11 Tracks of Whackby Walter Becker
It's not surprising that Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker's debut solo album sounds like a Steely Dan record. What is a little surprising, though, is that, in his lead singing debut, he sounds so much like his erstwhile partner, Donald Fagen. Not that you'd mistake the two (Fagen projects more and is slightly grittier), but they sing in the same register with the same sly phrasing and the same accent. Other differences from the Dan are equally subtle: Becker adopts a sparer musical approach, for one thing, the missing element being the prominence of Fagen's keyboards (although Fagen does play on the record and co-produced it). Nothing gets in the way of Becker's voice as he restricts himself largely to tales of romantic dislocation. On the whole, this album sounds like what you'd expect -- one half of Steely Dan.
- Release Date:
- Giant Records / Wea
Performance CreditsWalter Becker Primary Artist,Bass,Guitar,Ukulele,Vocals
Donald Fagen Keyboards
Bob Sheppard Saxophone,Woodwind
John Beasley Keyboards
Paulinho Da Costa Percussion
Fima Ephron Bass
Brenda White-King Background Vocals
Dean Parks Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Bruce Paulson Trombone
Ben Perowsky Drums
Adam Rogers Electric Guitar
Katherine Russell Background Vocals
Technical CreditsDonald Fagen Arranger,Producer
Walter Becker Producer
Earl Martin Engineer
John Neff Engineer
Roger Nichols Engineer
David Russell Engineer
Mick Haggerty Art Direction,Type Design
Tom Hardisty Engineer
Jon Papenbrook Contributor
Kathleen Philpott Type Design
David Russell Engineer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is the jazzy neurosis of a Steely Dan album with a lot of the smooth veneer scraped away - which reveals a paranoia and seediness that borders on the pathological. Songs like ''Junkie Girl'' and ''Little Cringemaker'' paint a picture of relationships in late American civilization from the interior of the beast. (Makes you wonder what Becker's been doing for the last decade...) Don't be fooled by the backup singers and the skilled production levels - they're employed for ironic as well as aural reasons. Becker knows that the insidiousness of American popular culture is that it feels so good going down, and is so addicting, and yet ultimately can kill you, like heroin. The sensibility here is Hotel California, 20 years later, looking haggard and sounding a lot more cynical.
Walter Becker (1/2 of the great jazz/rock band Steely Dan) has produced a great sounding album that, although tinged with the Steely Dan sound, shows that he has his own unique brand of music to offer. This album shows that (and I love Steely Dan so I am not complaining) Donald Fagen (the other 1/2 of Steely Dan) has more of the creative control over Steely Dan. The sound that Fagen produced on his solo works was very much the same as that which Steely Dan created and perfected in the 70's. Walter Becker has shown on this album that he, despite the fact that Fagen co-produced and played, has a completely different feel for composition, playing and singing. Becker does prove, through his lyrics and even the album title, to be the more sarcastic and ironic portion of Steely Dan the album title is a great example: dumb question how many songs are there on "11 Tracks of Whack"? dumb answer, 12. Becker wrote 11 of the songs himself (perhaps lending to the title), and co-wrote the 12th. The irony in the title could also be a simple play on the title itself the back of the album jacket gives the definition of "whack" as 'a first stab or crude attempt', perhaps showing Becker's own self-deprecating sense of humor in suggesting that he only accomplishes his goal of good music on 11 of the 12 tracks. Regardless, Becker proves that the sharp wit and biting lyrics of Steely Dan fame are a shared phenomenon of the Steely Dan duo. This album has a great rock edge while still remaining "fuzzy" around the edges. Obviously due to Becker's instrument of choice, the guitar, the album has a strong guitar backbone grown from the Steely Dan sound while it delves in to new musical territory for the SD alum. It definitely leaves me wanting for more solo work from Becker. "Book of Liars", a slow jazz tune that owns it's time on the album, is by far the best song. "Surf and/or Die" mercifully takes you in the opposite direction of The Beach Boys sound, with a fantastic bass line and groovy guitar licks. "Down in the Bottom", "Junkie Girl" and "Lucky Henry" are all fantastic tunes with great lyrics. "Girlfriend" has a decidedly Steely Dan feel despite the synth-drums that are a bit too 80's for me. "My Waterloo" and "Hat too Flat" both have a cool semi-reggae feel, again despite the synth-drums on "My Waterloo". "Hat too Flat" has a slow rythym that sucks you in yet almost makes you uncomfortable because you keep waiting for it to take off. "Little Kawai", I believe was composed as a Hawaiian tune, replete with the obligatory ukelele (Becker has a recording studio in and lives part-time in Hawaii), but it sounds more like a country tune and just doesn't quite do it for me. "Hard Up Case", "Cringemaker" and "This Moody Bastard" round out the album with solid licks, cool bass lines and great percussion. Becker has offered a truly eclectic collection of tunes that tend to keep you off balance due to the extreme swings of mood, rythym, sound and lyric. Altogether, a really good album. 4.5 out of 5 not quite excellent.
A great album!Becker's ''slightly off key singing'' actually lends a bit of honest emotion to these expertly crafted songs.I hope he makes another solo album.