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Thread started 09/19/20 12:26am

TrivialPursuit

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The Steely Dan/Prince Thing... Again.

During my sewing machine woes (fucking bobbin is testing me), I had music going to squelch my disdain for having to finish this quilt (literally 98% done when the machine started testing me) by hand.

Took me all of Sign O The Times, Controversy, Steely Dan's Aja, and most of Basia's Time and Tide to get it finished. (The whip stitch is no joke.)

I'd never listened to Aja all the way through. I only discovered "Peg" about a decade or so ago (maybe twelve years) while sitting in my roommate's car. This song came on and I thought, "Well, that's Michael McDonald on backing vocals, but this doesn't sound like the Doobie Brothers." I jotted down lyrics on a fucking napkin, took it home and looked it up. I was just fascinated with the song. I grew to know about "Deacon Blues" and "Black Cow." I vaguely knew some of the other songs overtime, but never gave the album the attention it needed. So I did tonight.

As I'm listening, I'm still mesmerized by them. But then it hit me - this is some Prince level shit. So much of it reminds me of Madhouse. The arrangements, the chord structuring, the melodies, the guitar or drum parts.

"Aja" stands out as the biggest example of somethign Prince could've very well be influenced by; not saying he was because I have no idea of any Steely Dan listening by him. (Although his "PretzelBodyLogic" is a bit too coincidental given Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic title alone.) "Aja"'s saxophone part really reminds me of some Madhouse era stuff, too. I think "Fourteen" or "Fifteen."

Also, "Home At Last" has a very late 70s/early 80s Broadway feel to it. I feel like it's a musical where Michael Peters choreographed it. And I have always felt "Twelve" was meant for a big showtune on stage. Even "Nine" sounds like an introduction song to a play.

I also thought of The Flesh, and some of those "Groove In G Minor" type songs that leaked a few short years ago. His jazzy/garage band phase is 100x more interesting than his early aughts Lite Smooth Jazz phase.

While Prince maybe wasn't pulling directly from Steely Dan, the similarities are sometimes glaring.

What are your Steely thoughts?

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #1 posted 09/19/20 12:58am

SoulAlive

I'm a huge fan of Steely Dan and Aja is a fantastic album music I bet that Prince was a fan.

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Reply #2 posted 09/19/20 1:22am

mynameisnotsus
an

I only really know the album from the Classic Album documentary from about 20 years ago - its worth a look if you haven't seen it. I guess I could see them in the mix of influence but I don't think its super obvious.

https://m.youtube.com/wat...sdMV9TzMkc
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Reply #3 posted 09/19/20 5:39am

steakfinger

Musically speaking, Steely Dan are well-beyond some "Prince-level shit". They are the only truly successful (artistically speaking), fusion of jazz and rock that exists. Unlike Prince, these guys could actually play jazz, not just sprinkle some jazz debris on funk. I'm not taking anything from either, however, as music is not a competition and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. They both were and remain the best at what they do, they just don't do the same thing.

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Reply #4 posted 09/19/20 6:40am

JoeyCococo

I have long thought Prince must have listened and loved Aja. In the Prince book...I believe Dan P (co author that finished it) said there was a Steely Dan Greatest Hits CD in the Paisley garage. Someone seemed to day Prince did jazz rock lite where Steely did it all the way....I know what he or she means in that Prince did not set out to do it in a focused album like Aja but, you could collect Prince's jazz rock output and amass a hell of a collection that would rival and (I think) go beyond Aja. Sarah, Alexa De Paris extended cut, Mountains extended, MoQuake, Groovy Potential...just off the top. The only difference would be that Prince's output is just...funkier.

When I got into Steely..I read up and found that these guys used a tonne of studio musician doing the same parts and settled on who they felt did it best. I think of the time and effort to produce Aja and the limited time Prince spent....Prince was a stone cold genius
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Reply #5 posted 09/19/20 11:07am

TrivialPursuit

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mynameisnotsusan said:

I only really know the album from the Classic Album documentary from about 20 years ago - its worth a look if you haven't seen it. I guess I could see them in the mix of influence but I don't think its super obvious. https://m.youtube.com/wat...sdMV9TzMkc


I did see that and it was amazing. Those Classic Albums shows are great stuff.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #6 posted 09/19/20 11:12am

Vannormal

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-

From a lyrical point of view, the albums ''Aja'' and ''Gaucho'' are far above Prince's overal lyrical efforts.

