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4.0 out of 5 stars
Everything Must Go
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
A mere 3½ years since the release of Two Against Nature, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker return with a new set of tunes, an encouraging sign for any Steely Dan fan.
Any album that these guys release is going to get my business, but as with Nature, this new one doesn't scale the heights of the seminal Aja or the equally impressive Gaucho albums. But that familiar Steely Dan sound, replete with succulent horn sections, twisting guitar licks and seductive background vocals, is here in force. It's the real deal, and it will soothe that certain nerve in a Dan fan that only their music can salve.
Unlike many of their prior albums, this one was recorded with an ensemble of musicians that don't change much from one track to another. Returning from Nature are guitarist Jon Herrington, vocalist Carolyn Leonhart and her trumpeter brother, Michael. Old SD stalwart Hugh McCracken returns to add some crispy guitar licks of his own. Fagen sings all but one track's lead, and is a little more present on keyboards than he was last time. Becker plays all bass, all solo guitar, and sings "Slang Of Ages".
A few of the songs on this disc seem to go back over previously-traveled territory. "Blues Beach", promoted for radio airplay, bears more than a passing resemblance to "Tomorrow's Girls", from Fagen's Kamakiriad album. "Pixeleen" and "Lunch With Gina" evoke memories of "Negative Girl" and "Almost Gothic" from the Nature disc.
The other radio-promoted song, Everything Must Go", has a good beat and you can almost dance to it; but the best song on the 42-minute disc is one that you'll have to hear on your own: with a title like "Godwhacker", it's a safe bet that it won't be filling the airwaves. Yet, it, more than any tune on the disc, will satisfy the thirst for more tunes in the vein of "Peg" or "I Got The News".
Twenty years between Gaucho and Nature, and now only 3½ years until Everything Must Go. At this rate, we should get a new round of Becker and Fagen before the end of 2006. Unless, as the title track of this disc suggests, they're "goin' out of business, everything must go".
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
When the details surrounding the next Steely Dan album were made public, I had a pair of thoughts: first, that the inclusion among the session players of straight-ahead jazz piano god Bill Charlap (with whom, oddly enough, I share having come into this planet on the same day) harkened the second coming of Aja; and, second, that the title "Everything Must Go" hinted that this release would be their last. Time will tell how my second thought pans out.
And I was way off on the first point -- this is not an overtly jazz-flavored album. This is, instead, probably the hookiest and most melodic album that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have teamed up to craft.
A jazz fan, I don't mean that jazz isn't melodic or reliant upon `hooks.' But as a Dan fan, having learned that what these two gentlemen started out to do was to craft popular music (regardless of how many among the populace were actually listening), I say that if--God-forbid--this actually were to be their last release as Steely Dan, "Everything Must Go" would prove that the boys not only never strayed far from their mission, but that they made sure to emphatically drive the point home before they turned off the lights.
I'd go on to say that the songwriting takes center stage on EMG. Oh sure, the playing offered up by the principals and their studio contributors is spot-on (nothing shy of world-class musicianship every rears its head within a mile of a Steely Dan album after all). But unlike SD offerings so far, missing from the mix here are the jaw dropping riffs and solos by hired guns that characterize much of their previous work. No individual's contribution here sits aside Steve Gadd's outro on `Aja,' or Larry Carleton's (so the story goes) on-the-first-take contribution to `Kid Charlemagne,' or even, more recently, saxophonist Chris Potter's astounding imprint on 2000's "Two Against Nature." And it's fine. Really. Nothing's missing.
So here's a collection of tunes with blues and r&b changes that take the occasional unexpected turn, with lyrics that far transgress the realm of the wry, and with melodic and harmonic content that is infectious enough to crawl into your ear and lay its eggs in your brain.
I'm now old enough to be not cool in a time when it's not cool to be a Steely Dan fan. Bah. Whatever's cool can go pound sand. Long after the current flavor-of-the-month pop trollop has retired from his/her ultimate gig as [a store] greeter, this album will stand as an airtight, rock-solid offering both relevant to its time and true to its creators' roots.
I won't give up the 5th star easily--I'd reserve that for the likes of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," Led Zeppelin's "Houses of the Holy," or for "Aja." That said, this is a super-strong piece of work that fits well among Don's and Walt's thirty (!) years of crafting music. Heck, even the youngsters who are sharp enough to know to question the coolness of what's currently cool may find a treat lurking within.
