WALTER BECKER: Eleven Tracks Of Whack
OK, this isn’t that obscure – in this context, I almost feel like I’ve gone all Top Twenty. But it is underrated. I can’t believe how many people I’ve met who profess to be Steely Dan nuts like myself, but don’t know that Walter Becker has made two solo albums. Becker’s solo efforts seem to be overshadowed by Donald Fagen’s, but in my opinion this 1994 album (my God, has it really been that long?) is not only better than Becker’s second but better than any of Fagen’s, and better than a lot of Steely Dan’s post-‘comeback’ work.
I still play this album often, but part of its appeal when it was released was that it was just so damn unexpected. No one ever thought Becker could deliver a whole album’s worth of lead vocals, for one thing, but he does a pretty good job. His voice is difficult to assess: it has a laconic, amateurish, not-really-trying quality which is less intense and distinctive than Fagen’s, but somehow a bit easier to live with. The album is full of great songs, too: Down In The Bottom, Junkie Girl, Book Of Liars, Girlfriend, Lucky Henry, the magnificently-titled This Moody Bastard. Of course it sounds very much like Steely Dan, which might, I suppose, only be mildly surprising to someone who always assumed Fagen to be the ‘main man’. Though I should probably mention that he is credited here as co-producer.
Anyway, the other refreshing surprise for me, when I first heard this album, was its slightly rough-edged, homemade sound. Whereas later Steely Dan is sometimes criticized for being too ‘slick’, this sometimes sounds almost like a demo tape. It’s more rhythmically varied and interesting than a lot of Late Dan, too.
Don’t get me wrong, these guys are heroes of mine. I’m delighted they’re still around, and there were moments in the New York show I saw a couple of years ago that sent shivers down my spine. I can’t believe I have the nerve to be even hesitantly and ever-so-politely critical, but I do think their sound of late has become a bit set-in-stone. Maybe they should go back and give this album another listen. And maybe Pretzel Logic, too.
We’re headed for the end of yet another year, and we completely forgot to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Mizar5!! I know, I know, we changed it into Mizar6 to make a difference or a point rather, still, we should have brought out the hats and… ha, see? We haven’t forgotten how to talk Steely!
Either way, we just wanted to share some stuff with you, such as the release of this stellar new album! The Breithaupt Brothers, Don and Jeff, they teamed up for yet another fine set of compositions guaranteed to make you bow down in awe. They did it again and delivered a masterpiece. Just Passing Through is its title and the cast of musicians and vocalists is stunning: Marc Jordan, Paul Shaffer, Sophie Milman and Ron Sexsmith to name just a few.
“When I go to the movies I am invariably one of the last people to leave the theatre. That’s because I stay behind to read the credits. There is much to be learned from that rolling script if you take the time to read it. I feel the same way about music. I devour studio credits and liner notes in hopes of garnering little pieces of information about the music I’ve just listened to, in the event there’s something worth passing on. That’s how I first learned about Jeff and Don Breithaupt.”
“I can’t remember the name of the song or even the record it appeared on but it impressed me enough at that time to look up the songwriters and read their story. I was more than a little impressed by what they’d accomplished to that point. So when Just Passing Through: The Breithaupt Brothers Songbook Vol. II landed in my digital mailbox I wasted no time downloading the tracks and cycling through them. My initial response was simply “wow.” Further listening confirmed my initial response was an accurate assessment of what I’d heard.”
You do know that Don Breithaupt wrote a must-have pocketbook about Aja? And that the Breithaupt Brothers collaborate with the Leonhart siblings (Carolyn and Michael) when in New York? Okay, just checking so you needn’t be wondering what the Steely connection is here. We’re still not done listening to Just Passing Through, and as soon as we find a moment, we’ll try to give you a little more than just superlatives!
Which brings us straight to Georg Wadenius, renowned Swedish guitarist/composer/arranger who toured and recorded with numerous artists. We interviewed him for Mizar5 once, and have kept up to speed since. He released Cleo 2, as you can see, a follow-up to his 1987 album with the same name. We can recommend watching this documentary, which even though it’s in Swedish, isn’t hard to understand when the language is music. Enjoy!
