|Hades set list||Critics on Beacon show|
|Fagen on NY jazz||1977 "Sounds" interview|
|1977 Aja review||Psychological "profile"|
As Metal Leg has now moved from the U.K. to New York City, the past few months can only be described as busy. Very busy! So much has happened it's hard to decide where to begin or what could be considered the most newsworthy.
Well, as you can see from our cover, Donald and Walter are working together again. Walter has flown in from Hawaii to New York to "produce" Donald's long-awaited followup to 1982's "The Nightfly." They are currently working at the Hit Factory on West 54th Street and are laying down the rhythm tracks. The only known musician working on the project so far is studio drummer Chris Parker, who evidently had to leave the sessions early to accompany Bob Dylan on his new tour.
The record is currrently in the early stages of production and no other artist has been called in to do any additional work. The question is: How long will it take this album to be released? Since Gaucho was released in 1980, Walter seems to have learned that it doesn't take years to finish a record. Having produced China Crisis and Rickie Lee Jones efforts in a timely manner, Walter might be able to get this project completed in record time. (Wishful thinking?)
Now where does this leave Gary Katz? The man who was and is known as the "Third Member" of Steely Dan through his diligent production of all of their records and Donald's "Nightfly" has not been called upon to work on this project.
What can be considered ironic is that Gary is putting the finishing touches on Paul Brady's new record, "Trick or Treat" at the Hit Factory downstairs, while Donald and Walter are working upstairs.
We hear the electricity level in the Hit Factory is tremenous and that there seems to be a bit of good-natured ribbing between Donald and Gary about Gary' recent production efforts with "foreigners."
Donald and Walter also took time out of their busy recording schedule on May 15 to sneak into Hades, a small, out-of-the-way bar on the Upper, Upper East Side of Manhattan to jam with Jimmy Vivino's "Little Big Band," a hot eight-piece rock-and-blues band which plays every Tuesday night. although they didn't play any Steely Dan songs, the jam was great with Phoebe Snow's pyrotechnic voice covering old rhythm-and-blues standards, Donald sharing some back-up vocals and some funky Melodica tooting, and Walter playing lead blues guitar alongside frontman Mr. Vivino.
Donald has recently been making unheralded appearances at several NY area clubs. In May and June, Fagen appeared live at the Lone Star Roadhouse with Dr. John, Elaine's with Phoebe Snow and Spodeeodee's with Rickie Lee Jones.
But Donald seems more comfortable with Jimmy Vivino's Little Big Band at Hades. In fact, on June 19, Fagen performed "Black Friday" and also traded vocals with Vivino on "In The Midnight Hour." Out of all the times Fagen has performed "Black Friday" since the Lone Star gigs, this one was the best. Fagen's vocals were strong and comfortable and you could tell he's been working hard in the studio.
Vivino rehearsed the tune for weeks before this night without Fagen and even wrote a sinister horn chart to go along with this sinister song. Special guest Al Kooper jumped from guitar to keyboards and took a solo, and Ed Alstrom was brought up from the audience to fill Michael McDonald's vocal part as a finishing touch. Fagen also changed the lyric "Gonna let the 'world' pass by me" to "Gonna let the 'years' pass by me." How appropriate. And there could be more live Dan songs to come. "Chain Lightning"? (Feels so good!)
Going back to April 4, it would be hard to believe that the Beacon Show would be a preview of Donald re-entering public life. The Beacon Theater show was billed as the "New York Rock & Soul Review" and featured Dnald Fagen, Patti Austin, Michael McDonald and Phoebe Snow backed by New York R&B band Curious George led by Jeff Young.
The show was a "round robin" with no-one leaving the stage at any time. It was great to see these master performers interact musically and visually all evening. The music was primarily classic soul songs of the '60s and '70s. Patti Austin did "I'm Sorry," "Everyday People," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." Phoebe Snow did "Standing on Shaky Ground," "At Last" and "Poetry Man." Mike McDonald did some Doobie tunes including "Minute By Minute," "You Belong To Me" and "Little Darling." Even the backup performers gleaned from the Lone Star shows shared the spotlight as Mindy Jostyn did a soulful "That's Why It Hurts," Jeff Young did "Man Smart," Sam Butler and Phil Hamilton did the Sam and Dave standard "Soothe Me" and all were loving it.
But the main attraction was Fagen and for good reason. He sat at the grand piano just like the old days and did some of his own tunes in front of his largest audience since the Santa Monica Civic Center in 1974.
Donald opened with "Black Friday," remaining seated as he sang only to find himself standing for "IGY," alternately singing and playing his new toy, the Melodica horn. His last and best performance was a fully orchestrated version of "Pretzel Logic." Mike McDonald, as he did when he toured with Steely Dan, sung the break "I stopped upon the platform..." and the crowd went nuts. Donald introduced the song by recalling McDonald's role as a mere backup singer in the old Dan days, and ended the song with the words: "Pretzel Logic: It's a funny name, but it's the blues."
On the Walter side, Becker produced three tracks of Michael Frank's new record, "Blue Pacific." Becker's productions were the "All I Need," "Vincent's Ear" and "Crayon Sun" tracks. Apparently, Franks contracted Becker after seeing him on the VH-1 special on Rickie Lee Jones. Roger Nichols engineered the Becker-produced tracks.
Speaking of Michael McDonald, he has a new record out on Reprise Records titled "Take It To Heart."
To end the news on a very sad note, original Steely Dan drummer Jim Hodder drowned June 5 in his California swimming pool. Hodder played on the Dan's first three albums and was highly praised by Donald and Walter for his vocals on "Midnight Cruiser" from "Can't Buy A Thrill." He was 42.