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68 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I have listened to this CD numerous times already through the streaming audio at the steely site and I must tell you that it is really good listening. First of all, I liked SD last CD called 'Two Against Nature' and played it to death, but, I like this release better. Tighter groov, I know that sounds impossible, but even the drums are done better on this recording. not so lifeless.
1. At The Last Mall, very good, very end of the worldish lyrics and a great groove.
2. TIMTM, a great song about reflection, the chorus sticks in your head like all great SD songs.
3. Blues Beach, a funky little piano beginning, this song continues the great groov that this band has on this recording. The line 'things can get a whole lot worse before suddenly falling apart' is funny and depressing all at the same time.
4. Godwhacker, another funky tune, with a nice bass line at the beginning.. and the whole idea of the song is lost on me, but that is no big deal with SD, a lot of their classic songs I have no idea what they are singing about, but swear that I believe it is whatever they are saying....
5. Slang Of Ages, Straight from 14 tracks of Whack is Walter Becker on lead vocals. First time the guitar player co writer of SD sings, and he does a great job.. and if you like his vocals check out his solo cd called 14 tracks of whack. Slang Of Ages is a great soft song with a jazzy chorus, that again, sticks in your head.
6. Green Book ... a tune that you can grab a gal and just dance around to. Has a very distinctive korg organ sound.
7. Pizaleen. THIS SONG IS THE BANGO BANG CLASSIC TUNE FROM THIS CD. It has a sound that only SD can cook up. the chorus and back up singers just hook up big time on this song. Pure candy for the ears.
8. Lunch With gina. Good fun song about, I think, a stalker. Good stuff.
9. Everything must go. Check out the jazzed out beginning. Almost dissonate. then slammo, into groov and the song finishes out the cd with a nice ending. Very strong.
This whole cd is great. No duds at all. will warm my CD player for a long time.
Lots to listen to on this outing.
Buy it, and get one for a friend.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2003
Format: Audio CD
After a relatively short wait since their grammy-winning "Two Against Nature," the new Steely Dan release is exactly what we have come to expect the Dan duo of Donald Fagen & Walter Becker; clean and sonically perfect arrangements with stellar musicianship, clever tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and music that keeps sounding better with each listen. There are several gems that I am apt to skip to, the most of which being the second track entitled, "The Things I Miss The Most," which features what I believe to be Fagen's best vocals among the last two albums. "Slang of Ages" is a tight little tune that features a lead vocal by Walter Becker, while sung competently, leaves the listener wondering how Donald would have handled the lead....
The most interesting track is a catchy song called "Godwhacker," that I have no idea what is about. The most I can decipher is that this Godwhacker character is one bad dude. There are no weak tracks on Everything Must Go; each entry on the album is compelling in its own way. In many ways this album seems more immediately accessible than Two Against Nature. The shame of it is that the music may not fit within the framework of most radio stations. It isn't classic rock, it doesn't quite fit in Top 40 pop, and it is likely to be seen as just outside of most jazz station playlists. This is too bad, because there hasn't been a smarter, more interesting album since, well, the last Steely Dan record...
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
If this is a "love it or hate it" album, count me in the hate-it camp. Steely Dan is one of my top 2 or 3 favorite groups; I began listening to their stuff 30 years ago and began playing their songs in jazz and fusion combos 25 years ago. Everything Must Go can't hold a candle to any of their earlier work. With 200+ reviews posted already, you can read plenty of longer discussions of why, so here is the short version: Almost everything about the music -- the vocal melodies, chord progressions, tempos, instrumentation -- has a deathly sameness to it, both across songs and within songs. This is either forgettable background music or, if you work _really hard_ at listening, a professionally crafted platform for still-great lyrics. I don't know why anyone with a Steely Dan collection would play this album rather than any of the earlier ones after the first few listens.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker have done it again. They have produced a collection of slices of life in their slightly-off-center world, inhabited by losers, lovers, ne'er-do-wells, has-beens and assorted purveyors of ecstatic sadness and resigned joy. This one contains radio-ready singles ('The Last Mall' and 'Blues Beach') and last-call epics (Everything Must Go). There's one about a hit-squad targeting for the Almighty ('Godwhacker') and one about a cyber-heroine ('Pixeleen'). In short, it's everything a Steely Dan album ought to be: surprising, quirky, quixotic and a bit unsettling. The musicianship is top-shelf. There are sounds you've never heard on a Steely Dan album before. Like Walter Becker's lead vocal ('Slang of Ages'). And unlike previous recording where they have favored a track-by-track layered recording approach, this one was recorded 'live' and that lends a warm, cohesive feel to the work.
