Steely Dan

Everything Must Go

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When Steely Dan released Two Against Nature in 2000, their first album in 20 years, it was an unexpected gift, since all odds seemed against Donald Fagen and Walter Becker reteaming for nothing more than the occasional project, let alone a full album. As it turned out, the duo was able to pick up where they left off, with Two Against Nature seamlessly fitting next to Gaucho and earning the band surprise success, including a Grammy for Album of the Year, but the bigger surprise is that the reunion wasn't a one-off -- they released another record, Everything Must Go, a mere three years later. Given the (relatively) short turnaround time between the two records, it comes as little surprise that Everything Must Go is a companion piece to Two Against Nature, and sounds very much like that album's laid-back, catchy jazz-funk, only with an elastic, loose feel -- loose enough to have Walter Becker take the first lead vocal in Steely Dan history, in fact, which sums up the Dan's attitude in a nutshell. This time, they're comfortable and confident enough to let anything happen, and while that doesn't really affect the sound of the record, it does affect the feel. Though it as expertly produced as always, there's less emphasis on production and a focus on the feel, often breathing as much as a live performance, another new wrinkle for Steely Dan. Sometimes, it also sounds as if Becker and Fagen have written the songs quickly; there's nothing that betrays their high standards of craft, but, on a whole, the songs are neither as hooky nor as resonant as the ones unveiled on its predecessor. While it might have been nice to have a song as immediate as, say, "Cousin Dupree," there are no bad songs here and many cuts grow as nicely as those on Two Against Nature. But the real selling point of Everything Must Go is that relaxed, comfortable, live feel. It signals that Steely Dan has indeed entered a new phase, one less fussy and a bit funkier (albeit lite funk). If they can keep turning out a record this solid every three years, we'd all be better off.

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