|Editor's Note||Larry Carlton on Steely Dan|
|I Got The News||Larry Carlton biography|
|"Metal Leg": The TV Show||"Gaucho"-era interview with the Dan|
|Letters||1977 review trashing "Aja"|
The "Metal Leg" staff geared up for the event by obtaining fifty tickets for each show for out-of-town subscribers who, surprisingly, paid us back for the money we laid out. (Thank you!)
This year's show was a little different than last years' because it was recorded for a live album to be released this summer on Giant Records.
From what we hear, everyone involved in the production of the live album (including Elliot Scheiner, who worked on previous Dan albums) are thrilled with the sound quality of the recordings. Although a couple of artists were called back during mixing to do a few overdubs, everything sounds great, especially the Steely tunes. Donald, who was especially pleased with the results, is contemplating releasing the live version Of "Pretzel Logic" as the first single for radio play.
As we speak, the mixing of the record is finished. Most of the performances used on the album were taken from Saturday night's show, with the exception of Charles Brown, whose Friday night performance was used.
Originally, the show was also supposed to be filmed for home video. Unfortunately, this idea was scrapped because of budget constraints.
The show started promptly at 8:00 p.m. with Jeff Young and The Youngsters and the hot backup singers Mindy Jostyn, Dian Sorel and Ula Hedwig with the Youngsters' original tune, "Working My Way Downtown." Then, Donald took the stage as the band swung into "Madison Time." Phoebe Snow and Michael McDonald joined the group on stage with a rousing rendition of "Knock On Wood." Not losing a step, Fagen followed with "Home At Last." With these great songs launching the show, the audience knew they were in for a treat. Boz Scaggs was then introduced and went into one of his big hits "Lowdown" which gave Youngster's bassist Lincoln Schleifer a chance to strut his stuff. Boz then followed with Gamble and Huff's "Drowning In The Sea Of Love" (We liked Donald's Lone Star version better).
The ladies seemed to enjoy the next song "Minute By Minute" as they swooned over McDoobie's looks and haunting tenor voice. Phoebe then shook the crowd with her pyrotechnic performance of "Shaky Ground" followed by "At Last." The versatile organ player Jeff Young joined percussionist Phil Hamilton and shared vocals on Sam Cooke's "Soothe Me." Fagen then closed the first set with Steely Dan's "Black Friday."
After a twenty-five minute intermission, Charles Brown, the great blues pianist, took the stage and treated the crowd to "Quick Sand," "Driftin' Blues," and, from his new release "All My Life," "Joyces Boogie" featuring some tasty guitar work from his guitarman Danny Caron. Then, the surprise guests for the evening, the Brigati Brothers from The Rascals, added a nice touch to the extravaganza with "Good Lovin'," "Groovin'," and "How Can I Be Sure." Another surprise was Jimmy Vivino who served as the Brigati's musical director and guitar player. Since we've seen Jimmy playing alongside Donald at several NYC clubs in the past year, it was great to see him again on this big night.
McDonald then stunned the audience with an unbelievable version of Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," which Fagen remarked could only be successfully attempted by his former bandmate.
We knew the night wouldn't be complete without excited Dan fans yelling for their obscure and not-so-obscure Dan titles. As Donald pretended not to hear them and stuck to the song list, their howls were silenced as Donald started into "Chain Lightning." As the song progressed, a strange man appeared on stage, like an uninvited guest. He gave the affair on-stage the once-over and then proceed to wow the crowd (and the, band) by joining in on the "vanished trumpet." This is tough to describe since there was no trumpet; he cupped his hands, and then trumpet sounds mysteriously appeared. Afterwards the crowd realized this guy was not some bum off the street; his name is Bob Gurland.
Mindy Jostyn then followed with her steamy version of "That's When It Hurts" and sent many men home to a cold shower.
