20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection - The Best of Steely Dan

Steely Dan

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20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection - The Best of Steely Dan Review

by William Ruhlmann

Steely Dan mainstays Walter Becker and Donald Fagen are credited as co-compilation producers with Universal Music executive Andy McKaie on the Steely Dan entry in Universal's discount-priced series 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection. It's a rule of thumb: get the artist involved in a compilation, and the choices are bound to be idiosyncratic. The rule holds here. Becker and Fagen eschew the boring hits-only approach, ignoring the Top Ten "Hey Nineteen" and the Top 40s "Black Friday," "Peg," and "FM (No Static at All)" in favor of album tracks "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" and "Third World Man," as well as the B-side "Only a Fool Would Say That" and "My Old School," which peaked at number 63 on the Hot 100. It doesn't really matter. More than three decades after the fact, "My Old School" sounds as much like a Steely Dan hit as any of the band's actual Top Ten singles, and it gets as much play on classic rock radio. Is this the best of Steely Dan? No, but some of the group's best songs are included, among them "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." A neophyte wanting to get an idea of what Steely Dan sounds like can do so by listening to these ten tracks. Real Steely Dan fans already have multiple copies of each of these songs.

blue highlight denotes track pick