Although it is somewhat unfair to compare them tbh.

Other Steely albums like ''Katie Lied'' and ''Pretzel Logic'' are more than often on my playlist.

i know every single note, turns and melodies.

I also see various comparisons with Prince's music.

They are hard to sing a long with, and that is sometimes also the case with Prince songs.

They have songs that sound like dance songs, but are difficult to dance too, so do some Prince songs.

They often sound like pure pop, but are beautifully mingled with complex styles, just like some Prince songs.

Steely Dan's music is out of this world for me. (I discoverd them in 1983.)

Prince sure was way too prolific to have a fair debate in comparison with Steely Dan.

But from a Steely's point of view, sure there are quite some similarites to discover.

-

Most Steely Dan lyrics I had to look up.

They sound easy, but are not all that easy to digest.

Well written intelligent short stories.

I even find some similar dry production, the wit, the chord changes, and some funky elements as well.

Fagen was smart enough to have his own singing voice being supported byothers.

His choice and good nose for splendid musicians resulted in high end pop.Something Prince did at some point too.

-

"...no matter what, all will be fine, always."
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Reply #7 posted 09/19/20 11:27am

rednblue

Don't have a anything heavy or educated to share, but do have a question.

Does anyone else love bopping along to My Old School?

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Reply #8 posted 09/19/20 12:00pm

TrivialPursuit

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steakfinger said:

Musically speaking, Steely Dan are well-beyond some "Prince-level shit". They are the only truly successful (artistically speaking), fusion of jazz and rock that exists. Unlike Prince, these guys could actually play jazz, not just sprinkle some jazz debris on funk. I'm not taking anything from either, however, as music is not a competition and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. They both were and remain the best at what they do, they just don't do the same thing.


I can totally see your points on that.

The band Chicago is often missed when people reference jazz and rock fusion. No one was adding flutes, trombones, and trumpets to their music in the late 60s and early 70s like Chicago did. While they had some of their more pop music later on, a huge amount of that earlier material fuses both genres quite well. Their arrangements in music and in the horn section is straight up jazz.

What's funny about Steely Dan is that they are such a defining sound to Yacht Rock, yet they were so totally unique when they were making records. Michael McDonald on every other record back then also helped define Yacht Rock's sound. I love every bit of it.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #9 posted 09/19/20 12:54pm

rednblue

TrivialPursuit said:

steakfinger said:

Musically speaking, Steely Dan are well-beyond some "Prince-level shit". They are the only truly successful (artistically speaking), fusion of jazz and rock that exists. Unlike Prince, these guys could actually play jazz, not just sprinkle some jazz debris on funk. I'm not taking anything from either, however, as music is not a competition and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. They both were and remain the best at what they do, they just don't do the same thing.


I can totally see your points on that.

The band Chicago is often missed when people reference jazz and rock fusion. No one was adding flutes, trombones, and trumpets to their music in the late 60s and early 70s like Chicago did. While they had some of their more pop music later on, a huge amount of that earlier material fuses both genres quite well. Their arrangements in music and in the horn section is straight up jazz.

What's funny about Steely Dan is that they are such a defining sound to Yacht Rock, yet they were so totally unique when they were making records. Michael McDonald on every other record back then also helped define Yacht Rock's sound. I love every bit of it.

Blood, Sweat and Tears also comes to mind. Maybe it's all the horns.

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Reply #10 posted 09/19/20 1:22pm

purplethunder3
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Steely Dan was big back in the 70s; you heard their music all over the place. Prince must've heard the group at some point.

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #11 posted 09/19/20 4:16pm

TrivialPursuit

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rednblue said:

Blood, Sweat and Tears also comes to mind. Maybe it's all the horns.


