On the heels of Donald Fagen’s Nightfly Trilogy boxset, comes this from Walter Becker – Steely Dan’s less visible, but still major dude. Circus Money is instantly familiar. Rooted in the same human comedy that has long beguiled Dan fans, lyrically it’s sardonic, while producer/co-writer Larry Klein deftly massages the soundscapes.
Lacking Fagen’s emphatic vocal presence and crisp elocution, Becker instead delivers his richly detailed lyrics about New York nostalgia (“Downtown Canon”) and Hollywood hustling (“Three Picture Deal”) with conversational charm, buoyed by female chorales.
As always, the delights are in the details: the Jamaican-inspired grooves of Becker and Steely Dan 2.0 drummer Keith Carlock, Dan guitar ace Dean Parks’ tasty picking , and Chris Hooper’s uptown tenor sax solos throughout. The record disappears as background music, but it comes alive at rock volume.