Boz then did the duet "Love Is Strange" with Dian Sorel while drummer Denny McDermott kept a funky, yet steady beat. McDonald then followed with Holland/Dozier/Holland's "Little Darling." Then the unmistakable opening of "Pretzel Logic" followed, as the Youngster's hotshot guitarist Drew Zingg played the blues guitar keeping a close feel to the album version. Phoebe then set the house on fire with Ragavoy/Burn's "Piece Of My Heart."
And Donald saved the best for last, with a new song to his live collection, "Green Flower Street" from "The Nightfly." The horn section featuring Cornelius Bumpus, Chris Anderson and John Hagen shined through this song while Jimmy Vivino performed the hip rhythm guitar part. Again, as throughout the show, Schleifer and McDermott kept the band's engine running. And as the three girls sang "Lou Chang bums with rage," you had to laugh as only Donald Fagen could get away with such a line.
The show encored with the Rascal's feel-good hit "People Got To Be Free" as everyone (including Charles Brown who picked up the words quickly) joined in for the finale. What a night. We were so excited. And we just couldn't hide it. On the way out, we ran into "Metal Leg" subscriber Trevor Johnson who flew in from Manchester, England just for the shows. We asked Trevor if the show was worth the trip. He said just seeing Donald live was enough for him and he would do it again in a second.
Again, "Metal Leg" subscribers had first-notice on the gig and jammed the room anticipating the great music that was to come. With the Beacbn Show less than two months away, this served as a warmup to future appearances by Donald. As the show was starting, keyboardist Jeff Young was running late, so Dr. John volunteered to sit in and did the "Wang Dang Doodle" with singer Catherine Russell. And, for you R.E.O. Speedwagon fans out there, lead singer Kevin (Keep On Loving You) Cronin made a surprise appearance and did a somewhat competent version of "Johnny Be Good." He even danced with Phoebe Snow on the crowded stage. What a night! Donald donned a blue baseball cap a fan had tossed to the stage and appropriately did "Black Friday" as Saddam Hussein was dreaming of Victory. Mr. Hussein probably now wished he would have been in NYC at this "Mother Of All Shows."
However, the Catch A Rising Star gig didn't work out. So again, Jimmy hit the road. This time he moved crosstown to his current and more comfortable Tuesday night gig at The China Club at 75th and Broadway. This is where the live "Green Flower Street" debuted with Donald only rehearsing the song once earlier in the day with Jimmy's band. Jimmy's gig at The China Club has attracted even more great musicians as Hiram (My Rival) Bullock and Steve (Walk Between The Raindrops) Jordan joined Donald and Jimmy on stage for some blues tunes. Max Weinberg (ex-E Street Band), Randy (Walter's Guitar Mentor) California, and Jenni (Todd Rundgren backup) Muldaur are others who have made guest appearances.
One funny night, while Bullock and Jordan were on stage with Fagen, Jimmy had announced that bass player extraordinaire Anthony Jackson was in the audience. Jimmy kept calling, over and over, for Anthony to join the crew on stage. The crowd was very excited since Jackson had played on some of their favorite Dan tunes. When there was no response from Jackson, Donald took over the mike and started calling for Scott Lassaro, and Jimmy Blanton, also famous bass players. They too, didn't join them on stage, but at least they had an excuse -- THEY'RE BOTH DEAD!!!
Jimmy's band is building up quite a following on Tuesday nights at The China Club. His group has been playing some great new original tunes called "All Alone" and "Stone Soul Minute" along with classic R&B and soul songs. You should check these guys out. You might even catch a glimpse of the Nightfly himself ... but you'll never know for sure...
As far as Donald's new record is concerned, apparently progress is being made. Walter is coming back to NY on May 9 to continue production of Donald's new record. We hear that the goal is to finish the album by September (yeah, sure). If this is true, however, Walter might have to spend most of the summer in New York. Regardless, this will give Walter a chance to break-in Gary Katz's and Donald's new Upper East Side studio called River Sound. The time questions are crucial, though. Donald has been invited to do a "Rock and Soul Revue" at the Montreux Music Festival in July in Switzerland. And then, a northeast U.S. tour in late fall is also being pondered for the "Review." If Donald decides to do both, can he finish his album in between these two events?