Yeah, they're like rock jazz adjacent, but they're in the building, for sure.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #12 posted 09/19/20 4:29pm

rednblue

TrivialPursuit said:

rednblue said:

Blood, Sweat and Tears also comes to mind. Maybe it's all the horns.


Yeah, they're like rock jazz adjacent, but they're in the building, for sure.


Forgot to mention -- hope that your bobbin starts behaving, and that hand finishing of quilt went OK.

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Reply #13 posted 09/19/20 4:55pm

TrivialPursuit

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rednblue said:

TrivialPursuit said:


Yeah, they're like rock jazz adjacent, but they're in the building, for sure.


Forgot to mention -- hope that your bobbin starts behaving, and that hand finishing of quilt went OK.


haha thanks. It did. I got the binding done. The timing is fucked up on my machine, so it's hopefully an easy fix on my own. Or I'm facing a $99 servicing. Quilt turned out nice. My friend loved it.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #14 posted 09/19/20 5:25pm

rednblue

TrivialPursuit said:

rednblue said:


Forgot to mention -- hope that your bobbin starts behaving, and that hand finishing of quilt went OK.


haha thanks. It did. I got the binding done. The timing is fucked up on my machine, so it's hopefully an easy fix on my own. Or I'm facing a $99 servicing. Quilt turned out nice. My friend loved it.


That is gorgeous!

Love the bright fabric pieces! I'm not a fabric person, so I end up having to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes when I see something that's beautiful in that way, I'm told it's done by batik. Hope that might make sense.

Those pieces really pop against the black! I can see why your friend loves the quilt, and your process also resulted in some interesting Steely Dan/Prince reading for us here on the Org. : )

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Reply #15 posted 09/19/20 8:31pm

TrivialPursuit

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rednblue said:

TrivialPursuit said:


haha thanks. It did. I got the binding done. The timing is fucked up on my machine, so it's hopefully an easy fix on my own. Or I'm facing a $99 servicing. Quilt turned out nice. My friend loved it.


That is gorgeous!

Love the bright fabric pieces! I'm not a fabric person, so I end up having to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes when I see something that's beautiful in that way, I'm told it's done by batik. Hope that might make sense.

Those pieces really pop against the black! I can see why your friend loves the quilt, and your process also resulted in some interesting Steely Dan/Prince reading for us here on the Org. : )


Batik is an old word that describes the process of adding wax to fabric, then dying the fabric. The wax keeps the dye off the fabric, creating a gradient and/or a pattern. Wax is removed, then other wax is added in different areas, then it's dyed again. It's an old word describing that technique. But batik fabrics these days look like they're done old school, but are made like any other modern fabric.
That fat quarter bundle of batiks were beautiful. I loved every one of them (and used every one of them). The original pattern had a white background, but I wanted to go black. I love contrast so it seemed obvious.

And yeah, had I gotten the quilt binding done on the first round, I'd probably not have listened to Aja that evening. I'm sorta glad I ended up listening to it. It was very enlightening to hear the whole record.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #16 posted 09/19/20 10:47pm

MoodyBlumes

Bootsy Collins has some great insight:

.

"Prince came along and legalized funk, as you can dance to it. You know, we made it legal to say...you know funk, okay cool... and then when Prince came along, I think he kind of made a universal thing of it, as far as people being able to dance and recognize... you know."

https://www.youtube.com/w...NhTiRH5Lzk

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Reply #17 posted 09/20/20 12:25am

mediumdry

It's funny. All those bands that are being named as somewhat close to Steely Dan: Doobie Brothers, Chicago, the egles, Blood, Sweat and Tears, they all sound like boring pop/rock to me. I never could get into them, and I tried. Steely Dan always hit me like a freight train though (as did the Donald Fagen albums).

.

Steely Dan always played with their tongue firmly in their cheek, like Prince also did on many occasions. (often Prince's misses, to me, are when he became very earnest and religious)

.

Sure, Steely Dan has jazz, rock, pop and some other parts, but to me, their swing and swagger stand out. They are the funkiest you can be without being straight up funk. (although, the intro to the song Gaslighting Abbie is kind of like a rock school lesson in how to construct a funk groove)

.

