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Steely Dan - Two Against Nature CD (album) cover

TWO AGAINST NATURE

Steely Dan

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.31 | 90 ratings

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TCat
4 stars After 20 years, Steely Dan finally released their 8th album. After the release of 'Gaucho' in 1980, the SD frontmen, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, released several solo albums and participated in many other projects, and finally got back together, much to the delight of fans everywhere, to 'Do It Again'.

This time around, they kept the band down to just themselves, and played most of the instruments by themselves, but they also had many, many guests helping them out. For the most part, the album followed right where they left off, playing a smooth, jazz fusion with funky and rock sensibilities. Becker played all of the regular guitars, including bass, while Fagen took care of keyboards, vocals and many other instruments.

The style is very much like they had in 'Aja' and 'Gaucho', both successful albums, and they weren't about to change a good thing. And they didn't have to. This was their signature sound, and it is what people expected, that cool, hep jazz sound, with a lot of good guitar and plenty of brass, sax and clarinet.

This predictability in their sound does work to its detriment however. That is not saying this is a bad album, because you get that same clean sound as before, with emphasis on perfection in sound. But, you know exactly what you are getting, and I tend to miss some of the odd surprises that the band used to pull on their listeners, causing them to stretch a little.

Now, there are still reasons to get this album, and those reasons are tracks like 'Two Against Nature' which has a lovely sax solo. The song that follows, 'Janie Runaway' has the great funky and complex attitude found on Fagen's 'The Nightfly' title track. The opening track 'Gaslighting Abbie' is also excellent and gets you all excited for what could have been an excellent album. I even like the closer 'West of Hollywood' mostly for the instrumental sections. But, the best tracks are on the first half of the album, and even then, a few of them are a little less memorable. And nothing really stood out on the 2nd half, just more of the same, a great sound, but lacking anything new. The album starts to sound more like some great outtakes from their glory days instead of new songs, because the sound is really not much different.

Even with the strong tracks though, by the time its all done, it feels like you have heard this before. The band's quest for perfection tends to shine out all of the rough edges that used to make them so appealing. There are also no surprises here. It would have been nice to hear some more progressive sounds, like in the track 'Aja', or some blues-inflected tracks like 'Black Friday' or 'Chain Lightening'. Or even a more guitar driven track like 'Bodhistava' or rendition of a standard, like the instrumental 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo'. Variety could have gone a long ways here, but they keep things safe with the jazz style they are most comfortable with. But, at the same time, it could have been a lot worse, and at least they ended up with a decent album, just a step above 'Gaucho', but not as great as 'Aja' or 'Katy Lied'. Anyway, it's a great album, definitely not a throwaway, just not as good as it could have been. Still, it gets 4 stars for its clarity and musicianship, but it could have been a 5 with some variety or more progressiveness.

TCat | 4/5 |

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