And last, but not least, we’d like to ask your attention for a blog that touches on legalities that can really ruin one’s chances to move forward in life. Or in the United States of America. We first heard of this artist when listening to Dandom Radio, an initiative of Hoops who also distributes the incomparable and essential on anything ‘Dan’, namely the Dandom Digest. The tune that made us drop what we were doing cleverly mixed Steely Dan with Frank Zappa. Brain Tap Shuffle. Yeah that’s exactly what it did! Nigey Lennon, as a musician and published author who also runs her own e-book publishing company called Airstream Books, is working on a new album, but she’s brutally hindered by the stickiness known as red tape, courtesy of the rigid apparatus called bureaucracy. Read all about it on Bedford and Bowery.
Nigey’s first album was re-released by Muffin Records. “Classification has always been anathema to Lennon. Equally at home writing a risqué blues tune, a string quartet, a big band free-for-all, a sea shanty, a hauntingly melodic Lieder-like song — or more likely a combination of all of them — Lennon’s self-confessed musical purpose is to express what she feels at the moment. “Sometimes the moments all collide like a train wreck,” she admits, “but that’s the way it goes.” Born in Los Angeles to a philologist mother and “a house painter-drifter-philosopher” father, who died in an accident shortly before she was born, Lennon suffered from a hip defect at birth and as a result of limited mobility spent her early childhood in her bedroom, listening to 78 RPM records and reading. She began playing guitar when she was ten and moved on to electric guitar at 11. An early influence on her music was her great-uncle, old-time fiddler James B. Gordon, whom she often accompanied on guitar when he played dances and rodeos in the Southwest. At age 12 she accidentally got hold of a copy of “Freak Out!”, the first album by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Heavily influenced by the recording, Lennon decided she wanted to be a professional musician. Three years later she recorded a demo tape of songs she had written and sent it to Frank Zappa’s record company, Bizarre Records. This led to a meeting with Zappa which didn’t result in a record deal, but he did tell her he thought she might be a good guitarist someday if she kept practicing.” Continue reading.
Hey guys, if I’d say it’s been a while, that would be the understatement of the year. And the reason we’re back here isn’t because we stumbled upon something new… nope. We stumbled upon some good stuff turned into great stuff. Found it via our Canadian friend Blazer Rouge, Red Blazer
So, let’s not dilly-dally and get into this: Enjoy!
We haven’t been keeping up with news for months, but decided to fire up the old Mizar engine for the following we spotted on a Facebook friend’s wall (thanks, Jun Kumagai!). You all know we love to read what’s written about Steely Dan and its founders, but if a journalist misinterprets or twists facts to sensationalize in order to try and earn some readership wings, that is a big NO NO in our book! So yeah, click on the image for the rest of this article, and how a Rolling Stone journalist now will never ever get on the good side of mr. Donald Fagen.
But wait! There’s more! Scroll on for the rest of this story. A link to the Rolling Stone article can be found Down In The Bottom, to add Walter Becker to this mix (up).
We googled the Donald-Fagen-blasts-boring-Dylan-McDonald-Scaggs Donald Fagen refers to in his post, and found a bundle of other websites covering this as hot gossip, they’re all using the same snippets.
We took a look in the comments on the Donald Fagen Facebook page (he posted a newer version of his initial response that is posted in Vintage Vinyl News we refer to if you click the first image) and picked a fine selection to show you here:
First, wishing all who end up here by chance or on purpose a Happy Healthy 2013.
You might want to hear some news about Walter Becker, we can’t oblige in that department alas. Mizar6 host Rumpus is on Facebook all the time following various music pages and his colleague Bud’s into deep contemplation away on some roof in Shangri-La.
So what we can offer you for the moment, is news that involves Donald Fagen as a producer. It might surprise you, though. Ever heard of Oh Whitney?
You will now. If you’re curious how they all met, just follow this link.