Everything Must Go

Steely Dan

Giant / Reprise, 2003


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After an extended layoff, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker faced quite possibly the biggest challenge of their career -- namely, showing they were still able to produce the kind of music they had become known for in their salad days. Two Against Nature, despite all the awards and acclaim it won, was a shaky first step that seemed to follow the lackluster "final" release Gaucho plod for plod. It was, in fact, boring as hell.

Everything Must Go, the second release from the rejuvenated Steely Dan, shows the boys finally seeming to become comfortable in their roles again, and while it still doesn't reflect some of the group's glory days, it is a more organic-sounding album that holds out the hope of something mind-blowing just around the corner. If only we had the chance to experience that with this disc.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Becker makes his first "official" studio appearance as lead throat on "Slang Of Ages" -- and while it's different not hearing Fagen's vocals, Becker holds his own extremely well, and he sounds more comfortable here than he did on Alive In America. It almost makes me wonder why he didn't step up to the mic sooner.

Where Two Against Nature was almost sterile in its performances (not unlike the note-for-note perfection they were known for in the '70s), Everything Must Go almost sounds spontaneous at times. This turns out to be the linchpin that holds this disc together, making it fun to listen to at times, even if none of these songs can hold a candle to classics like "Bodhisattva" -- yet. (Chances are I'd have been making the same comments about the older albums had I reviewed them when they came out.)

This isn't to say there is no hope for some of these to reach that echelon. "The Last Mall" almost drips with the sarcastic wit that Steely Dan has become known for, while the title track almost dares to suggest that Becker and Fagen would be comfortable enough to call it a day again as Steely Dan. (That's the message I took from it, at least -- and I don't claim to be right.)

Likewise, "Blues Beach," "Godwhacker" and "Pixeleen" have the germination of the seeds of greatness in them, but it sometimes feels like they just haven't reached songwriting maturity yet -- at least in Steely Dan terms. That's not saying these songs are bad; indeed, they're quite enjoyable.

Yet there are times when you wonder just what happened to the glint of a great idea. Reading over the lyrics for "Lunch With Gina," you almost expect this to be a knock-'em-dead classic. Instead, this turns out to be one of the more menial tracks on the disc -- a shame, really.

I'd like to think that Everything Must Go is Steely Dan's effort to once again achieve the greatness of discs like Aja -- namely by recognizing they had some rust to shake off their pens and inkwells. While this isn't a true return to form for Steely Dan, it is most definitely a step in the right direction.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-


I find "Everything..." much more enjoyable than Steely's previous Grammy grabbing "...Nature". And one I find myself returning to more often.

Actually..."A-"...is my rating. Maybe you can change this.

© 2006 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Giant / Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.