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Steely Dan - Everything Must Go CD (album) cover

EVERYTHING MUST GO

Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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4 stars Everything Must Go did not receive as much critical acclaim as Two Against Nature, but it still meets the high Steely Dan standard. As with Aja, Becker and Fagen had the difficult task of creating a followup album. And as with Gaucho, Everything Must Go sounds similar to Two Against Nature, but it's not just the same. In fact, Everything Must Go is a bit of a cross between Steely Dan's more recent sound and the sound of their earliest albums. Walter Becker resumes the bass for most of the songs here. The song lyrics are heavy with the Steely Dan acerbic wit and social criticism. (This was an important element of prog rock coming out of the 1960s, combining rock music with classic, jazz and folk, and including social criticism in the lyrics.) The promo video for the album shows Becker and Fagen tripping around Las Vegas in a taxi picking up hookers and discussing music and life with them -- nothing sordid. This is apparently in homage to the group's name, and the cover photo of hookers on the first album, Can't Buy A Thrill. The titles of the two albums also connect. Becker and Fagen have been busy since the Steely Dan reunion in the early 1990s. Aside from recording and touring as Steely Dan, both have recorded solo albums since Everything Must Go, Fagen's Morph The Cat and Becker's more recent Circus Money. If you like the Steely Dan sound you'll like these solo albums too. They are, again, similar but not the same.
Report this review (#180838)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
progrules
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is the successor after the come back. And for now the latest album. So much for the obvious but what to say about it ? That's hard this time because I can't say I have an interesting review in store. Not because it's boring but because it's much of the same compared to it's predecessor. And that might well be the reason they haven't produced the last 5 years. Because there are no truly new ideas in the heads of the masters as far as I can tell by this album.

Everything must go is almost a copy of Two against Nature at least where the style is concerned. Advantage of that is that if you liked that album you will also like this one. But if you like innovation and new ideas and elements there is a little bit of a problem here.

An album full of funky jazz once again and because it's slightly less captivating than TaN I can't grade this one higher than the previous so it automatically means 3 stars (3,3) because TaN got 3,5 by me. Still a (very) good album.

Report this review (#180859)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I could not believe it when hearing in 2003 that Steely Dan had another studio album on the way. Three years after the hugely successful Two Against Nature, they released this unusual hard to define album, Everything Must Go. If anything to this reviewer it sounds more like a solo album Fagen released in the 90's called Karmakiriad. It is just as well crafted as previous SD albums, all the trappings on show like great vocals and backing harmonies, horns, the guitar licks not to mention the ever present Fagen on the Rhodes and organ. Just something is missing and I cannot for the life of it put my finger on it other than it has a more bland feel to it. As if the guys are just going through the motions perhaps. Nevertheless an enjoyable album if you are an SD completionist. The strongest songs would have to be the clever ' Godwhacker', Green Book, which sounds more like the SD of old and Pixeleen. It is also great to see Walter Becker singing lead vocal on Slang of Ages'. The album is a good one just a tad bit too clinical and sterile compared to previous releases. I have been listening to it for five years now, maybe it needs another five to grow on me.
Report this review (#181235)
Posted Sunday, August 31, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As one of my esteemed colleagues here on this site has expressed in so many words, this one's a slippery fish to grab hold of. Steely Dan's music has always been an evocative mixture of American R&B, blues and pop fried up in a savory batter of jazz rock/fusion but some albums have been more progressive than others. The impressive comeback-of-the-millennium project they released three years before this one, "Two Against Nature," contained a generous amount of challenging and tricky jazz textures for a CD that not only received raving accolades but generated mucho mass appeal. In their always unpredictable style, "Everything Must Go" is somewhat bereft of those jazz rock/fusion influences and, thusly, a lot less prog. Having said that, it still has the trademark Fagen & Becker charm that I can't turn away from and it still delights as a work of enjoyable aural art. Say what you will, no one does what these guys do.

One distinction this album owns is the fact that, for the first time since "Countdown to Ecstasy," the same drummer plays on every cut. The very capable Keith Carlock does a splendid job throughout, starting by laying down a smart, bouncy blues shuffle underneath "The Last Mall." For Steely Dan, this tune is unusually straightforward in its structural integrity, with only the bridge providing a step away from the norm. Lyrically it's a witty parable comparing a retail outlet's clearance sale to the eve of the apocalypse. "Attention all shoppers/it's cancellation day/yes, the big adios/is just a few hours away/it's last call/to do your shopping/at the last mall," Fagen announces. Walter's jazzy blues guitar noodlings keep things interesting. "Things I Miss the Most" is next and it has that slick, cosmopolitan feel that characterizes so many of Steely Dan's tracks, complete with the subdued horns and light guitar licks. This song's about an older man living in limbo. He tells us he's happy with his solitary life after years of marriage but he also can't help thinking about what he's now missing out on. "The talk, the sex/somebody to trust/the comfy Eames chair/the good copper pans/the '54 Strat." he confesses. Just goes to show that you can't have everything.

