Reelin’ In The Beers

3 Sep

Thanks to all for great night with Nearly Dan on Saturday.

Don’t take my word for it – here’s Charley Dunlap’s review in ListomaniaBath

‘Steely Dan dominated the 70s with seven albums that spawned twice as many singles of exquisitely played songs. It was a band of contradictions: with oblique lyrics reflecting a love for Beat poetry matched to subtle jazzy chords, the songs opened into melodic and lyric hooks worthy of the best pop craftsmen. Always branded as a Jazz Rock band, the style would clearly be called Smooth Jazz now. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the core, architects and voice of Steely Dan, were reclusive and did not enjoy touring, which they stopped before the 70s were over.

In the studio, they surrounded themselves with an absolute A List of Los Angeles session players throughout their recording career. This incredible succession of musicians responded to the sophistication of Fagen and Becker’s songs by playing at their best; many of pop’s finest guitar solos were on Steely Dan’s songs, played by such as Jeff Baxter, Elliot Randall and Larry Carlton.

Which brings us to Nearly Dan at Chapel Arts Centre. One thing you ought to be sure of is that any band essaying the Steely Dan repertoire better be top rung musicians; Nearly Dan met that requirement and then some. It was a large band with nine people on stage, two horns, two female backup singers, fronted by Steve Hayes who did a more than credible job of replacing Donald Fagen’s vocals. (In fact, I think he might have been a better singer than Fagen). There was a characteristic harmony that often accompanied Fagen’s vocals; this was rendered perfectly. Lead guitarist Rob Rolph played exceptionally throughout, replicating the complicated hooks of the best known guitar parts, but not to a slavish extent; he was genuinely exciting. Steve Hayes played some excellent solos himself, particularly a nice workout on FM, the Dan hit from the movie of the same name.

Nearly Dan played 21 songs, with each of their 70s albums represented by two to four selections as well as one song from Donald Fagen’s first solo album. Of course, the hits — Do It Again, Reeling in the Years, Ricki Don’t Lose that Number and so many more — were there, but so were several album cuts that weren’t singles. Not exactly obscure, this all hails from the era when FM radio routinely played album tracks.

This, for me, was the best of all possible tribute bands. Steely Dan eschewed touring for many years and even now reunited, haven’t toured the UK. The essence of their records was musicianship and there never really was an actual band, so if you get a truly outstanding group of musicians to do it right, you’ve got something validly interesting. The night was extraordinarily successful. The Chapel was Standing Room Only, too packed to dance, as full as I’ve seen it, and everyone had big smiles as they filed out at the end.’

Charley Dunlap


Nearly Dan Nearly Sold Out

29 Aug

Those of you on the guest list know who are.

Those of you who are not better make sure of tickets before doors open because we could well be sold out…  Hurrah!

Top singalonga Steely in prospect.

Remember you get the full monty, an 11 piece band, horn section, backing singers, the works….

Steely, well Nearly, Dan

22 Jul

Can a tribute band ever amount to more than karaoke with pretensions?

29 Jun

The short answer is ‘yes’.

On Saturday 1 September I’m promoting one of my favourite live bands – a tribute band, yes, a tribute band.

Chapel Arts in Bath – a small but beautifully atmospheric and acoustically marvellous venue in the city centre – will groove to the some of the coolest, funkiest, witty pop jazz rock ever created.  Written by Steely Dan, performed by Nearly Dan.

Steely Dan was / is Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.  The pair were well-known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, the most extreme example being that they used at least 42 different studio musicians, 11 engineers, and took over a year to record the tracks that resulted in 1980’s Gaucho — an album that contains only seven songs.

Their live appearances were rare to say the least and when they did perform they were hardly the most giving of performers.

Ironically Nearly Dan is better equipped to give fans like me want they want rather than the real thing – a view endorsed and incisively articulated by Peter Aspden of the Financial Times no less!

I preferred Nearly Dan.  I loved them.  Their approach was faithful but not reverential; relaxed but never sloppy.  Those sassy cynical songs were given life by their sheer enthusiasm and passion for playing.  It was a great night out”.

Click here for the original of Peter’s full article.

Click here  for details and bookings for the gig.

LP Covers RIP

13 Jun

For those of you still hankering after a 12″ record sleeve I’ve found this site which has some truly memorable specimens.  I include below some of the most outstanding – I think you will understand if I leave individual entries without comment…






WARNING: This blog contains Country music and may cause offence to the narrow minded.

11 Jun

A sticker with a very similar wording to this entry’s title appeared on the first C&W album I bought in 1981 – ‘Almost Blue’ by Elvis Costello.  Up until this point in my musical life I was a C&W unbeliever, like many of you I suspect, I dismissed C&W as a tacky, rhinestone infested schmaltz fest.  Costello’s musical homage showed me just how musically narrow minded I had been.

I had had Damascene musical conversions in the past  – listening to the iconaclasm of the Pistols in 77 had, via a strange musical route, introduced me to the revolutionary sound and energy of Be-Bop.  A dubwise B side of Generation X’s Wild Wild Youth took me off in a head nodding stylee to the delights of Studio 1 and Lee Perry.

But it took Elvis, my musical mentor and guide ever since seeing him in High Wycombe pub in the summer of 77, to get me into C&W.  I loved this LP (remember them?) and from then on I was hooked.  Elvis dealt the goods and I mainlined on Hank, Tammy and George.

I loved the twang of the honky tonk guitar, I adored the slide of the steel pedal.  This was music to indulge in when feeling down – it takes you through to the other side of tears, ‘cos however bad you’re hurting, it’s hurting worse in the song.

For those of you still to be convinced just take a look at these song titles. Each one, in just a few words, tells a story, each one could be the basis of a great Coen Brothers film.

This is adult music – love and loss, drinking and death.  How can you not want to hear these top tunes?

  1. Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth ‘Cause I’m Kissing You Goodbye
  2. How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?
  3. Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure
  4. Mommy, Can I Still Call Him Daddy?
  5. Pardon Me, I’ve Got Someone To Kill
  6. She’s Actin’ Single… I’m Drinkin’ Doubles
  7. Touch Me With More Than Your Hands
  8. You’re The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly
  9. She Was From The Shallow End of the Gene Pool
  10. Drop Kick Me Jesus Through The Goal Posts of Life


Return to Frome: Part 2

7 Jun

The trail leads way out west… to Frome of course.  The guilty conscience of British Country music Hank Wangford has teamed up with old saddlepal Brad Breath to give the good folk of north Somerset an evening of laughter and tears and excellent music.

Tuesday 10 July sees the dynamic duo play Rook Lane Arts.  Full details in the Events section, more on Hank here, more on Frome Festival here and bookings for the gig here – as the show is part of the No Hall Too Small tour, this will be an intimate show, ie tickets will be limited!