Anyway, I can't imagine Prince not liking Steely Dan and I (mis?)remember reading somewhere he did like them a lot, but can't find it again.. Then again, I can't imagine anyone not liking Steely Dan, as it's such a succesful marriage of most things good in music and never becoming abrasive to the ear (not saying that's bad, but it turns a lot of people of). And then I find that lots of people detest the Dan somehow.. cool

Paisley Park is in your heart - Love Is Here!
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Reply #18 posted 09/20/20 7:51am

jasminejoey

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steakfinger said:

Musically speaking, Steely Dan are well-beyond some "Prince-level shit". They are the only truly successful (artistically speaking), fusion of jazz and rock that exists. Unlike Prince, these guys could actually play jazz, not just sprinkle some jazz debris on funk. I'm not taking anything from either, however, as music is not a competition and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. They both were and remain the best at what they do, they just don't do the same thing.

I think you meant to say "commercially speaking," not artistically.

[Edited 9/20/20 7:52am]

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Reply #19 posted 09/20/20 9:21am

rednblue

TrivialPursuit said:

rednblue said:


That is gorgeous!

Love the bright fabric pieces! I'm not a fabric person, so I end up having to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes when I see something that's beautiful in that way, I'm told it's done by batik. Hope that might make sense.

Those pieces really pop against the black! I can see why your friend loves the quilt, and your process also resulted in some interesting Steely Dan/Prince reading for us here on the Org. : )


Batik is an old word that describes the process of adding wax to fabric, then dying the fabric. The wax keeps the dye off the fabric, creating a gradient and/or a pattern. Wax is removed, then other wax is added in different areas, then it's dyed again. It's an old word describing that technique. But batik fabrics these days look like they're done old school, but are made like any other modern fabric.
That fat quarter bundle of batiks were beautiful. I loved every one of them (and used every one of them). The original pattern had a white background, but I wanted to go black. I love contrast so it seemed obvious.

And yeah, had I gotten the quilt binding done on the first round, I'd probably not have listened to Aja that evening. I'm sorta glad I ended up listening to it. It was very enlightening to hear the whole record.


Thanks so much for the information on batik! I've read a bunch of things about it, and it can sometimes be confusing to square the information from different readings. I now see that that's because the word is used in multiple ways, e.g. to describe the old process, but also to describe newer fabrics that have the look of being dyed by the old process.

I occasionally see fat quarter bundles like that, and fall in LOVE. Not at all a fabric artist, but bought a couple to use like ribbons.

Now I want to write a love song called "Fat Quarter Bundle." lol

As someone who is into fabrics, are you pretty into the Prince-world clothing visuals and/or stories from the Paisley costume department?

What do you think of the single choices off the Steely Dan albums? I'm old enough to have bought a lot of music when the choices were vinyl and cassette. My music enjoyment was bigger than my budget, so also listened to a lot of radio back in those days. That meant sometimes hearing way more of the single releases/radio-play choices than I did of the other songs on albums.

That's probably how I got so attached to "My Old School." It's a great song, but there are many Steely Dan greats.

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Reply #20 posted 09/20/20 10:25am

TrivialPursuit

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mediumdry said:

It's funny. All those bands that are being named as somewhat close to Steely Dan: Doobie Brothers, Chicago, the egles, Blood, Sweat and Tears, they all sound like boring pop/rock to me. I never could get into them, and I tried. Steely Dan always hit me like a freight train though (as did the Donald Fagen albums).

.

Steely Dan always played with their tongue firmly in their cheek, like Prince also did on many occasions. (often Prince's misses, to me, are when he became very earnest and religious)

.

Sure, Steely Dan has jazz, rock, pop and some other parts, but to me, their swing and swagger stand out. They are the funkiest you can be without being straight up funk. (although, the intro to the song Gaslighting Abbie is kind of like a rock school lesson in how to construct a funk groove)

.

