26 APRIL 2019 (TORONTO, ON) – Sophisticated musicianship, imaginative lyrics, and a flair for melody are signatures of the Monkey House sound – a sound that has earned the group serious critical acclaim, peer respect, and a steadily expanding international following.
Those characteristics are again evident on Friday, set for release on ALMA Records. It is the fifth full-length release from the L.A./Toronto combo that has just celebrated the notable milestone of 25 years of playing together. That rare longevity has resulted in an invaluable empathy in the musical interactions of the core members: singer/songwriter/keyboardist Don Breithaupt, drummer Mark Kelso, bassist Pat Kilbride, and guitarist Justin Abedin.
All but two of the tracks on Friday are Don Breithaupt compositions. The first single, “Book of Liars” hits the airwaves April 26. “Book Of Liars” is a cover of a song by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker. “As a lifelong Steely Dan fan, Walter’s death hit me hard,” says Don. “I thought it’d be a nice gesture to do one of his.”
Before you click the following link Back to my Old School in which author Seth Kaufman attempts to pick the brain of a friend of a friend’s mother about her acid trips back in her Bard college days, you may want to catch your breath first.
There. That feels better, doesn’t it? Are you ready now for the next line? We’ll try to keep it short. Don’t worry. Your curiosity won’t have to bite the dust and there will be plenty of room left to vacuum clean, walk the dog, water the plants or order in food. But we have to properly introduce this story to you. It’s no secret. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were young, once upon a time. They did what many other youngsters did if opportunity arose. They tried and tested stuff. They did drugs. Donald Fagen writes about it in his book Eminent Hipsters and you may find some mildly curious folks and Dan fans contemplating the correlation between the music of Steely Dan and possible drug use.
“Someone said to me, ‘Hey, have you heard this group Steely Dan.’ It kind of all happened when I was in Europe. So I missed all that stuff when they were getting famous. Marcelle actually wrote a book called The Dog Is Us, which is about this era, too. [Ed note: Steely Dan scholars may be interested to know she also wrote a novel about a woman in a rock band called Rock On.]”
Ok, ok. Here you go! Seth Kaufman interviews Carol Abbe, former classmate of Donald Fagen. And don’t feel shy to contact Seth if you know about a friend of a friend of a friend and their father or mother back in the day of Bard and acid.
There’s plenty of coverage to be found of the most recent Steely Dan concerts around the country. The country being the US of A. Since we’re based in Europe, we can only share the excitement and anticipation from a distance, while part of us is still hoping the band may some day reach the mainland again, and not just the UK 😉
Of course we have a review for you in line, which is becoming a tradition after all these years. It could have easily been one we had to forsake because our reviewer was not sure she could make it this time around. But she did!
Follow the link HERE to read her take on the evening, and it includes setlists of both concerts, Steely Dan shared the bill with the Doobie Brothers.
Eminent Hipsters isn’t only a book written by Donald Fagen, it’s also the name of a Dutch Steely Dan tribute band in Groningen, the most northern province in the Netherlands close to neighbor Germany alongside Groningen’s east border. The band will perform on Sunday April 15, 14:30 hrs Statenzaal at the Drents Museum, where you can visit an art exposition about American Realism called The American Dream. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, so we just went to their website and found a short and crisp biography:
The band Eminent Hipsters originated from a passionate love for the music of Steely Dan, the non-categorizeable pop group that was formed in 1972 by the eminent hipsters Donald Fagen (vocals, keys) and Walter Becker (guitar, vocals). Songs like “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”, “Josie”, “Deacon Blues” and “Reelin’ In The Years” became major hits.
The music of Steely Dan is an amalgam of jazz, rhythm & blues and pop with a ‘westcoast’ mix. The often sarcastic and literary lyrics are charteristic, containing black humour. Well-known albums are “Aja” en “Gaucho”, moretheless perfect studio productions that took Becker en Fagen long. The best studio musicians were hired to record their parts for days. The parts then might be deleted by them.. The result is a discography that had stood time wonderfully and is excellent in sound and quality.
Pianist Tony Hoyting, big Steely Dan adept and long-time fan, decided to join forces with pianist and SD-lover Felix Degenaar. Together they formed in 2015 the Steely Dan tribute band “Eminent Hipsters”, as a tribute to this American phenomenon.
Steely Dan being on the frontier between jazz, pop and rock, one has to be very knowledgeable to create a worthy tribute. Everything should be perfect, there are no shortcuts!
So they knew to get the musical crème-de-la-crème of Groningen and surroundings in their 14-piece formation.
The band plays a fitting summary of the Steely Dan-repertoire as well as tracks from the solo albums of Donald Fagen.
Rumpus and Bud have recently joined some social media Steely Dan groups just to keep their toes in the water, so to speak. The buzz for a Summer of Living Dangerously is in the process of defrosting as we type, meaning that people are warming up inside by the thought of a great summer tour with two of their fav bands, while shoveling their driveways and keeping the engines of their cars running before they hit their daily dosage of traffic jamscapades. But the timeline’s always a bit blurry and fuzzy when it comes to the Dan and their fans. Folks leap from past to present, to the future and back. Not persé reeling in rages of nostalgia, often more realizing the value and layers within the music their young ears, at the time, might have missed out on because their whole being got overwhelmed and absorbed by a catalogue full of creativity and studio craftsmanship that is classic as well as timeless, or ahead of its time, even.
