan deals effectively with blues music – he tunes into an ancient style, the opening stanzas are repeated for every house, but there are some very Non-blue Chords and Harmonies – Pretzel Logic’s title track might be about time travel, featuring Dan’s classic: “You gotta be kidding son/Where did you get those shoes?”

14- Cousin Dupre (2000)

Chosen from Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature’s comeback album, Cousin Dupree is himself a distant relative of Gaucho’s Hey Nineteen: the listener is invited to laugh at a deadly sleazeball trying to capture a younger woman. Baker and Donald Fagin later claimed that the prequel to You Me and Dupree had been stolen from the song.

Steely Dunn in the Early Days: (from left) Denny Dias, Walter Becker, Donald Fagin, Jeff Baxter and Jimmy Hodder.
Steely Dunn in the Early Days: (from left) Denny Dias, Walter Becker, Donald Fagin, Jeff Baxter and Jimmy Hodder. Photo: Charlie Gillette/Redferns Group

13- Aja (1977)

There is something from the online shack industry trying to understand the meaning of Aja’s perverted words: heroin addiction? Obsessive love affair? Passion for bebop? The eight-minute great music might be best enjoyed with the help of jazz legends Steve Judd and Wayne Shorter.

12. Your Golden Teeth 2 (1975)

Your golden tooth from countdown to ecstasy is great, but its nominal successor is even better: a truly rocking hybrid of jazz and rock, with some extraordinarily graceful drums by Jeff Porcaro, masterfully navigating in time-signature shifts, fluid guitar by Denny Dias and a harmoniously stacked chorus. Fabulous.

11. Ricky Don’t Lose That Number (1974)

The biggest hit of Steely Dan’s career – and one assumes, the top 5 US singles featuring someone playing the flapamba percussion instrument – Rikki Don’t Lose That Number steals guts from Horace Silver and turns it into gorgeous pop gold. : The perfect example of an intentionally shortened Pretzel Logic approach.

10 – Sisters of Babylon (1980)

Much of Gaucho’s seventh album was stripped down to Steely Dan standards, but the Babylon Sisters reverted to their traditional style of intricate chord sequences with stunning albeit deeply haunting results, bolstered by legendary drummer Bernard “Pretty” percussion of Purdie “Purdie shuffle”.

9. Reelin’ in the Years (1972)

One popular song that was rejected by Fagin and Baker in later years as “stupid but effective” and “not fun”. One has to disagree: It’s cool, and it’s proven hugely influential: You can hear it in the DNA of both Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town and Nick Lowe’s So It Goes.

Walter Baker and Donald Fagen in Los Angeles, California, in the 1970s.
Walter Baker and Donald Fagen in Los Angeles, California, in the 1970s. Photography: Chris Walter/WireImage

8. My Old School (1973)

The memory of a drug bust at Bard, the private liberal arts college where Fagen and Becker met, has been diverted to the iconic path from Countdown to Ecstasy, where its bitter tone is mirrored by the solidity of its R&D-inspired groove. Contrary to his acknowledgment of never returning, Fagen returned for an honorary doctorate.

7. The Black Cow (1977)

Aga’s moody editorial: A super-flexible funk groove – later sampled by MF Doom and Beyoncé – as a front-line message gets sent out of the friend zone: He’s tired of saving his shoulder to cry on when the wayward lady finally teeters home “like a gangster on the run” .

6- Bad Sneakers (1975)

The decline of mid-1970s Los Angeles is seen through the eyes of a displaced New Yorker who is sure the West Coast sends him around the bend. There is a distinct hint of autobiography in Fagin’s lyrics, the melody is striking, and the odd piano playing during guitar solos disrupts the softness.

5. Don’t Take Me Alive (1975)

“A Man in My Mind Can Do Anything”: Even by Steely Dan’s standards, the lyrics to Don’t Take Me Alive — where a criminal holed up in a “case of dynamite” confronts a kind of dark spiritual revelation — are a hit. The music – not least Larry Carlton’s beautiful smooth guitar – is sublime.

4. Do It Again (1972)

The rhythm of the opening track of their album is fitted with the vogue of 1970s Latin rock, but here ends the resemblance to Santana. With its pungent, soft lyrics about human frailty and killer solos — electric sitar and cheap organ, no less — it’s a tune-up calling card, as well as a classic song.

3 – Deacon Blues (1977)

For all Fagin’s assertions that Deacon Blues are about “losers,” there’s a warmth about his lyrics, which detail the frustrated dreams of a midlife crisis but are primarily about the music’s liberating influence: the blissful brass arrangement, the sax’s solo roar and the introduction are a masterpiece in themselves.

2 – Kid Charlemagne (1976)

A loose but gripping retelling of the saga of Owsley Stanley – the acid dealer of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters – impressed with its subject matter and scathingly scornful, Kid Charlemagne also features the greatest guitar solo in Steely Dan’s catalog: 30 seconds of juicy twists and turns, her joy strikingly contrasting with the general tone for the song.

1. Connect (1977)

The subject of Peg has caused endless speculation – Fagin denied one theory, it was about the doomed 1920s actor Peg Entwistle – but what’s beyond doubt is the sheer quality of the song itself: loaded with infectious hooks – many of which are best known for supporting De La Soul. 1989’s hit Eye Know—its disco-filled breeze is deceptive, hiding endless layers of musical complexity (Fagen’s online explanation of how her chords work is a 12-minute riot of plagiarized rhythms and tritone substitutions) and perfection: a legendary guitar solo that took seven attempts by top players session. Peg manages to be both the Steely Dan members who profess to hate Steely Dan likes, and Steely Dan’s apotheosis.

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