STEELY DAN — Two Against Nature

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STEELY DAN - Two Against Nature cover
3.41 | 7 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2000

Filed under RnB
By STEELY DAN

Tracklist

1. Gaslighting Abbie (5:57)
2. What a Shame About Me (5:19)
3. Two Against Nature (6:20)
4. Janie Runaway (4:11)
5. Almost Gothic (4:11)
6. Jack of Speed (6:19)
7. Cousin Dupree (5:30)
8. Negative Girl (5:36)
9. West of Hollywood (8:21)

Total Time: 51:49

Line-up/Musicians

- Lou Marini /Alto Saxophone (tracks: 4, 6)
- Carolyn Leonhart /Backing Vocals
- Cynthia Calhoun /Backing Vocals (tracks: 1 to 3, 6, 9)
- Michael Harvey /Backing Vocals (tracks: 1 to 3, 5, 6, 9)
- Tom Barney /Bass (tracks: 1, 8, 9)
- Walter Becker /Bass (tracks: 2 to 7)
- Lawrence Feldman /Clarinet (tracks: 1, 5),Alto Saxophone (5),Tenor Saxophone (6)
- Roger Rosenberg /Clarinet [Bass] (tracks: 1, 3 to 5)
- Michael Leonhart /Conductor [Horns] (tracks: 1 to 6),Trumpet (tracks: 1 to 6),Electric Piano [Wurlitzer] (3)
- Leroy Clouden /Drums (tracks: 4, 5, 7)
- Michael White /Drums (tracks: 2, 6)
- Donald Fagen /Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] (tracks: 1 to 3)
- Ted Baker /Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] (tracks: 4, 5, 7 to 9)
- Donald Fagen /Electric Piano [Wurlitzer] (tracks: 4 to 7),Piano (tracks: 2, 3),Clavinet (1),Organ (9)
- Walter Becker /Lead Guitar (tracks: 3, 9),Guitar (tracks: 1, 2, 4, 6, 7)
- Gordon Gottlieb /Percussion (tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6,)
- Jon Herington /Rhythm Guitar (tracks: 7, 9)
- Chris Potter /Tenor Saxophone [Solo] (tracks: 1,4,9)
- Jim Pugh /Trombone (tracks: 1 to 3, 5, 6)
- Ricky Lawson /Drums (1)
- Dave Tofani /Tenor Saxophone (1)
- Roger Rosenberg /Baritone Saxophone (2)
- Lou Marini /Tenor Saxophone (2),Saxophone (3)
- Roy Hitchcock /Clarinet (3)
- Keith Carlock /Drums (3)
- Daniel Sadownick /Percussion, Timbales (3)
- Steve Shapiro /Vibraphone (3)
- Jon Herington /Acoustic Guitar (5)
- Hugh McCracken /Guitar (5)
- Roger Rosenberg /Baritone Saxophone (6)
- Will Lee /Percussion (6)
- Vinnie Colaiuta /Drums (8)
- Dean Parks /Guitar (8)
- Paul Jackson Jr. /Guitar (8)
- Dave Schenk /Vibraphone (8)
- Sonny Emory /Drums (9)
- Ted Baker /Piano (9)

About this release

Giant Records – 9 24719-2 (US)

Recorded At River Sound,Clinton Sound,Hyperbolic Sound,Electric Lady Studios

Thanks to snobb for the updates

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STEELY DAN TWO AGAINST NATURE reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Matt
How many times do world boxing champions retire undefeated and decide to make that comeback with the usual results of being laid out on the canvas. My thoughts are often this way with the later work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker which has just become to slick for its original form back in 1972 when they were really a Rock band with a slight Jazz tinge and seem to have metamorphed into a low key Funk band for this production which was actually Steely Dan's first proper studio album in 19 years. Perhaps if Donald and Walter had considered a little more melody which the band had in their songs past not just primarily beat driven which becomes more repititious as the album goes from track to track. Sure there are some great muscians particapating and I will be the first to admit that what would Rock music have been like without the Dan as I have always been a fan from almost day one after the release of their debut "Can't Buy A Thrill". The only band originals are the two main men Donald and Walter and production wise things could not be better with this recording. One thing though there were six different drummers used for the nine tracks contained within the album and the conception I have is there is nothing new to say from the band. If anything although the production is A1 it does at times feel over produced and where is the variety that was in all the past albums which is lacking but the major problem perhaps is the song writing with nothing that seems to grab as I write this Donald Fagen is singing the words "more of the same" towards the end of the 2nd last track "Negative Girl" perhaps she was a little Negative for good reason.

"Gaslighting Abbie" is the album opener and could have nearly made the song list for "Gaucho" and although not to bad a tune the hook is just not there for me and to be honest the constant funk beats used within the album from almost woo to go have robbed it of any freshness. The pick for me is the last song "West of Hollywood" with the saxophone solo. The title "Two Against Nature" even with Latin percussion bringing in the opening and things sounding absolutely on the money with a great guitar lick, the problem here is it is not a good song as nearly all are and no matter how good things sound to my ears if the basic component aka the songwriting is not there it is a bit like a stale cake with the freshest of cream.

