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Steely Dan - Everything Must Go CD (album) cover

EVERYTHING MUST GO

Steely Dan

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.01 | 80 ratings

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Necrotica
3 stars At the core of Everything Must Go lies a single question: did we really need another Steely Dan album at this point? After all, the band had already won a Grammy with their comeback record Two Against Nature. They'd already cemented themselves as rock (and arguably jazz) legends decades ago with their amazing 1972-1980 run of classic albums. Hell, by the time Everything Must Go came out, they had already been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years prior. So on the surface, it might strike one as the most unnecessary album in the Dan's catalogue. And? well, you'd pretty much be correct for thinking so. But to be fair, the vibe of the record does exhibit some self- awareness in that regard; in other words, this is Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's most relaxing and casual album.

Judging by the music on offer, I get the sense that Everything Must Go had the most loose and - dare I say - carefree sessions in Becker and Fagen's discography. However, that's not to say that they've strayed at all from their signature jazz rock style. Plenty of Two Against Nature's fusion-oriented material makes a similar mark here, whether it's the smooth-as-hell bass lines of highlight "Godwhacker" or the lush vocal harmonies that color the slick funk of "Green Book". Of course, we still get a nice helping of horns in the mix as well, as heard on the fun backing brass and woodwinds of "Lunch with Gina" or long-winded and complex saxophone parts that dominate the fantastic title track. So this definitely feels like the Steely Dan we know and love. Still, there's definitely a sense of "been there, done that". As I've mentioned in the Two Against Nature, I do believe that record was the culmination of the duo's transformation into a jazz fusion outfit; for the most part, Everything Must Go just feels like an inferior version of that album.

But that's not to say it's bad, as even bottom-shelf Steely Dan still retains the sophistication and charm of their other work. The dreamy "Pixeleen" is a perfect example here; a lot of its chords and overall atmosphere are taken from the classic tune "Deacon Blues" from Aja, but Becker and Fagen tweak things up just enough to make it a solid track on its own. The female backing vocals are a wonderful touch, and really color in the harmonies beautifully. There's also the interesting stylistic choice of having Becker himself sing on "Slang of Ages", which I believe is a first for him on any studio album from the band. However, this one didn't pan out quite as well; his vocals are fine enough, but they just don't have the same sleazy charm or personality as Fagen's. Once again though, the female vocalists do a good job of carrying him through the tune.

Everything Must Go could best be described as "damn solid, but inessential". It's still worth a listen if you just can't get enough of Steely Dan's music after you've heard the classics, but it doesn't really reinvent the wheel at all. But in a way, I think that's kind of the point. It's a casual jazz rock record that's really smooth and well-produced; there aren't a lot of standout bangers - "Godwhacker", "Green Book", and the title track are probably the closest we get to one - but there are no discernable duds either. Let's be real here: if this is the worst Steely Dan can do, that says a hell of a lot about their standard of quality. And at the end of the day, I think we should be grateful that they didn't end their recording career crashing and burning like so many other bands do.

~R.I.P. Walter Becker 1950-2017~

Necrotica | 3/5 |

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