Steely Dan studies part 1:
I am very glad, that I could convince Jimmy Rivas to take over the lead-vocals. Whenever I stopped at his cloud during the last months I thought, that he would be the right singer for a Steely Dan cover. Visit his cloud at @j-rivas for more examples of his great voice and fine jazzy instrumentals.
J.Rivas: Lead vocals
Dirk: Arrangement, scat-choir, backing vocals, guitars
Many people judge the music of Steely Dan as elevator-music, a perfect produced background for supermarkets and cocktail-bars, and of course their music can function perfectly within these environments. But there is something hidden under the high-polished surface of Steely Dan, something not easy, not light and even dark: Therefore someone called them "The trojanic horses of Pop", because under the glance of the arrangement they transport sometimes nasty and disturbing messages.
Often you will observe a contrast between the music and the lyrics in their songs: A famous example is "Everyone gone to the movies", where the Dans offer an upbeat Calypso-groove with a singalong-chorus, while the lyrics telling about an old man showing dirty movies to kids. Other song-themes contain criminals, sex, drugs and alcohol, a whole bunch of adult-themes not suitable for the easy listener, but who is really listening to lyrics? Steely Dan-lyrics are often told from a third person perspective, not very concrete, leaving space for interpretation.
At the first sight many listeners will also say, that the music is easy, because everything sounds radio-friendly, relaxed grooves, heart-warming melodies. At first the songs seem not too complicated, not many breaks, steady grooves, singalong-parts. But the more you look under the surface the more you find unbelievable sophisticated constructions. Just the chord-changes are more complicated than most Jazz-standards. Steely Dan have even invented something like a trademark-chord, which is named the "Steely Dan"-chord or the "Mu-major chord".
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Above these long lines of chord-changes the Dans create breathtaking arrangements. They can handle every instrumentation you can think of from professional brass-arrangements to brillant piano-parts and strings, all composed and arranged with an eclectic taste based on old Jazz-giants like Duke Ellington, Count Basie etc. Their music is very much based on black music-tradition: Blues, Jazz, Funk, Soul. But while the black music-tradition is often improvised the Dans are acting like white composers coming up with pre-planned songs.
About the cover: Josie appeared on their famous album "Aja", praised by critics, hated by some older fans, because Steely Dan left the field of Soul-Rock of their first albums, and created a kind of Jazz-Pop or better Jazzrock-Pop. The song tells about a criminal woman, which will soon leave the prison (?) and the story-teller imagines, what they could do then like "sleep on the beach and make it" or "lay down the law and break it".
While the original is very smooth I want to accent the Rock-side of Steely-Dan, so I try to transform the song into Hardrock. The famous baseline of Chuck Rainey was integrated in the guitars and bass and drums deliver a steady 8th Rock-groove. When I heard the intro again I thought, that it could also function as a kind of Jazz-scat-choir. I transformed also some brass-arrangements into choir-parts like during the outro. Because the Guitar-solos on Steely Dan-songs are instant classics I left the solo untouched and played it note for note.
The picture is showing "Patty Hearst", kidnapped at the age of 19 in 1974, and afterwards brainwashed by a terrorist-group and send back to society by them to rob banks.
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Excuse the long introduction and enjoy the music …
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