For fans only or perhaps fans of this smooth slickness that for me just becomes more bland as the album rolls along. Nineteen years had passed and I have to admit I was disappointed. Still love Steely Dan and would recommmend any album but not this.
Chicapah
Toward the end of the last millennium I got the news that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were making another Steely Dan album. This may shock you, but I wasn't excited. I've been burned way too many times by purchasing on blind faith "grand reunion" projects from groups that I once looked up to only to hear some of the most God awful musical manure imaginable. In the case of the Dans it had been twenty friggin' years since "Gaucho" and children had been conceived, born, raised, graduated from high school and gotten halfway to their Bachelor of Arts degree in that time span. So I ignored it, which was easy because the radio played nary a song. Then the darn thing up and won four Grammy awards including the prestigious Album of the Year. But still I hesitated. Then I caught an excellent concert on PBS one night and decided that it might not be a letdown after all. So I bought it and guess what. The voters in the academy were right. The high level of musical integrity that characterized all their recordings in the 70s had been maintained and, in many ways, it was like they'd never left. As before, Don & Walt corralled an army of specialized studio cats to do their bidding so each jazz rock/fusion-tinged cut has its own unique personality and style. And, just as importantly, their compelling, intuitive lyrics plus their wry sense of humor is intact throughout. They start things off with the funky "Gaslighting Abbie," where the arrestingly crisp drumkit sound of Ricky Lawson and the exemplary bass lines of Tom Barney let you know that Steely Dan is most assuredly back. Soon the hot horn section starts peeking into the track and the jazzy chorus begins to twirl around your brain. Walter shows that he's been practicing on his guitar for those two decades because not only is his tone pure as the driven snow but he shows tasteful restraint during his solo by simply riding atop the unstoppable groove. If you're craving something a little spicier, Chris Potter's sax ride later on is much more adventurous. Donald's vocal chops display no signs of suffering from age as he smoothly croons about a man and his mistress plotting to drive his wife insane. "Let's keep it light/we'll do a fright night/with blood and everything/some punky laughter/from the kitchen/and then a nice, relaxing hand of solitaire." Good to hear their love for creeps hasn't diminished.

"What a Shame About Me" has a fluid, slightly Latin rock beat that draws you right in from the get-go. The sharp accents on the chorus provide the dynamics, the horns are thick as thieves and, once again, Becker impresses with his slinky guitarisms both in the middle and during the ending as the female chorale chirps "shame, shame about me." Here a fellow runs into an old flame from college and he has to fess up that, while her and their peers have accomplished great things with their lives, he's nothing but a burned-out wannabe. She suggests a mercy poke for old time's sake but he responds with ". babe, you look delicious/and you're standing very close/but like this is lower Broadway/and you're talking to a ghost/take a good look/it's easy to see/what a shame about me." It's a brilliant tune from every angle.

A non-stop, driving 6/8 time signature provides a prog underpinning for the album's title cut, "Two Against Nature," and its open spaces allow a host of individual instruments to shine brightly. The brazen saxes in particular literally dance in and out of the spotlight. Lyrically it's a goofy funhouse full of inside jokes but the joyous, celebratory mood created by the delirious duo being together again can't be overlooked. "Two against nature/love this gig/pull up the weeds/before they're too damn big/two against nature/stand alone/who's gonna chase the shape/of things unknown?" That would be Steely Dan.

"Jamie Runaway" features a laid-back feel but it's lazy in a good way. I risk sounding like a broken record but the arrangement of the horns and the virtuosos that play them are the stars on this number. They're too cool for words. And, speaking of words, they describe yet another in a string of lecherous cads they've invented through the years. This disgusting dork has taken in a runaway teenage girl, not because he has a big heart but because he wants to talk her into a sexual three-way. "Who has a friend named Melanie?/who's not afraid to try new things?/who gets to spend her birthday in Spain?/possibly you, Jamie Runaway." (I suspect this might the same wrinkled grub worm who believed he could buy happiness and eternal youth on "Babylon Sisters.")

"Almost Gothic" is a throwback to the "Katy Lied" days of the mid 70s. In a nice change of pace Michael Leonhart's muted trumpet is a treat to hear and Fagen's slightly affected vocal is effective as he clues us in to a boy's excitement over his new girlfriend. She's unlike anyone he's ever met and he's infatuated. "First she's all feel/then she cools down/she's pure science/with a splash of black cat/she's almost gothic/and I like it like that," he gushes. The funk groove returns on the next cut, "Jack of Speed," with its contagious background lines shared by Walter's guitar and the horns throughout. Donald seems to be expressing his concerns to a vulnerable girl about her shady meth-dealing acquaintance. "You maybe got lucky/for a few good years/but there's no way back/from there to here/he's a one way rider/on the shriek express/and his new best friend/is at the throttle/more or less," Fagen warns.

