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Steely Rarities: Descriptions and Comments

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This song was, as I've mentioned, the finale to the live shows on the 1974 Pretzel Logic tour. It's a fairly straightforward song in which the protagonist is relentlessly searching after his ex-wife who's evidently shacked up with another man. The rhythms are very catchy, especially the guitar break at the very end of the song, right before the closing drum duet. It's really a classic Dan song, and would have fit in cozily on "Pretzel Logic" Similarities: This is a good example of the early-Dan sound. It sounds and feels a bit like "The Boston Rag". The minor chord figures and progressions are a rare like-prosody for the subject matter, as opposed to the usual musical/lyrical irony. Soundbite

The Second Arrangement

An outstanding song, even in its early form. It's yet another song about adultery and betrayl, "the second arrangement" most likely referring to an extramarital affair. This track features the Gaucho-esque Fender Rhodes piano galloping along over acoustic piano chords and a recurring guitar theme which eventually reappears in the form of a (written?) solo. Similarities: Sounds like an upbeat "Glamour Profession", but with more aggressive keyboards than GP's graceful, ghostly synth. The overall feel of the song is embarking and inspired, almost the exact opposite of "Third World Man", its eventual (albeit tragic) descendent. Soundbite Soundbite 2

Kulee Baba

This is another example of the visionary ability of the Dan. The story is told by some renegade TV-producer/adventurer type, who broadcasts a mysterious ritual peformed by aboriginal natives, the kulee baba ("No white man's eyes have ever seen/the cruel primeval right that you're beholding"), in the name of preservation and prosperity but actually to further his own career. This songs seems to predict the corruptive power of TV, and it's far-reaching implications. Similarities: This version is only a rough demo, but even so it bears a strongly likeness to the somber mood of the aforementioned "Third World Man", and sounds like a hybrid of that song as well as "Babylon Sisters" (minus the cool beat), and "Glamour Profession" with a dash of "The Nighfly" thrown in for good measure.

I Can't Write Home About You

One of my favorite Steely Dan un-tunes, boasting the most attractive hook this side of "Hey Nineteen". The narrator is someone who's moved to the seedy part of the big city from an evidently smaller, simpler town and runs into conflict when he, well, look at the title. It's a strikingly beautiful song, and initially one wonders why it was left off of "Gaucho", but I doubt it would have fit very well on the album, which is probably the reason for its unfortunate dismissal. Similarities: I know it isn't very helpful, but this song doesn't sound like any other Dan song I'm familiar with. It vaguely resembles "Hey 19" and "Black Cow" at the outset, but then goes off in a whole new direction.

The Fall of '92

A ghastly, groping song about a high-living couple forced apart by the economic recession of a few years ago. The lyrics get downright vulgar, even for a Dan song and mercifully it was left off of 11TOW. It's diffcult to compare this sing stylistically to any other SD/DF/WB songs; it's strangely Perry Mason-like melodies lurch and glide along for nearly 7 minutes of painful monologue before WB's climactic denouncing of "George Bush and the Nazis down in Washington DC..." Similarities: The song sounds like a drawn out, depressed "Maxine" and "Too Cold Tuzz's Shadow" making it quite enjoyable to hear, but not listen to. The lyrics are crass, strained and largely tasteless, out-on-a-limb even for WB. It should also be noted that a studio versio was recorded, and to its credit did sound much better than the live version. Walter is sure one ballsy bastard.

Our Lawn

Now here's a bouncy tune thats was usually played right after the horrid "Fall of '92". The bassline is very similar (if not identical) to that of "Surf and/or Die", the chords pleasing, but a bit cumbersome and the lyrics WB all the way. The story depicts the struggles of marriage relating to upkeep and everyday activites of running a household, sort of like an upbeat, less acerbic "Cringemaker". Soundbite

Medical Science

This is another 11ToW outtake, very cool sounding even though WB isn't singing very loud and isn't in the front of the mix. It features a skippy beat, a cross between that of "Down in the Bottom" and "Book of Liars". The song in its current for is pretty stripped down, only sparse guitar work and a keyboard part rhytmically similar to "Peg". The chorus is catchy, but the song generally feels unfinished. A demo of the song appears on the 11ToW demo/outtake collection Just Another Story.