Anyway, I can't imagine Prince not liking Steely Dan and I (mis?)remember reading somewhere he did like them a lot, but can't find it again.. Then again, I can't imagine anyone not liking Steely Dan, as it's such a succesful marriage of most things good in music and never becoming abrasive to the ear (not saying that's bad, but it turns a lot of people of). And then I find that lots of people detest the Dan somehow.. cool


You're right about the irony or sarcasm in SD's music. They often had darker lyrics, telling stories that would otherwise be fodder for a murder-mystery or some R-rated drama film.

And speaking of "boring" type music, to each his own of course. I'm not a huge Eagles fan, but Doobie & Chicago wrote and constructed great songs. I think the thing about these bands (and others) is that they were real musicians, something Prince could appreciate. Whether it was mellow rock or blaring funk, they played that shit without the help of computers.

In fact, to compare styles For You is very much in that realm of Steely Dan or Chicago, etc. It's easy listening rock. "Just As Long As We're Together" is as middle line as "Josie" or "I'm A Man." It's yacht rock, which is what these other bands fit into. It's just a coined phrase to describe an era of music. I love that era. I often have it playing when I'm toiling around the house. I'm also 52, so it's a part of my pre-teen youth in the 70s.

I think you're right about at least having a musical and musicianship appreciation for Steely Dan. There are 7 different guitarists on Aja, all having different solos and parts, so as the song and the solo player worked well together in style, etc.

"eye don’t really care so much what people say about me because it is a reflection of who they r."
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Reply #21 posted 09/20/20 10:56am

rednblue

mediumdry said:

It's funny. All those bands that are being named as somewhat close to Steely Dan: Doobie Brothers, Chicago, the egles, Blood, Sweat and Tears, they all sound like boring pop/rock to me. I never could get into them, and I tried. Steely Dan always hit me like a freight train though (as did the Donald Fagen albums).

.

Steely Dan always played with their tongue firmly in their cheek, like Prince also did on many occasions. (often Prince's misses, to me, are when he became very earnest and religious)

.

Sure, Steely Dan has jazz, rock, pop and some other parts, but to me, their swing and swagger stand out. They are the funkiest you can be without being straight up funk. (although, the intro to the song Gaslighting Abbie is kind of like a rock school lesson in how to construct a funk groove)

.

Anyway, I can't imagine Prince not liking Steely Dan and I (mis?)remember reading somewhere he did like them a lot, but can't find it again.. Then again, I can't imagine anyone not liking Steely Dan, as it's such a succesful marriage of most things good in music and never becoming abrasive to the ear (not saying that's bad, but it turns a lot of people of). And then I find that lots of people detest the Dan somehow.. cool


Just saw Trivial's response and how we both bold the same section of your comment. : )

Totally agree, and this is one of the things I really love about Prince. Also very interesting to hear that P's very earnest/religious efforts are often misses for you. I find big misses and favorite songs in both categories.

Again, it's all really interesting, and makes me reflect on how humorous and earnest expressions are a couple of those things that can strike different people very differently. Very individual reactions to that sort of stuff. Add religion, and you get a whole other layer of complication.

Obviously can only guess about people detesting the Dan. Can it be that some folks don't like their take on "studio smooth" sound combined with wonderfully prickly commentary and satire? I don't know.

The Eagles were mentioned, but would like to call out Joe Walsh in particular as someone with great sound and great tongue-in-cheek songs. : )

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Reply #22 posted 09/20/20 2:21pm

databank

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To me, TVOF4S has always been P's "Donald Fagen" album.
A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #23 posted 09/20/20 8:11pm

thedoorkeeper

databank said:

To me, TVOF4S has always been P's "Donald Fagen" album.

I can see that.
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Reply #24 posted 09/21/20 2:18am

mediumdry

TrivialPursuit said:

And speaking of "boring" type music, to each his own of course.

.

Oh certainly. I don't mean to say they are bad bands, simply that I never could get into them (the fault lies entirely with me), mostly to point out that I don't understand the perceived closeness/sameness to SD.

Paisley Park is in your heart - Love Is Here!
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Reply #25 posted 09/21/20 2:22am

mediumdry

thedoorkeeper said:

databank said:
To me, TVOF4S has always been P's "Donald Fagen" album.
I can see that.

