I’m a big fan of the music of Steely Dan, though I know very little about them (other than who played on some of the songs) and so I thought that this would be a great book for me to request for review.
There is a lot of really wonderful information in this book and while I don’t know that it’s all factual (since it is new to me) I get the sense that author Anthony Robustelli has done a very thorough job of researching his subject.
We get a good, solid biography of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and what led up to their creating Steely Dan and a pretty decent snapshot of some of the early confusion of just who made up the members of the group.
Robustelli brings us into the very early days of the partnership with Becker and Fagen taking different work in Los Angeles and shares multiple stories about the demanding work they expected when in the studios. I’d heard stories about how demanding they could be, but to get this perspective from the people who played for them was really interesting. Something I hadn’t been aware of, which I found tremendously fascinating was how Fagen and Becker would bring in multiple people to play on a track to determine which sound they liked best.
We get a very detailed breakdown of each album, the songs, and who played on them (and when). We also get an accounting of Becker and Fagen’s solo careers and live performances and bootleg albums from some of the live shows.
One of the things that struck me was what I took as Robustelli’s personal reactions to some of the songs, referring to the performances as a reviewer rather than an observer. This took a little bit away from me – I like to make my own reactions to a performance. A book of this nature … a FAQ or biographical book should be a little more unbiased (in my view).
There are plenty of photos here as well, though not as many of Becker and Fagen in their younger days as one would perhaps hope for.
This is part of a series of FAQ books and I’m definitely interested in reading a few more, given the detail this book provided.
Looking for a good book? Steely Dan FAQ by Anthony Robustelli is packed full of information and is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in learning more about ‘the Dan.’
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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Steely Dan FAQ: All That’s Left to Know about This Elusive Band
author: Anthony Robustelli
publisher: Backbeat Books
paperback, 416 pages