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It was particularly nice to be able to watch “Steely Dan: Two Against Nature,” a DVD released in 2000 on the Image Entertainment label and coinciding with their CD release of the same name.

While not well known as a “live act,” I suppose Steely Dan is the quintessential example of a band who serves up well-polished studio renditions of songs drawing from various influences. Donald Fagan (1948-) and Walter Becker (1950-) are the two masterminds and only constant members of the band, which was formed in the early 1970’s. With Becker on guitar and Fagan on keyboards and lead vocals, Steely Dan has always enlisted the talents of top studio musicians, as well as other famous players and singers from the Rock/Pop/Jazz firmament to fill out the “band” on any given album. It’s a formula that has obviously worked well for them, given the results.

The DVD I watched was shot live at New York’s Sony Studios in front of a small audience and featured many of their hits from the 2000’s including “Janie Runaway,” “Cousin Dupree,” “Gaslight Alley,” the title track, “Two Against Nature,” as well as various hits from their 1970’s heyday, such as “Peg,” “Josie” and “Kid Charlemagne.”

While precious little live footage was available from this band, the actual performances were so polished and “tight” that there was little departure from the studio versions. The ensemble included three female backup singers, two saxophonists and single players on trumpet, trombone, bass, drums, and two guitarists. Fagan doubled on keyboards, piano, and Wurlitzer. Trumpeter Michael Leonhart (1974-) sat in on Wurlitzer for “Two Against Nature.” Alto saxophonist, Christopher Potter (1971-), was perhaps the most famous sideman in this lineup of superb players.

Interspersed between the musical numbers were humorous “interview” segments with Fagan and Becker, who grilled members of their current band sitting between them on the couch. The same irony that coursed through their songs was on full display here!

At a running time of one hour and 41 minutes, this DVD featured state-of-the-art sound and fine camerawork. There were no bonus features. It’s definitely a “must” for Steely Dan fans.

 

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