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Circus Money

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iTunes Review

Fourteen years since his last solo album — 1994’s Eleven Tracks of Whack, on which his Steely Dan cohort Donald Fagen co-produced and played keyboards — 2008’s Circus Money exists in its own time (and without Fagen), reminiscent of Steely Dan’s meticulous arrangements and sardonic lyrical ideas, yet carrying its own peculiar obsessions to the finish line. Becker’s bass reflects an interest in reggae and Caribbean rhythms (“Bob Is Not Your Uncle Anymore”), while his limited vocal range leaves him nearly speaking at times (Door Number Two”) and sounding devilish and on the make elsewhere (“Upside Looking Down”). Produced by fellow virtuoso Larry Klein, the songs travel with carefully placed piano chords (“Paging Audrey”) and bursts of horn (“Circus Money”). “Downtown Canon” recalls coked out New York City episodes with a decadent organ bringing on a 1970’s night. “Somebody’s Saturday Night” observes the fate of weekend pickups with a cadre of sultry back-up singers evoking the nightclub scene. “Three Picture Deal” involves Hollywood sleaze with a correspondingly smug jazz-like arrangement. Circus Money is a welcomed idiosyncratic gem.

Customer Reviews

Now That's Smooth...

Walter Becker delivers a sophomore effort that takes all that was great about Steely Dan (the immaculate production, intelligent and literary lyrics, tight grooves and amazing musicians) and adds to it with touches of reggae and Jamaican dub feel. While any other artist might lose track of what their fans expect under these circumstances, in Mr. Becker's capable hands these seemingly disparate elements are woven together to give the listener something both immediate and fresh (You got your reggae in my Steely Dan! You got your Steely Dan in my reggae!). Larry Klein steps in as producer and allows us to cut right to what we want out of Walter Becker, and brings in some refreshing touches, such as Luciana Souza on backing vocals on Selfish Gene. This album is a showcase of songwriting, and tracks such as Downtown Canon, Upside Looking Down, and Paging Audrey strike the listener instantly, and hold their own against Steely tracks like Babylon Sisters, Dr. Wu, and Negative Girl. Deeper than that, we are exposed to the reggae feel in tracks like Bob is Not Your Uncle Anymore (does anyone else expect to hear David Tennant use this line sometime soon?) and Do You Remember the Name. Darkling Down reminds us of why we love Walter Becker, what other songwriter can reference the poetry of Samuel Johnson (Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?) and also rock? The rest of the album is just as good, if possibly not as easy to describe by aphorism. All in all, this is likely to be the best album you listen to this year, so do yourself the favor of downloading it. It's easy, quick, and contains the cure for the common hangover.

Just what you'd expect...

...from 1/2 of Steely Dan. Impeccible production, great groove, wit and sarcasm in abundance. Very similar to 11 Tracks of Whack. If you are a fan of that album, or of Steely Dan - it's a must buy. Otherwise, enter only if you like reggae tinged jazz/pop.

Deserves a few listens to appreciate it's virtues

I had heard the song 'Somebody's Saturday Night' before the entire album was released and I enjoyed the laid back groove which was easy to get into. When I purchased the entire album it took a couple of listens to appreciate what Becker was doing, especially on the first few songs 'Door Number Two', 'Downtown Canon' and 'Bob Is Not Your Uncle Anymore' where reggae beats dominate. That being said, this is not a reggae album. The album kicks in a bit on Track 4 and continues. If you stick with it and give it a few listens you'll really appreciate this. I think it's better than '11 Tracks of Whack.' Becker's vocals sound more relaxed now as I think he said in a recent interview about the recording of 'Circus Money.' Additionally, the harmonies are not always what you expect which is a good thing. You can't really compare this to other music out there, other than Steely Dan and Donald Fagen, of course. Just give it a listen...By the way, as usual, the lyrics are great.


Born: February 20, 1950 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Guitarist/bassist/songwriter/producer Walter Becker hooked up with his partner Donald Fagen when both were attending Bard College in upstate New York in the late '60s. They became members of Jay and the Americans, then signed a songwriting contract with ABC Records in the early '70s. At ABC, they formed the group Steely Dan, who gradually dwindled down to just the two of them while they sold millions of records during the '70s. They split up in 1981, with Becker turning to a part-time producing career...
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Circus Money, Walter Becker
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Customer Ratings