⭐ Review Donald Fagen and Steely Dan: Two new live recordings

Rating - Music
3.00 star(s)
Rating - Sound
5.00 star(s)
1632773838913.pngI was a bit surprised to see the appearance of two new releases scheduled for September 24th--Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live, and Donald Fagen's The Nightfly: Live. As the Steely Dan Band returns to the road in October for a short series of gigs up the US east coast, these two releases are released in tandem to keep the interest level up.

Other than the track listings, both albums are performed by the Steely Dan Band, consisting of many of the same members that have toured with Steely Dan since 2000's tour for their Two Against Nature album. So, there are many familiar names (Michael Leonhart, Jim Pugh, Keith Carlock, Jon Herington, Walt Weiskopf, and most of the vocal section), and the sound is pretty much the same as what we've heard over the years for latter-day Steely Dan performances.

And that may be these releases' major issue--we've heard this all before. These are nice documents of the gigging Steely Dan, but there's nothing new here. The band is as slick as clockwork, as usual--tight, more than competent, and they've gelled as a performing unit.

1632775436725.pngOn the Steely Dan release, the arrangements take a few liberties over the originals. Sometimes an introduction is rewritten or, as with the album cut "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," the tempo is slowed down just enough and tweaked to give it a more bluesy vibe. Surprisingly, not a single tune from Two Against Nature, yet "Things I Miss the Most" from their weak Everything Must Go album appears here. The album closes out with a cover of the Joe Williams tune "A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry."

Where the Steely Dan release tweaks the tunes a bit, the live version of The Nightfly pretty much sticks to the original game plan. Only now, a few of the tunes are dropped in pitch so they are easier for Fagen to sing. And "Maxine" is mainly given over to the female vocal section as a feature for them. It's all nicely performed but, like the Steely Dan release, a bit unnecessary.

One thing I feel would have gone over better is a live recording of one of their "deep cuts" gigs, where they dig into unreleased tunes like "The Second Arrangement," "This All Too Mobile Home," "I Can't Write Home About You," or even the alternate version of "I Got The News."

So, should you buy these? If you want to hear the current Steely Dan Band in action, by all means you can't go wrong. Just don't expect anything new or surprising here with either release--you're not missing much that you haven't likely heard already. An interesting but nonessential release. These are available on streaming and CD, with the vinyl versions arriving October 1st.
 

Rudy

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I love Steely Dan...but a big part of that love is the studio perfection. I've never warmed to their live stuff.
I'll admit they were good to see live (especially in 2000, when engineer Roger Nichols toured with them, and 2006 had the bonus of Michael McDonald, the opener, joining them for half the set), but the live experience doesn't translate well to a recording.

And I'll even admit that I'm not a fan of live recordings anyway. Very few I've heard or owned are ones I enjoy. My favorites are those that don't duplicate studio tracks, or rearrange studio tracks into something completely different (which is rare).
 

Mr Bill

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...few I've heard or owned are ones I enjoy. My favorites are those that don't duplicate studio tracks, or rearrange studio tracks into something completely different (which is rare).
Joe Jackson is one of the rare ones that comes to mind for me.

I don't dislike Live albums too much -- I enjoy the "novelty" of hearing what an artist sounds like live (usually not as good as a polished studio recording, sadly).

--Mr Bill
 

Rudy

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What really ruined me on live albums was when I received the Supertramp Paris album as a gift, the year it was released. I was fairly excited to get it, but I think I played it twice and haven't touched it since. Basically, rushed versions of the studio cuts. Never failed that most of my live album purchases past that point were mostly disappointments.

In hindsight, one CD set I own made a good point. When we're attending a concert, we tend to not hear all of the flubs and sound issues. I saw Peter Gabriel in 2003 or 2004, and a couple of months later, I got the CD of our local performance. It's a neat keepsake of the event, but it's eye opening to hear the unretouched live feed off the sound board. And actually, Gabriel's live performances are such a major production that it makes more sense to watch a video, vs. listening to the record. I can say the same about a few artists like that--a live album would have zero interest for me, but I would watch a video if it were available.

Joe Jackson is one of the rare ones that comes to mind for me.
Big World was the interesting project--recorded live, but with the audience told to hold applause until the song ended completely. And the Live 80/86 set also had some redone tunes as well. In fact, any live album I own of Jackson's always has some new twist on his older tunes. And he also throws in a surprise cover or two, like Steely Dan's "King of the World."

The Herb/Hugh album is another example of a great live set. Well-recorded, all new tunes, very well performed.

The jazz world at least has some classic recordings, like the two Bill Evans records Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby. In fact, those two (recorded during the same set of gigs) are considered among his finest albums.
 

Mark-T

Well-Known Member
I'll admit they were good to see live (especially in 2000, when engineer Roger Nichols toured with them, and 2006 had the bonus of Michael McDonald, the opener, joining them for half the set), but the live experience doesn't translate well to a recording.

And I'll even admit that I'm not a fan of live recordings anyway. Very few I've heard or owned are ones I enjoy. My favorites are those that don't duplicate studio tracks, or rearrange studio tracks into something completely different (which is rare).
Where Michael guests on Minute by Minute is just a terrific piece of performance for everyone involved.

As far as live albums, I found Sting’s Bring on the Night quite enjoyable.
 

Rudy

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Where Michael guests on Minute by Minute is just a terrific piece of performance for everyone involved.
Without having the albums in front of me, McDonald was part of the New York Rock & Soul Revue, which Fagen appeared at. Plus, Boz Scaggs joined them and toured as the Dukes of September in more recent times.

Sting's Bring On The Night was all part of that "new band" buzz happening when Blue Turtles came out, so it was a way to hear some familiar tunes redone in the new format. The band was arguably Sting's best during his solo years (Branford Marsalis and Kenny Kirkland from Wynton's band, plus Darryl Jones and Omar Hakim), which helped this set quite a bit by having known talent on it. My local store carried it as an import when it was first released--it took a few years before it finally officially appeared on CD in the US.
 

Vinylalbumcovers

Ah am so steel een luv weeth yoo
I ordered the LPs of both and got them just a few days ago. Will listen to them soon. Hopefully, I like them better than @Rudy did...LOL!

Ed
 

Michael Hagerty

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After a post by JB at “The Hits Just Keep On Coming” blog, I gave Donald Fagen’s THE NIGHTFLY LIVE a listen over the weekend (on the Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s MacIntosh Audio system using Apple Music Lossless). I enjoyed it. Will do the same with NORTHEAST CORRIDOR this week.
 

Rudy

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For me, these albums were like deja vu--I feel as though I'd heard them all before. That's partly why 2006 was my last Steely Dan gig--once they stopped recording new music, what's the point? It's just a rehashing of the same tunes with the same band. Unless it were one of the rarities shows (which they only do in NYC, apparently), I won't even bother seeing the band in concert again. And I am about as rabid of a Steely Dan/Fagen fan as it gets. I guess if you've never heard any of the tunes live with this band, there is some appeal.

On the bright side, apparently Fagen has another batch of tunes ready to go, and he'll have a new album out in early 2022.
 

Michael Hagerty

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Listened to NORTHEAST CORRIDOR today. Nice, but I don't need to hear it again. THE NIGHTFLY LIVE on the other hand, will stay in my Apple Music streaming albums.
 
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