Packaged with the standard-issue CD is a DVD of 'Steely Dan Confessions'. This follows the dour duo through an aimless cab ride in Las Vegas. They meet a series of fans who seem to have stumbled into their orbit like characters from one of their songs. The twenty-minute video is entertaining and gives fans of the not-as-reclusive-as-they-once-were pair a chance to see them without their instruments, chatting about the new music.
Steely San's fans had to wait close to twenty years for their last release, the Grammy-winning 'Two Against Nature'. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers cranked out this one in just a couple of years, but the quality just shines. Enjoy a rare treat.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
When asked in an interview for Rolling Stone about their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Grammy for best album of the year, Becker and Fagen replied "Things really haven't clicked for us yet." There's something comfortably reassuring about their tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating lyrics, major-chord melodic lines, and white-man's overbite grooves. The two best efforts (as if acknoldeged as such by the artists themselves) bookend the track list - 'The Last Mall' and 'Everything Must Go' - the 'Peg' and 'Deacon Blues' of this album. There's a not-so-subtle homage to Sydney Bristow in 'Pixeleen,' and the patented 'Dan' groove is in full chat for 'Blues Beach.' Some charts work better than others, as has been the case over the years, but like old Coltrane records, the more you listen, the more you get the nuances. There are a couple of especially bad MIDI keyboard patches, which begs the question: why not rely on the piano, Fender-Rhodes and Hammond B3 they (and their session group) are so adept at playing? But that hardly distracts from the otherwise Zappa-esque production quality. Whether this effort will recruit a newer generation to the fold is yet to be seen. As for faithful (and graying) 'Dan' fans, operators are standing by.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2003
Format: Audio CD
For those listeners (like myself) who 'liked' 2 Against Nature, yet were not overjoyed by it's efforts... sit back and prepare for a nice, solid "Steely Dan" product. The reason I highlight "Steely Dan" is because "2AN" sounded more like an album of "Kamakiriad" (Fagen's last solo effort) outtakes than anything else. This album is well written, produced and performed.
While we may never hear the likes of "Aja" again... and gone are the days of Michael McDonald bellowing out layers of harmonies... Steely Dan have managed once again to produce a wonderful blend of jazz musicianship with rock and roll phrasing. Walter still has a tendency to "fill" everywhere he can with little guitar riffs (a pet peeve of mine), however his solo playing/writing is better than that on 2AN. We even get a Steely Dan first.... a harmonica solo. Highlights: The Last Mall, Blues Beach, Lunch With Gina, and Everything Must Go... All in all, a nice progression from the long awaited, and highly-anticipated 2AN.... for those who have a DVD player... don't pass up the CD/DVD combo. The DVD is quite fun.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Real instruments. Real drums. Real guitar. Real voices. Real music. Real talent. More than 3 chords. No JLO! Who'd have thunk it was still possible in a world of 21st century machine music?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2003
Format: Audio CD
I have listened to Steely Dan since their beginning and I own all of their albums. The band has gone through several stylistic strata over the years. Unfortunately, some percentage of their fans have remained stuck at each level along the way. I suspect that many of the negative reviews of "Everything Must Go" come from these poor people yearning for their lost youth.
The criticism of the album is unjustified. Yes, the tunes are catchy but the lyrics are as harsh or harsher than ever. Yes, "Two Against Nature" was a good album but it feels downright cold next to this more mature, alive and edgy one. Yes, the album may not seem great on the first listening but it seems wonderful on the fifth one.
To me, the people who don't see this are paying the ultimate tribute to the band. They have been fooled by the illusion of conformity and conventionality that always hides the raw joy and despair of the human experience in a Steely Dan album. In addition, they must remember that, like themselves, Donald and Walter have aged. Nothing good can stay the same and nothing that stays the same is good. Nostalgia was originally classified as a mental illness.
Buy this album. Give it a chance. You won't be sorry.
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