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John McLaughlin - A Never-ending Quest

Jun 1, 2008
If you are a fan of Steely Dan, you'll understand that one aspect of Walter Becker's music is that he's always been a perfectionist. In much the same way that a top author ensures there are no extraneous words; with Becker, no notes are ever wasted.

It has now been 14 years since Walter Becker - one half of Steely Dan - last offered us a solo studio recording - 11 Tracks of Whack.

It was back in 1994 that 11 Tracks of Whack, Becker's debut solo outing, was released. It proved that the songwriter and musician had more to offer than he could through the medium of Steely Dan. And that is despite the idiosyncratic nature of the band's music.

"When I write a song, it matters very much whether it's intended for me," Walter explains. "If it is, I can do what I want, within my own frame of reference. I take full responsibility."

Yet, despite this, the 12 tracks that comprise Circus Money were a collaborative endeavor. During the three years of the album's creation, he was working with Larry Klein, who produced and co-wrote all but one track.

"Writing songs with Walter Becker," says Klein, "is like playing tennis with John McEnroe. It keeps you on your game."

Also on top form were the musicians assembled for the recording sessions. Drummer Keith Carlock and guitarist Jon Herington, have both toured widely with Steely Dan, while keyboardists Ted Baker and Jim Beard were newcomers.

Walter is responsible for all the lead vocals as well as playing bass. "The bass gave me a more powerful position to define the direction I wanted the music to take...I became something of an expert on various sub genres (of Jamaican music), such as songs about motorcycles and/or featuring motorcycle sound effects; songs about the barbers versus the dreads, and songs about various judicial procedures.

It has been noted that the Jamaican influence started on 11 Tracks of Whack. Becker explains, "I had started listening to that (Jamaican music) way back in those days and at one point Donald (Fagen) and I actually experimented with the idea of doing an album with reggae-type beats on it in the Eighties...It's always fascinated me the way they use the same elements of rhythm and blues playing, but they turn them around in a way and yet they still get a great feel on it, you know? And as a rhythm section guy, those rhythm sections are sort of the ultimate -- the tightness of it, the complexity of the feels."

John McLaughlin Discography:

11 Tracks of Whack - 1994
Circus Money - 2008

Circus Money Track Listing:

Door Number Two
Downtown Canon
Bob Is Not Your Uncle Anymore
Upside Looking Down
Paging Audrey
Circus Money
Selfish Gene
Do You Remember The Name
Somebody's Saturday Night
Darkling Down
God's Eye View
Three Picture Deal

Artists performing on the album:

Walter Becker - Bass guitar
Keith Carlock - Drums
Jon Herington - Guitar
Jim Beard - Keyboards
Ted Baker - Keyboards
About the Author
Marek Norvid has been in the music business since he was the entertainment officer at Newcastle University back in the 80s. In the late 80's he set up RPM Music which is one of the few independent records stores still in existence in the UK. You can visit cdxpress.co.uk to check out the latest classic rock releases.
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