.

It is one of the albums that are most certainly in my top 10 Prince albums any day of the week. I loved it when Prince sounded more, ehm, natural, for lack of a better word. The Vault, Rainbow Children, to some extend Parade, Come... it really works for me. Good horns, good drums and you're more than halfway to a happy track in Princeworld. cool

Paisley Park is in your heart - Love Is Here!
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Reply #26 posted 09/21/20 4:02am

jaawwnn

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Not a fan of "the Dan" in the slightest, openly despise some of their stuff. Not a slight on then, it's just not for me.

I often feel that Prince's best "jazz" instincts made it into his songwriting so he can pretty much gather all his skills and write a song on the fly, allowing his subconscious and I suppose songwriting muscle memory to take him somewhere in the same way a jazz player improvises in the moment.

Steely Dan on the other hand clearly have a very, very different form of craft where they're writing much less and working away at their songs, perfecting them over a very long time (as per all those stories of millions of takes on guitar solos or whatever). Their jazz instincts more inform their clever chord choices and arrangements. In a way closer to the hard, painstaking craft of ABBA than to Prince where I feel the hardwork happens before the songwriting, rather than during.

"I think people ought to know that we're anti-fascist, we're anti-violence, we're anti-racist and we're pro-creative. We're against ignorance."
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Reply #27 posted 09/21/20 6:31am

emesem

Kid Charlemagne is a TOP 5 (maybe 3) best song ever. Imagine Prince covering that shit and what he would do as a solo. (Cant top Carlton but it would have been cool to hear what he would do)

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Reply #28 posted 09/21/20 9:50am

mediumdry

jaawwnn said:

Not a fan of "the Dan" in the slightest, openly despise some of their stuff. Not a slight on then, it's just not for me.

I often feel that Prince's best "jazz" instincts made it into his songwriting so he can pretty much gather all his skills and write a song on the fly, allowing his subconscious and I suppose songwriting muscle memory to take him somewhere in the same way a jazz player improvises in the moment.

Steely Dan on the other hand clearly have a very, very different form of craft where they're writing much less and working away at their songs, perfecting them over a very long time (as per all those stories of millions of takes on guitar solos or whatever). Their jazz instincts more inform their clever chord choices and arrangements. In a way closer to the hard, painstaking craft of ABBA than to Prince where I feel the hardwork happens before the songwriting, rather than during.

.

Good point. They definitely put in a lot of studio hours per song! Although I appreciate ABBA, I feel that the music of Steely Dan has a sophistication that goes beyond Prince even, especially their later work. Prince made it somewhat of a point to not learn music in the abstract way and it limited him somewhat. Meaning, I think he could've even been more interesting!

.

I guess the first take mentality came from his inability to not quickly finish a song before the next one came along, often to the detriment of his songs and sounds. Steely Dan are the other extreme almost, where a bit of going for happy accidents and spontaneity might have improved their work.

Paisley Park is in your heart - Love Is Here!
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Reply #29 posted 09/21/20 9:52am

rednblue

jaawwnn said:

Not a fan of "the Dan" in the slightest, openly despise some of their stuff. Not a slight on then, it's just not for me.

I often feel that Prince's best "jazz" instincts made it into his songwriting so he can pretty much gather all his skills and write a song on the fly, allowing his subconscious and I suppose songwriting muscle memory to take him somewhere in the same way a jazz player improvises in the moment.

Steely Dan on the other hand clearly have a very, very different form of craft where they're writing much less and working away at their songs, perfecting them over a very long time (as per all those stories of millions of takes on guitar solos or whatever). Their jazz instincts more inform their clever chord choices and arrangements. In a way closer to the hard, painstaking craft of ABBA than to Prince where I feel the hardwork happens before the songwriting, rather than during.


Can now imagine "Songwriting Like Jazz"." biggrin

But seriously, it's great to read your points about big differences in form of craft, and about "jazz instincts" re: Prince's craft.

Your musing on Prince-process pulls together descriptions from the purple world, including descriptions heard on Current's SOTT podcast.




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