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Doin' it again 

Walter Becker's album is reggae-influenced, but expect Steely stand-bys on tour

Becker (right) and Fagen try to forget that  they once - worked with the band Navasota. - DANNY CLINCH
  • Danny Clinch
  • Becker (right) and Fagen try to forget that they once worked with the band Navasota.

In a sense, Walter Becker's new CD, Circus Money, is the sort of album he's been threatening to make since the mid-1980s.

And had things worked out differently back then, it might well have been a Steely Dan reunion album instead of a solo one. For years after Steely Dan broke up in the wake of the 1980 album Gaucho, few people knew whether bassist Becker and his Steely Dan musical partner, singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen, were even in touch with each other, much less attempting to write together for a possible Steely Dan reunion album.

"There was a time in the '80s when Donald and I wrote a bunch of reggae-based songs," Becker says. "But basically it wasn't shaping up quite the way we had in mind, so we just said, "Fuck it,' and just discontinued it."

It turned out that another decade would pass before Becker and Fagen resurfaced as Steely Dan, first with tours in 1993 and 1994 and then with the release of two CDs, Two Against Nature in 2000 and Everything Must Go in 2003.

Both post-reunion albums showcased the familiar polished blend of jazz, pop and rhythm and blues that had been Steely Dan's signature since it came on the scene with the 1972 album Can't Buy a Thrill and its hit songs "Do it Again," "Dirty Work" and "Reelin' in the Years."

Following the post-reunion albums, Becker toyed with doing a solo album.

"After the Everything Must Go tour, I figured well, I'm going to hunker down for a little bit and just listen to some music and see what I might want to do ... or if I might want to do anything," says Becker. "I became completely fascinated with '70s Jamaican music. So at some point, I started to think about making an album based on that sort of thing, perhaps based even on Jamaican dub tracks, writing lyrics to dub tracks and stuff like that. In the end, that's not what I did, but it sort of got me started thinking about it."

As Becker notes, Circus Money is not a reggae album. In fact, songs such as "Upside Looking Down" and "Paging Audrey" have little if any reggae in the mix. But the influence of Jamaican music is felt on many other songs.

In some cases, that feeling is subtle, as on "Downtown Canon" and "Selfish Gene." Elsewhere, reggae is very much at the heart of the song: "Bob is Not Your Uncle Anymore" is rooted in the reggae interplay of the drums and bass, and even offers a taste of dub before the song winds down.

Becker says on this summer's Steely Dan tour, there are no plans to play material from Circus Money. Instead the duo is giving audiences what they came to hear.

"My experience," says Becker, "is the audiences are there because they want to hear their favorite Steely Dan songs. They want to hear familiar stuff."

scene@csindy.com


Steely Dan
Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Thursday, July 17, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $49.50-$95, all ages; 520-9090 or ticketmaster.com.

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