February 11, 2011 Playlist

"The Royal Scam" by Steely Dan (1976)
Steely Dan  "The Royal Scam"  1976 (USA)
When folks heard I was doing a "yacht rock" special this month, I got a lot of comments and questions about Steely Dan, who were not included in that episode because I don't consider the Dan to be yacht rockers.  Walter Becker & Donald Fagen look like guys who rarely experience sunlight of any kind, so definitely not the sort of people you'd find on a sailboat -- although this group is undoubtedly one of the smoothest and most adult-oriented of all time (and in fact they do have some ties to the yacht rock scene, explained below.)  By 1976 Steely Dan wasn't really a band anymore, just two songwriters and a team of the best session musicians around.  The Royal Scam is among their coldest and most perverse albums, containing tunes about drug dealers, jewel thieves, embezzlers, murderers, and Turkish-hat-fetishists -- though in typical Steely style, these tales are jazzed up in glossy productions so smoooooth that even your Mom can enjoy them.
Steely Dan didn't perform live during the era this album was recorded (they avoided playing concerts from roughly 1974 to 1994), so performance clips of tunes from The Royal Scam all come from recent years.  The classic leadoff track is "Kid Charlemagne", a smooth yet hard-rocking track inspired by the psychedelic life and times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III -- and "Green Earrings" is an example of the funkafied jazz grooves to be found on the record.  The Dan's biggest hit of recent years is "Cousin Dupree" from their Grammy-winning album Two Against Nature of 2000.  Next, here's a documentary featuring the musicians who recorded "Peg", one of the smoothest hits by a group notorious for studio perfectionism.  That particular track features smooth legend Michael McDonald, whose first big break was being "the backup vocalist" on Steely Dan albums, before going on to more fame replacing Tom Johnston as lead singer of The Doobie Brothers (who were a bit like a harder rocking, no-jamming/all-boogie version of The Grateful Dead in their original incarnation.)  And the Doobies also featured another ex-Steely Dan member:  famously moustachioed guitarist Skunk Baxter, who had jumped ship back in 1973.  Here is Baxter with Steely Dan live in 1972, playing one of their first hits "Reelin' In The Years".
(N) = New Release
Artist Song Album Year (label) Country
The Breeders No Aloha Last Splash 1993 USA
Parliament The Silent Boatman Osmium 1970 USA
The Isley Brothers Footsteps In The Dark (parts 1 & 2) Go For Your Guns 1977 USA
Shuggie Otis Island Letter Inspiration Information 1974 USA
Emerson Lake & Palmer Love Beach Love Beach 1978 UK
Steely Dan Kid Charlemagne The Royal Scam
1976 USA
Steely Dan Sign In Stranger The Royal Scam
1976 USA
Steely Dan The Fez The Royal Scam
1976 USA
Steely Dan Glamour Profession Gaucho  1980 USA
Akron/Family Cast A Net Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT (N) 2011 (Dead Oceans) USA
Ducktails Sunset Liner Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics (N) 2010 (Woodsist) USA
High Wolf Marlene Brazil Shangri L. A. (N) 2010 (Moamoo) France
Igor Boxxx Bunker Sweetheart Breslau (N) 2010 (Ninja Tune) Poland
Floored By Four (Mike Watt, Nels Cline, Yuka Honda, Dougie Brown) Watt Floored By Four (N) 2010 (Chimera) USA/Japan
Gang Of Four Who Am I? Content (N) 2010 (Yep Roc) UK
Wire Red Barked Trees Red Barked Tree (N) 2011 (Pink Flag/Mute) UK
Mogwai How To Be A Werewolf Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (N) 2011 (Subpop) UK (Scotland)
Wolf People
Tiny Circle Steeple (N) 2010 (Jagjaguwar) UK
Wolf & Cub Master Science & Sorcery  (N) 2010 (Last Gang) Australia
Pomegranates One Of Us One Of Us (N) 2010 (Afternoon) USA
The Skull Defekts Fragrant Nimbus Peer Amid (N) 2010 (Thrill Jockey) Sweden
Snoose Junction
Attacked By Geese (In Slow Motion, Or For A Long, Long Time) The Echo Parks Department (N) 2011 (self release) USA
Blind Faith (Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton) Sea Of Joy Blind Faith 1969 UK
The Human Equation Sea Of Nightmares John Uzonyi's Peacepipe
(CD compilation)
rec. 1969 USA
Steve Hillage The Salmon Song Fish Rising 1975 UK
Brian Eno Small Craft On A Milk Sea Small Craft On A Milk Sea (N) 2010 (Warp / Opal) UK
Brian Eno Late Anthropocene Small Craft On A Milk Sea (N) 2010 (Warp / Opal) UK
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