This has got to be the weirdest Walter Becker song that's ever slipped into the clutches of the Fandom. Also from Just Another Story, it features a tripping vocal part by WB with some kind of a flute doubling him a la the piano in the "Bad Sneakers" chorus. The drum is very peculiar, with the main beat on the and of 3, for those of you who are musically inclined (in most rock and derivitate songs, the beat is on 2 and 4). This version, like many 11ToW demos, is keyboard-driven and stripped-down. Nevertheless, the song is vintage WB and defintely would've painted 11ToW a trippier shade had it been included. Similarities: The odd drum part is most akin to "Hat Too Flat" while the keyboard voice is similar to that used in "Lucky Henry" and the bass and overall rhythmic feel is closest to "My Waterloo". It carries a similar to that of "Little Kawai" inasmuch as it's a rather innocuous sounding thing, but we real fans know not always to trust that alone.

The Ghost of Hypnos Past

Minimalistic and wordy, this tune carries on for a very bearable six minutes. A very soulful R&B song with floating chords and melodies, Walter really gets down. The narrative ostensibly depicts the adventures of a few seedy characters. The song also boasts some of WB's best lines (see the lyrics).

Lies I Can Believe

By far the best of the six 11ToW outtakes. This song chronicles a failing, perhaps doomed relationship. The narrator's pessimistic replies to his partner's suggestion's adds to the defeated pallor of the tune. The exposed keyboard part is very effective; the chords shape the song tremendously while the recurring brief pipe motif appears during the breaks. WB really bears his soul here, even more so than on the gutsy "This Moody Bastard". The vocal melody is soulful, bluesy and very flattering to WB's voice in its true environment. One of the few instances when the bite of Steely Dan takes a break to show its soft side. Similarities: The song starts out with a gaudy drum and bass intro reminiscent of corny 80's pop songs, but the ghostly keyboard changes the feel instantly. "Lies I Can Believe" appears to be a missing link between "Cringemaker" and "This Moody Bastard". The narrator isn't taking a directly oppositionaly approach as in the former, but not quite the wallowing of the former. It's successful hybrid of cynicism and torment, in the the true Steely Dan fashion.

Jack Of Speed

All right, enough fooling around. With this song, Steely Dan has officially returned. "Jack of Speed" has all ther makings of a classic Dan song: a catchy, circular rhythm (a la "Peg", "Josie", et al..), strong singing (WB has never sounded better), a fresh and delightfully obscure story idea and, most important of all, the acid humor is back. Rumor has it that this song was recorded late 1997 and is slated for the new album. Anything less would be the waste of a superior song in all respects. Now, if everyone else would just get used to WB's voice, it could easily be a single. Similarities: The strong rhythmic foundation is most comparable to "Peg", "Josie" or "Green Earrings", while the lyrics are right on a par with anything from the latter 3 Dan albums. This is fantastic song, and I can't praise it enough...I only wish that the new Album would come out soon so you all have a chance to hear it.

Wetside Story

Okay, having said that, let's move on to the other two new songs. This one's a bit sub-par. The rhythm is vaguely similar to that of "Jack of Speed", but but the majority of the lyrics are uninterpretable, even after several listens. it sounds like they're trying too hard with this one. The overall feel of song is closer to "Kamakiriad" than that of the Dan, sounding a bit like "Springtime" or "Trans-Island Skyway". It was replaced mid-tour with...

Cash Only Island

A slightly cooler, laid back tune, "Cash Only Island" is like a slowed-down, funked-up "Time out of Mind". It has a nice little hook in the chorus and would probably make a good b-side to a single the calibre of "Jack of Speed". This song also features a snaky rhythm, showcasing an ultimately mood-ruining Ari Ambrose sax solo. Where's Pete Christleib when you need him? Come to think of it, his "FM" solo would fit nicely over in this tune.