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spectoremg

Steely Dan, aja, where's the good bit?

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18 hours ago, peteb said:

I always quite liked Steely Dan. Not a massive fan, so I wouldn’t know the albums – more a greatest hits kinda guy! I have been following this thread with some bemusement – the British disease written large on Basschat. While I appreciate not everybody will like SD, I am surprised at how many ‘musicians’ so actively dislike them. It’s not just them though, consider the following common opinions on BC about a few big artists from this (and many other threads):  

Steely Dan – jazz harmonies and flavours combined with funk beats and a rock feel, combined in well crafted, accessible songs with razor sharp lyrics and stellar musicianship. BASSCHAT – ‘what do people see in the them, beige, how can anyone like this stuff?’

Jaco – a genuine virtuoso who revolutionised bass playing and transcended his chosen instrument in a similar way to a select few others (Hendrix, Coltraine, etc). Widely regarded by the general music community as one of the best and most influential musicians of his era. BASSCHAT – ‘he’s overrated / crap and if you disagree, you’re a deluded fanboy’…

Foo Fighters – in an age of overly manufactured pop and contrived rock (and for that matter rap) acts, probably the last of the great classic rock bands. Massively popular with passion, a bit of charisma, decent playing and a set of incredibly accessible hit songs that reference grunge, Led Zeppelin, punk rock, heavy stuff and Tom Petty all in a recognisable style of their own. BASSCHAT – ‘there is nothing about them that appeals at all’.

I should say that I only have a SD greatest hits album, the first Jaco solo album and the missus has the FF greatest hits in the house, none of which get played regularly. So given that I’m not exactly the biggest fan and I appreciate that everyone has their own taste, but jeez why are so many people on here so down on what is pretty solid music??

There will always be lots of people of the “I don’t like it so it’s crap” persuasion. That’s just how many people are, not just about music, about anything.
But also not liking something that you are “supposed to” (for some vague reason) is perfectly valid. Recognise its influence, it’s place in history or whatever, fine. But you don’t have to like it. With SD, you may argue that it’s solid music. Maybe it is. But by what criteria? It’s well played, yes. Cleverly written, maybe. But obviously it doesn’t float some people’s boat, mine included. I certainly wouldn’t say they’re crap, but for me they are missing the most important element when it comes to what I enjoy about music; emotion. They don’t make me feel anything at all. To me, it all seems like music by numbers, like it’s all been phoned in. Cleverness for cleverness’s sake. Except, if you’ve been brought up on Jazz, it’s also not quite as clever as it thinks it is. 
But having said that, each to their own. Plenty on here can’t stand a lot of the bands that I like, and that’s absolutely up to them.

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Perspective is fascinating to me (but that’s just my perspective).

Stewart Lee (to me) isn’t as clever as (he gives the impression) he thinks he is. I don’t care much for the cynical at the best of times, and his brand of cynical snarling observations just isn’t funny to me. So I guess I don’t have a sense of humour (if we applied the “if I don’t like it it’s sheet” algorithm).

Steely Dan? I like some of their music, (most of their music actually). Lyrically funny at times, obscure at times, dull at other times. Musically, I like their fusion of influences. They tend to write a good singable hook over some pretty complex changes (not easy btw). My perspective is that they haven’t set out to be “clever”, but by default they are. 
But it’s just an opinion, just a perspective. Neither is “right/wrong” .

Will I watch Stewart Lee if he happens to be on tv when I’m watching it? Yes of course, I’m not going to shut the door just because I don’t enjoy his approach, but many do, and so I’ll respect that and hope to find a nugget despite my “preference filter” being permanently switched on. 
Do I think SD are perfect....no. 
Does anyone care?  
I sincerely hope not. 
 

First world problems 


 

 

btw P basses are all you need..............,,😘

 

 

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Where's the good bit? IMO with SD it's all good bits. . . . . . . . if you are lucky enough to be a bass player.

Never mind the songs, the bass playing is a masterclass of technique, tone, groove and locking with the drummer.

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6 hours ago, chris_b said:

Where's the good bit? IMO with SD it's all good bits. . . . . . . . if you are lucky enough to be a bass player.

Never mind the songs, the bass playing is a masterclass of technique, tone, groove and locking with the 

Actually for me the song bit is more important than instrumental widdling. 

Edited by spectoremg
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Plenty about SD for my ears to like. Strong melodies, interesting chord changes and form, with solid harmony going on (also some deep lyrics that are even odd at times). They always used top players and singers on their sessions with some terrific soloing in the instrumental sections. None of it seemed forced (to me), just the opposite, good composing from a couple of very talented musicians, where it all seemed to come naturally to them. I don't find it 'cold', or 'sterile', but interesting music played with a great feel from all involved. 

