February 20, 2009

NT's greatest hits, vol. 3

Continuing a series about my all-time favorite tunes. For the time being, I'm going to limit it to one song per entry. Perhaps it'll now take longer for me to make it through the whole list, but then again, smaller entries might encourage me to post more often. (Six of one, half dozen of the other—I've always liked that saying.) This week's randomly selected song…

"Reelin' in the Years" by Steely Dan
Like a lot of music geeks, I discovered this band by listening to classic-rock radio as a teen, and then ordering A Decade of Steely Dan from Columbia House. I like them, though not as passionately as many, many I've met over the years; I find that the most ravenous Steely Dan fans tend to also be jazzheads, of which I most certainly am not (I can spell Thelonious, but that's about as far as my expertise goes). Becker and Fagen approach music from a very experimental viewpoint, and they used to do a shitload of drugs, so I see the connection.

But I am some kind of fan—at last Monday's quiz, in the adultery-themed audio round, you heard my second-favorite Dan song, but "Reelin' in the Years" takes the prize. I find this song has a lot more forward momentum than most of the band's other hits, more rocking, less noodling (partly thanks to a stunningly masterful guitar part by Elliott Randall). Plus, it tackles (or at least touches upon) my go-to lyrical theme, lost love and frustrating women. But the narrator of "Reelin' in the Years" seems more wistful than bitter, making this a nice counterpoint to most of the breakup songs on my salt-in-wounds playlist: "Well, you wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand/The things you think are precious I can't understand." Becker'sFagen's offhanded, rambling vocal performance gets a lot of credit for that mood. "Reelin' in the Years" is the closest thing to an exact hybrid of jazz and a perfect pop song.

Going to keep it short, and going to avoid making a fool of myself if there are any Dan nuts out there. You definitely know who you are.