Steely Dan member issues first album in 14 years
By Greg Prato
NEW YORK (Billboard) - Steely Dan principal Walter Becker plans to release his first solo album in 14 years by early June, and says he may hit the road to promote it later in the year.
"Circus Money," the follow-up to 1994's "11 Tracks of Whack," exhibits the jazzy studio perfectionism that Steely Dan has been long known for. But, as evidenced by such tracks as "Bob is Not Your Uncle Anymore" and "Do You Remember the Name," it also embraces another musical style.
After Steely Dan's most recent tour, Becker tells Billboard.com he "went into a deep research period. One of the guitar techs is a big Jamaican music fan. And I started to listen to all this stuff that he had -- these really deep, dub cuts from the '70s. I just became totally fascinated with it, so I spent a lot of time listening to that and working on stuff along those lines."
While the album does not feature an appearance by longtime partner in crime, Donald Fagen, it does include quite a few veterans of the Steely Dan touring band, including keyboardist Ted Baker, guitarist Jon Herington, drummer Keith Carlock, saxophonist Roger Rosenberg, and singer Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, among others. "One of the ideas we had was that we wanted to do all the tracks with basically the same band," explains Becker. "And that's what we did -- plus or minus a few personnel changes.
Also working closely with Becker on the sessions was renowned producer Larry Klein. "Larry offered to produce the album at exactly the moment when I was getting ready to think about doing it. Having worked with him and known him for a while, I thought it would be a great combination," Becker says.
Becker may play shows in support of "Circus Money" later in the year, but next up for the singer/guitarist will be Steely Dan dates during the spring and summer. And according to Becker, fans are in for some pleasant surprises.
"We're going to reconfigure the show in a way that changes the flow and energy of it considerably, I think," he says. "(We'll) do some songs that we haven't done or haven't been doing recently, and rearrange some of the other ones that are perennial favorites."
But there's no progress on a new Steely Dan studio album, which would be the band's first since 2003's Reprise Records release "Everything Must Go."
"We were touring for four or five months last year -- that's a lot of work for us," Becker says. We've been laying low between things. We don't have a plan at this point for any particular album. I don't even know if we have a label anymore. I hope we don't!"
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