Steely Dan were a '70's band that acquired a strong following and kept it long after they vanished from sight. Steely Dan mainly consisted of the duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, as well as the professional musicians that were hired to assist them in their recordings. Steely Dan were strictly a recording band for most of their existence; they never performed live after 1973 (until their 21st century reunion, that is). The band tended to avoid the usual rock trappings, drawing much of their inspiration from jazz, rhythm and blues, and old-fashioned pop. Their unique approach to these styles made their music distinctive and appealing. The duo split in the early '80's, but reunited for the 2000 album Two Against Nature, which won the Grammy for Album Of The Year and showed that Steely Dan hadn't lost their touch.
Before Steely Dan's official beginning, the duo recorded a soundtrack for a '60's counter-cultural comedy film as Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The album was titled You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose That Beat (For those who want to split hairs, the film was actually titled You've Got To Walk It Like You Talk It Or You'll Lose That Beat. The film's editor was none other than future horror auteur Wes Craven). The movie was made in 1968 but was unreleased until 1971, which was the album's release year; the album was apparently recorded in 1970. The other musicians on the album were Denny Diaz (guitar and percussion) and John Discepolo (drums). The producer was Kenny Vance, whom the duo met while working with Jay & The Americans.
Fittingly for a soundtrack to a low-budget '60's movie, the album has a loose and improvisational feel. It sounds less like a Steely Dan album than one by Crosby, Stills and Nash with a jazz pianist. The spacey sound elements that are Steely Dan trademarks are nowhere to be found here. None of the tracks are bad, but none are special; it took three instrumentals and two versions of the title song to pad the album to its short 31-minute length. Though it may disappoint most fans, the album is painless and sometimes appealing. It should not be considered an early Steely Dan recording, but it is interesting listening for the curious.
1. You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It
2. Flotsam and Jetsam
3. War and Peace
4. Roll Back The Meaning
5. You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It (reprise)
6. Dog Eat Dog
7. Red Giant/White Dwarf
8. If It Rains
The first Steely Dan single was released in 1972, earlier the same year as their debut album. It contained 2 non-LP songs: "Dallas" as its A-side and "Sail The Waterway" as its B-side. These songs are easier to identify as Steely Dan works than the ones on the aforementioned soundtrack. Not all of the essential ingredients were together yet; both songs are just a notch or two above demo quality. Still, these are two reasonably appealing songs that gave a good hint as to what was ahead. In 1978, both songs were included (along with "Do It Again" and "Haitian Divorce") on the four-song EP Plus Fours (ABC Records ABE 12003).
b. Sail The Waterway