I'll preach this sermon to anyone who'll listen. If you're ever despairing in the dumps just put on "Cousin Dupree" and you'll find it next to impossible to resist the beckoning dance floor of your living room. Drummer Leroy Clouden lays down a slick boogie that won't quit, Becker's sneaky guitar ride fits just right and the hushed tones coming from the female chorale is perfect for the theme. It seems that our leading man is a ne'er-do-well music man crashing on his Aunt's sofa who quickly falls in lust with his gorgeous cousin that lives there. But the joke's on him when he makes his libidinous intentions known to her and she turns him down flat. "She said maybe it's the skeevy look in your eyes/or that your mind has turned to applesauce/the dreary architecture of your soul/I said-but what is it exactly turns you off?" Gotta love it.

What may be the most amazing thing about this album is how they were able to tack on two very involved jazz/rock fusion pieces to the disc without the general public realizing that they were listening to such a thing. "Negative Girl" sports a deeply mysterious atmosphere and a complex chord structure that is delightful. Dave Schenk's vibes enthrall the senses and you'll be hypnotized by the way the whole song just seems to float like a cloud. It's about a guy who is helplessly attracted to manic drama queens. "She's in the zone/crying on the phone/I need you here/I'm on the street again/staggering out into the burn of the brain dead dawn/to arrive in time to find her gone," he sings. The final cut, "West of Hollywood," is another fine track with an intriguing chord progression. This song really opens up to cultivate some mind-bending guitar and obtuse saxophone episodes that are not to be missed. The words are abstract but appropriate in describing a modern L.A. love affair. "Together we'll endure the tyranny of the disallowed" and "I'm way deep into nothing special," Donald relates. But best of all, they let the track run its own natural course for well over eight minutes and it's primo stuff to the very end.

If anything, Steely Dan proved that, like many old jazz musicians, there's a lot to be said for experience and dedication to one's art no matter how much water has streamed under the bridge. Fagen and Becker didn't try to exhume old bodies, spruce them up and relive their glory days. They're better than that. They intuitively took hold of the respect that continued to exist between themselves and expertly molded the music still creatively flowing out of their hands. In the case of "Two Against Nature" they proved that true art doesn't recognize age, only quality. And this album has plenty of that.

Members reviews

arcane-beautiful
I had heard of these guys, but I never attempted to listen to them, and I'm sorry that I never had a chance to properly listen to them.

So when I saw a used copy of this album, I immediately bought it, because if they're on this website, they must be at least worth listening to them.

And I'm glad that I did, because I regret all mistakes I had from encountering this amazing band.

This album is a great album, very enjoyable. It's not a masterpiece, but it is great and very enjoyable.

I also love Donald's vocals, I don't know why, I could just listen to him sing all day, he has an amazing timbre to his voice.

This album also won 4 grammay's, and I can see why.

Basicaslly, if you haven't heard of this band, they sound like if Weather Report had a vocalist and all their songs were written by Stevie Wonder.

There is also a very Jamoriquoi vibe about this guys, basically the soul and jazz influences.

Also, this is a must for Dave Matthews Band fans as well, being one myself.

1. Gaslighting Abbie - What a funky jam. God this song rules. It has become one of my favourite songs at the moment. The chorus is amazing with some very werid chord changes and fantastic vocals. The jazz element also works incredibly well. Great saxophone solo. Very Stevie Wonder. 10/10

2. What A Shame About Me - Again, some werid but very effective chord changes. The guitar work is fantastic. 8/10

3. 2 Against Nature - Has quite a Pink Floyd vibe to it. Great chorus. The instrumental work is flawless. Another pretty cool sax solo. 8/10

4. Janie Runaway - Love the chorus. More Stevie Wonder chord changes and melodies.Some amazing instrumental work. The amazing cadences are just killer.

5. Almost Gothic - Pretty cool chorus. Very laidback and some beautifull melodies. 9/10

6. Jack Of Speed - Love the keyboard riff. The vocal harmonies are very Soul. A wee bit repetitive. 7/10

7. Cousin Dupree - Ok, the lyrics of this song are just wrong. They're quite hilarious, but they're very incest laced. Very cheesy but very effective. Great chorus. Very Bruce Springsteen. 8/10

8. Negative Girl - Love the bass work in this song. Another Stevie Wonder esque song. The drum work is also pretty cool, playing some werid off beats. The chorus is very werid. Love the vibraphone work. 8/10

9. West Of Hollywood - Such a happy song. Amazing chorus with weird melodies. As usual. Fantastic instrumental work. Fantastic saxophone work at the end. 9/10

CONCLUSION: This is just one of those albums that you can listen over and over to, just for a a bit of craic really. Very fun, and some really amazing songs.

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