With SD there is a lot to take in, but I'm happy with that. I've seen them live a few times over the years and they have never disappointed me. 

They certainly divide opinion and, that's how it should be... 

😎

Edited by lowdown
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1 hour ago, spectoremg said:

Actually for me the song bit is more important than instrumental widdling. 

It’s not widdling. You’re a bass player aren’t you? If Chuck Rainey is widdling then we may as well all give up. Also I don’t recall many if any of their songs are instrumental, what they play is accompanying the song. If it’s not to your taste then fine, view it as a house where you can admire the construction and craftsmanship but don’t like the decor. Not really sure what you’re hoping to gain from this thread as you’ve already made up you mind.

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For me, the bass on Josie is utterly sublime.  It is my all time fave Steely Dan track, laying down such a funky groove whilst at the same time weaving around the melody.  I don't like all SDs output - there are very few bands where I could say that - but the stuff I like is way up there.  A couple of years back Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers were on the same night at the O2 - for me it was probably the best night's music I have ever had the privilege of watching :) 

I get that we don't like the same things but I don't get why people have to disparage what they don't like or the people who like it.  If the OP doesn't like Aja, why make some sort of inverted snobbery remark about it?  Not necessary.  I left a Snarky Puppy concert at half time, for example, as I wasn't enjoying it but I know a lot of folks love them.  Horses for courses.

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2 hours ago, Paul S said:

For me, the bass on Josie is utterly sublime. 

Isn’t it just. I love playing it, much more than Peg. Haitian Divorce is another favourite bass line to play (when I’ve not forgotten it that is 😂).

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2 hours ago, Paul S said:

I get that we don't like the same things but I don't get why people have to disparage what they don't like or the people who like it.

{And from the Rap thread}

Perhaps you should have added the phrase

'and only people that agree with me are allowed to post, or I'll get shirty'

I refer the honourable gentleman to his quote from another thread...

 

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There's a sort of defensiveness one encounters during discussions of this sort. It goes along the lines of "Ah yes, they may be great players, but it's soulless/instrumental widdling/lacking in cojones/high quality elevator music, etc, etc". If you don't like something, just say you don't like it. It's a free country. If you feel threatened by highly accomplished playing, work on your technique.

Edited by Dan Dare

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So all those excellent songwriters out there should be concentrating on their technique. Paul Simon's gonna feel like a huge failure poor guy. 

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11 minutes ago, Dan Dare said:

There's a sort of defensiveness one encounters during discussions of this sort. It goes along the lines of "Ah yes, they may be great players, but it's soulless/instrumental widdling/lacking in cojones/high quality elevator music, etc, etc". If you don't like something, just say you don't like it. It's a free country. If you feel threatened by highly accomplished playing, work on your technique.

Who's threatened by accomplished playing DAD!?

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4 hours ago, Paul S said:

A couple of years back Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers were on the same night at the O2 - for me it was probably the best night's music I have ever had the privilege of watching :) 

 

Amen to that....

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17 hours ago, oldslapper said:

Perspective is fascinating to me (but that’s just my perspective).

Stewart Lee (to me) isn’t as clever as (he gives the impression) he thinks he is. I don’t care much for the cynical at the best of times, and his brand of cynical snarling observations just isn’t funny to me. So I guess I don’t have a sense of humour (if we applied the “if I don’t like it it’s sheet” algorithm).

Steely Dan? I like some of their music, (most of their music actually). Lyrically funny at times, obscure at times, dull at other times. Musically, I like their fusion of influences. They tend to write a good singable hook over some pretty complex changes (not easy btw). My perspective is that they haven’t set out to be “clever”, but by default they are. 
But it’s just an opinion, just a perspective. Neither is “right/wrong” .

Will I watch Stewart Lee if he happens to be on tv when I’m watching it? Yes of course, I’m not going to shut the door just because I don’t enjoy his approach, but many do, and so I’ll respect that and hope to find a nugget despite my “preference filter” being permanently switched on. 
Do I think SD are perfect....no. 
Does anyone care?  
I sincerely hope not. 
 

First world problems 


 

 

btw P basses are all you need..............,,😘

 

 

Stuart Lee on stage is a character who may or may not be as clever as Stuart Lee thinks he is. Many songs in the SD cannon seem to be written from the perspective of a certain type of character (or characters), who may or may not bear some relationship to the authors. Although the character of the stage version of Mr Lee and that of the protagonists of a great many Dan songs share a certain world weariness, it was an entirely fatuous comparison to which no significance should be attached.