In a recent issue of "Billboard," Walter and Donald talked about the recording process: Walter expressed "It is much easier to enter a project, after the songs have been written: All the hard work is really done, and you just book into some swank recording studio, find a comfortable chair, order some food, and start recording." Fagen noted his dislike for the use of drum machines "I'm insulted when I hear something and I know that for the drum track, and maybe a lot of the other instruments, someone just pushed a button and that's what I'm hearing. I feel really manipulated by it." Becker's feeling are mixed: "A lot of records are technically well-recorded and well-produced; the quality of a lot of the stuff is excellent. But because of this preoccupation with sound and production, the content is often less interesting than it might be. In a lot of cases, there's little or no content that I can discern, just a tremendous number of synth sounds. I try to avoid that."
Well, talking about "new" cds, a bootleg entitled "All Too Mobile Home" features the Steely Dan Live At The Record Plant perfomance of 3/20/74 with ten tracks including the unreleased title track. The CD is on the Scorpio label out of Italy. The inside cover identifies the keyboard player as Walter Fagen. Walter Becker is spelled right, though. The front cover is a painting of a dildo made up to look like one of those silver streak mobile homes. We don't think Fagen and Becker are making any money off this, but what are bootlegs for anyway?
Now on the legitimate side, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has just released the 24k gold plated Ultradisc of "Gaucho." This follows the previous Ultradisc release of "Aja". Both gold discs are a marked improvement over the domestic MCA aluminum disc. You might want to check them out.
Walter's production work can be heard on Bob Shepherd's new Windham Hill release and Andy Laverne's new Triloka release. Walter also will be producing Windham Hill artists Marty Krystall and John Beasley and expect further Triloka work also.
In Gary Katz news, his work with Paul Brady is finally out on Fontana records. Paul's effort, "Trick Or Treat" features Katz regulars Jeff Porcaro, Paul Griffin and Elliot Randall. It's a great album, you might want to pick it up. Unfortunately, the news on Rosie Vela's followup to "Zazu" is not good. Apparently, her record company wants Rosie to make some changes to her songs, and she staunchly refuses their requests. Hopefully these problems will be resolved and we'll hear something from this Texas-bred model/singer.
Gary, a real "feel merchant," as Eric Stewart puts it, has also been tapped to produce the return of English supergroup 10CC at River Sound. Graham Gouldman adds that "working with Gary has just been fantastic." When "ML" asked why they chose Gary to produce their comeback album, Eric replied, "As 10CC, we always produced our records ourselves, but on this new project, we decided to use Gary because of our love for the Steely Dan Records."
A Steely Dan/1OCC connection has been noted earlier in the February '88 edition of "Metal Leg." In a 1976 UK radio interview with Becker and Fagen, the following discussion took place:
Caller: "I want to ask them about an article I saw in "The Melody Maker" about 1 or 2 months back, which was comparing the state of English Music with the state of American music, and it mentioned Steely Dan and compared them with 1OCC and said that 1OCC were better for some reasons. There was a response from MeIody Makers" readers the following week which rejected the article, and I wanted to know their feelings on the state of English music compared to American music."
Walter Becker: "...I noticed there are a lot of English groups like 1OCC, that seem to be getting into extended forinats, kind of a delayed reaction to Yes and groups like that."
Donald Fagen: "I really don't think there's too much comparison between, say, us and 1OCC. I think they're a very good band, but to me it sounds like they're more in a McCartney-type bag than we are. At least we like to think we're original in what we're doing, and I hear a lot of Beatle echo from that band, although I think they're very competent and quite good."
Look for Donald to play some piano on the new 1OCC album.