In one of those groups, we saw this astute observation by one of our dearest former Sign In Stranger/Yellowbook friends, mr. Steve Barbour, a musician and private music teacher in Raleigh. Folks were discussing Dr. Wu, a track from the 1975 Katy Lied album of which we posted another track and great cover not long ago, on our Wake Up and Scroll Down page.
Steve posted what we immediately recognized as a great tagline to be served up in our humble Mizar6 abode:
in retrospect, Katy Lied was a watershed record with more ties to the future than the past
So, let’s just jump ahead twenty years in the future, from 1975 to 1995, and listen to Herbie Hancock’s take on a Katy Lied track:
We probably don’t need to explain all the ties and history for this particular video: Chain Lightning, performed at the Jeff Porcaro Tribute concert in 1992, with Denny Dias on lead guitar.
One of our favorite covers in 2006:
But we adore this instrumental version as well:
We hope Steviedan, as we knew him back in the old Yellow days, will occasionally grace us here with some of his insights and knowledge that kept us glued to the screen in those early internet community days.
To turn 70 and not have retired in this wild business of rock ‘n’ roll, is always something to have the utmost respect for. Donald Fagen turns 70 today, and as you probably know by now, Steely Dan and their compadres The Doobie Brothers are promising a Hot Summer of Living Dangerously! For tour dates, visit their respective websites or Facebook pages.
We however would like to zoom into another aspect of mr. Fagen’s musical career! Five years ago, which happens to have been on January 2, 2013, we posted about Donald’s collaboration with a band of young musicians, Oh Whitney. If it doesn’t ring any bells, and you would like to flash back and read this Time Out of Mind article about how Oh Whitney and Donald Fagen met, go ahead. Take all the time you need 😉
Managed to catch up? GOOD!! Let’s commence today’s celebration then!
Peter More was Oh Whitney’s frontman. With his band (Lead Guitar / Jose Juan Poyatos, Bass / Diego Noyola and Drums / Adrien Faunce) he took to the studio to record a new album, produced by none other than Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen! Now Walter Becker was known for his production work with artists like Michael Franks, Rickie Lee Jones, China Crisis, Fra Lippo Lippi, Rosie Vela, John Beasley and Krishna Das, next to other musical collaborations. Donald Fagen did co-produce Becker’s 11 Tracks of Whack album, as Becker was involved in Fagen’s Kamakiriad, but he was more involved in writing scores for soundtracks and writing columns than engage himself in production stints. It can also easily be overlooked he loves hardcore jazz, to which this Thelonius Monk tribute with guitarist Steve Khan and Donald Fagen on synthesizer may testify. His affiliation with writing music for others can be distilled from this anecdotal article about comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney (yes, it’s Steely Dan related).
We’d like you to see this official Peter More video, which includes Donald Fagen as a producer and keyboardist. “It was inspiring watching Donald in the studio as he produced the record, playing keys throughout and mapping vocal harmonies.” Peter More says in an interview. Happy 70th birthday, maestro! Here’s to much more than a summer of living dangerously!
Chris Punsulan is a young beats producer who discovered the music of Steely Dan only a while ago. He’s not a huge fan, as you can hear him say in the video, but he felt intrigued enough to check out the albums Aja and Countdown to Ecstasy. Early this year he felt inspired to create a certain Steely Dan beat, for his own pleasure. When he found out that Walter Becker had passed, he deemed it appropriate to share his Steely Dan beat and created a video, explaining the whole story! And what may be a funny twist to this, is that Chris’ beat sounds very kindred to Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster from Hotter Than July… a song and perhaps artist he doesn’t know yet 😉 although the album covers in the back seem to indicate it’s virtually impossible for him to not know of Stevie Wonder!
This show came to mind amidst the many interviews and articles over the years. Not in the least because of the wonderful and charming host, Marian McPartland. A great hour of musings and music. Even though it is very sad mr. Becker left so soon, to celebrate life, or his work, is the best way of honoring the time he was here. Enjoy! Originally recorded July 23, 2002. Originally aired in 2003.
If for some reason you can’t see or use the embedded player, click image:
Walter Becker’s passing this past Sunday at the age of 67 has hit the music world hard. This includes Albumism’s Libby Cudmore, who pays her respects to the Steely Dan co-founder in this special tribute:
“They don’t play much from their newer albums, which is a shame, but Becker and Fagen, melodic in hand, moved to the center stage and busted out “Two Against Nature.” To me, there is no song more purely Becker/Fagen than this one, the lyrics a code only they understand. It was an oddly pure moment, as though the band wasn’t there, as though the audience wasn’t there, as if it was only the two of them on stage. We were witnessing magic, in a way. We were witnessing two friends recreating some goofy beatnik scene from a Bard College dorm room 50 years previous, before the studios and the stage lights, the Grammy awards and the praise. Maybe most of the audience didn’t get it. Maybe they just wanted to hear the hits. But Becker and Fagen didn’t care. This moment was for the two of them.”