Having said that, if you don't dig the Dan then you should probably stop pretending to be a musician and take up collecting tapeworms or something more appropriate. 😎

 

Edited by JellyKnees
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I love Steely Dan. I love the grooves they get into, I love the sarcastic, throwaway lyrics. I know there’s a hell of a lot of brilliant writing and astonishing musicianship going on but I just like the finished songs, the product. I don’t relate to SD emotionally, they don’t ‘speak’ to me, so to speak, their experiences in no way correlate with mine but there’s something escapist and very dark that’s (for me) highly attractive about them. They occupy a unique corner of my musical taste, listening to The Fez or Babylon Sisters is like listening to no other band, I suppose I can’t explain why I like them so much, perhaps that’s one of the reasons I do like them so much. When someone else writes and performs a song as great but insane as My Old School... well it isn’t going to happen.

Stuart Lee is, by a country mile, my favourite ‘comedian’ but then I find that a peculiar epithet to describe him with, his work is more like stream of consciousness monologues, although more interactive with the audience responses than the word monologue would usually suggest. There is a similar snobbery surrounding Stewart Lee as surrounds Steely Dan, the tired old ‘you just don’t get it/them’, of course it’s bôllöcks, and band/comic/anything else is simply about each individual’s interaction with said band/comic/anything else and no one persons interaction is any more valid than anyone else’s but there will always be the I’m right you’re not crowd blathering on, it’s why I don’t get involved in the fretless discussions on here anymore.

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22 minutes ago, JellyKnees said:

if you don't dig the Dan then you should probably stop pretending to be a musician and take up collecting bookmarks or something more appropriate.

I'm afraid that's a rather blinkered view that ignores the fact that all art is entirely subjective..

All it says is " the music I like is better than the music you like, and not only that but you must be completely clueless not to like my music".

I could say exactly the same (possibly with more reason 😉) about those who don't like proper innovators like, say, Derek Bailey. Or Ornette Coleman. Or Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society... 😋

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1 minute ago, Leonard Smalls said:

...all art is entirely subjective..

This simple phrase could replaced my entire blather.

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3 minutes ago, Leonard Smalls said:

I'm afraid that's a rather blinkered view that ignores the fact that all art is entirely subjective..

 

Yeah well, y'know that's just like your opinion man... 

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6 hours ago, spectoremg said:

So all those excellent songwriters out there should be concentrating on their technique. Paul Simon's gonna feel like a huge failure poor guy. 

Paul Simon is a very fine guitar player. I saw S&G back in the day when they were up and coming and he's no slouch. As for songwriting, there is a technique to it. It ain't just "letting it all hang out, maaaan". A well crafted song is a well crafted song. I'm surprised you use Paul Simon as an example. He knows how to write a song. He isn't just tooling around. Listen to his stuff critically. It's very well put together.

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6 hours ago, spectoremg said:

Who's threatened by accomplished playing DAD!?

Thou doth protest too much

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8 hours ago, Dan Dare said:

There's a sort of defensiveness one encounters during discussions of this sort. It goes along the lines of "Ah yes, they may be great players, but it's soulless/instrumental widdling/lacking in cojones/high quality elevator music, etc, etc". If you don't like something, just say you don't like it. It's a free country. If you feel threatened by highly accomplished playing, work on your technique.


 

There’s a sort of defensiveness one encounters during discussions of this sort. It goes along the lines of making assumptions about the skills and tastes of people that don’t like the same music you do. 😉
 

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Personally I was very happy with this thread as many interesting insights and opinions were aired. More than in similar threads we were almost able to even discuss formal matters.
Then alas something happened.
 

Personally, each and every time I hear an SD song, it attracts me mucho initially, but then after some time - maybe a minute or two, I get this nausea that I've never been able to explain, and have wondered about for decades.
Some of the posts above seem to close in on a possible explanation when the music nearly is described as elevator music on a very high level.
I think maybe there is something there, in that, for a musically developed person, this may be music to relax with - not music to put your teeth in. 

In case this is true, it's Music For The Millions For The Few!

I'll have to think more about this, and might change this new notion on a whim.
Any contribution to support or tear down this notion is welcome, and I'd hope for a constructive discussion just as we started the thread with.

 

BTW, in the mean time though:
I think, in order to make Aja a much better album, what they should've done was:
- Make the compositions a lot simpler, without the accomplished chord sequences
- Arrange the songs more like 60s beat songs
- Play a lot sloppier, on cheap instruments including a shrieky Farfisa
- Record everything on a Portastudio 4-track without any studio equipment. No overdubs.

Presto! Good Aja!

😉

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Personally Id be happy for them to be more technical and more complex, but played with a bit more commitment. 😉

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