Steely Dan

Babylon Sisters

Composed by Donald Fagen / Walter Becker

Song Review by

In a 1980 Rolling Stone feature on Steely Dan, journalist Robert Palmer reported a scene in which Donald Fagen, producer Gary Katz, and engineer Roger Nichols (Fagen's musical partner, Walter Becker, sat out much of the recording and mixing of Gaucho, the band's final album, having been hit by a car while walking in the spring of 1980) spent four painstaking hours trying to perfect less than a minute of music, the lengthy fadeout of the reggae-tinged opening track, "Babylon Sisters." One appreciates the trio's attention to detail -- Becker, Fagen, Katz, and Nichols had made some of the best-sounding records of the '70s -- but by 1980, it seemed like the brain trust's reliance on "perfect sound forever" had taken the place of real musical inspiration. Neither Becker nor Fagen plays a single instrument on "Babylon Sisters," the tune left in the hands of session heavyweights held down by drummer Bernard Purdie. The performance is technically stunning, but there's no real swing to the electric piano-led, woodwinds-heavy groove, and little soul in Patti Austin and Valerie Simpson's dramatic vocals on the chorus. "Babylon Sisters" is a tremendous piece of music, but it's more "admirable" than actually fun.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Gaucho 1980 MCA 5:53
Gold 1982 Geffen 5:52
No Image 1983 MCA
A Decade of Steely Dan 1985 Geffen / MCA / UMC (Universal Catalogue) 5:50
Do It Again 1992 Falcon Home Ent. 5:50
Citizen Steely Dan 1993 Geffen / MCA 5:51
Remastered: The Best of Steely Dan - Then and Now 1993 Universal Distribution / MCA 5:50
No Image 1994 Home Entertainment
Alive in America 1995 Giant 6:47
Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980 2000 MCA 5:49
Gaucho/Aja/Countdown to Ecstacy 2003 Universal International 5:50
The Definitive Collection 2006 Universal / Universal Music 5:52
In Concert 2008 Immortal 6:15
The Very Best of Steely Dan 2009 Universal Distribution 5:49
Collected 2009 Universal B.V. / Universal Distribution 5:46
Green Flower Street: Radio Broadcast 1993 2015 Laser Media / Music Video Distribution 6:50
Can't Buy a Thrill/Gaucho MCA / Universal Music
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