Two Against Nature was a logical progression from Gaucho and keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen’s 1993 release, Kamikiriad. Slick production ruled, with more extended pieces than found on previous albums. Everything Must Go, with its concise and economical writing, brings more to mind the earlier albums Katy Lied and The Royal Scam. Unlike other Steely Dan albums, the core group of Becker, Fagen, guitarists Jon Herrington and Hugh McCracken, pianist Ted Baker and drummer Keith Carlock, recorded the basic tracks live in the studio. It gives the album a sense of immediacy that makes it a new experience for Dan fans.
One of the most refreshing things for me, since they came out of retirement, has been bassist/guitarist Walter Becker’s role as guitar soloist for the group. In the middle years (Katy Lied to Gaucho), the group hired a number of high profile guitarists. But Becker is a fine soloist in his own right - subtle and tasteful. His fill work, not to mention his solo on "The Last Mall" for example, is the height of restraint. Miles Davis often spoke of how if only one note was required, then only one note should be played. It is obvious that Becker subscribes to this philosophy.
And what Steely Dan album would be complete without the acerbic lyrics? On "Things I Miss the Most", Fagen wryly begins by bemoaning the loss of his relationship - "The talk, the sex, somebody to trust," but soon begins to miss other things - "the Audi TT, the house on the vineyard, the house on the gulf coast, the comfy Eames chair, the good copper pans, the ’54 Strat."
Steely Dan is one of the most consistent groups out there. While everyone will have their favourite songs and albums, they have yet to put out a weak record. Everything Must Go is another strong effort from Becker and Fagen. Let’s hope they decide to stay out of retirement for good.
Everything Must Go is currently available on CD and DVD-Audio.