Donald & Walter have rarely ventured into the realm of pure pop but on "Blues Beach" they do. If it wasn't so damn cheerful and perky I'd probably hate it but I can't bring myself to skip over it. Even the carefree words fail to reveal any sarcasm lying in wait. "Blues Beach/I'm frying/sizzlin' in the merciful rays/and it's the long sad Sunday/of the early resigned." Fagen chirps. Sometimes you just gotta go sit in the sun. But great satire is right around the corner in the form of the hot funk of "Godwhacker." Becker provides a rippling guitar riff from beginning to end as the crackerjack band purrs like a fine-tuned Corvette. The irreverent storyline pits one religion's Godhead against another's in an old-school gangland throwdown. "We track your almighty ass/thru seven heaven-worlds/Me, Slinky Redfoot, and our trusty angel-girls/and when the stars bleed out/that be the fever of the chase/you better get gone poppie/Godwhacker's on the case." he brags. But what really sends this number spinning into space is Donald's synthesized harmonica solo that'll put starch in your short and curlies. It's fantastic.

I guess Walter felt that by the 9th album he'd earned the right to put his lead vocal on a track but it only goes to show why he shouldn't have. The trotting gait of "Slang of Ages" loosely supports more talk than singing and it gets to be extremely monotonous in a hurry. I gather it has something to do with a hallucinogenic play period of sorts with lines like "these tabs look iffy/you say they're good/let's roll with the homeys/knock on wood," but there's nothing very clever about it. "Green Book" follows and it's the proggiest thing on the disc. It has a deep, crawling groove but it's also rather eerie because of its near-psychedelic aura. Both the guitars and the synthesizers use some curious effects that provide some strange but fun moments. The esoteric lyrics describe a kind of secret underworld inhabited by characters straight out of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

"Pixeleen" utilizes a contemporary jazz motif to move things right along. The horns are fluid and the brief but very cool baritone sax lead by Roger Rosenberg is a highlight. Donald sings about a lonesome geek who finds the woman of his dreams in his X-Box. "This is what I see/just a girl in girlie trouble/dancing in the video with gun and tambourine." She completes him. Next is "Lunch With Gina," a no-frills, lite rock ditty that relies on a snappy synthesizer break from Fagen to provide the much- needed excitement. The lady in question drives our poor boy up the wall with her non-stop chattering and he does his best to avoid her but if she doesn't come looking for him he gets worried. "I'm in a cozy booth/maybe my watch is fast/another Tanqueray/I'll wait 'til twenty past/I'm about to go postal/when she waltzes in/I guess she's a knockout/hey, where've I been?" he wonders. Love is strange.

There's absolutely nothing prog about the title tune, "Everything Must Go," but I dig it nonetheless. It's a sleazy, slow blues deal with strong, smoldering saxophone runs from a dude named Walt Weiskopf who plays like an orphan from a Tom Waits number. While the sublimely sly lyrics go into detail about the demise of a late twentieth-century, Silicon Valley-ish tech company, they could easily be applied to a shipwrecked relationship or the breakup of a rock & roll group. "Can it be the sorry sun is rising?/guess it's time for us to book it/talk about the famous road not taken/in the end we never took it/and if somewhere on the way/we got a few good licks in/no one's ever gonna know/'cause we're going out of business/everything must go," he sighs.

Fagen & Becker are no longer spring chicks. They're now crossing over into the pastures of their sixties. Therefore this may or may not be the last studio album they will bestow upon us. They've finally discovered a joy in performing their catalogue of landmark recordings to attentive, devoted audiences so if this is their finale then I have no complaint. Sometimes I just want to listen to well- written songs with hummable melodies and words that make me smile and this slightly eclectic array of tunes satisfies that need, thank you very much. If you're new to the world of Steely Dan I recommend you start with "The Royal Scam" or "Aja," but don't be surprised if you someday end up here. You just might want all their stuff. Their personalized sound is infectious and addicting in a very grown-up, intellectual way and there's a lot to be said for that. Just don't let anybody tell you they aren't worth your time. They are. 3.7 stars.

Report this review (#182223)
Posted Thursday, September 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Everything Must Go is the ninth and for now last studio album from US pop/ rock act Steely Dan. Three years have passed since their comeback album Two Against Nature. I didnīt much enjoy Two Against Nature even though it had its moments and I canīt say itīs gotten better with Everything Must Go. On the contrary.

The music is still laidback jazzy pop/ rock but this time totally without bite and attitude. None of the songs stand out IMO and Steely Danīs music is almost reduced to easy listening background music. There are a few parts here and there that is out of the ordinary compared to other pop/ rock artists but that doesnīt neccessarely make the music on Everything Must Go much better than your average pop/ rock act.

The musicianship is excellent as always but weīve gotten use to that by now, so no extra plusses there.

The production reminds me of the sound on Two Against Nature and of course itīs excellent but again this is not where they need to improve.

The songwriting is below average compared to other releases from the band and itīs obvious why Steely Dan hasnīt released anything in the last 5-6 years. They simply donīt have more to offer. A very weak release from a once interesting act. 2 stars is deserved.

My conclusion after reviewing all studio albums from Steely Dan is that Countdown to Ecstasy ( 1973), The Royal Scam ( 1976) and Aja ( 1977) are the three albums for progheads to get if they have any interest in trying out Steely Dan. I find those three albums great allthough not excellent. Just remember that Steely Dan is in the Crossover catagory for a reason. Their music is only borderline progressive, so donīt expect anything else. Personally Iīm very happy that I took my time to listen to Steely Danīs discography and widen my horizon a bit.

Report this review (#189642)
Posted Monday, November 17, 2008 | Review Permalink

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