Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Work: Dirty Work

Steely Dan: Dirty Work

Purchase Link: [Amazon mp3]

Before I get to the song, and my first post here, I'd just like to thank the Star Maker Machine for allowing me to join in and contribute here as a side gig from my regular blog, Reselect.com. It's an honor to be included in the company of so many other excellent music bloggers.

My contribution to this "Work" theme that we are in the midst of is the 1972 Steely Dan song, "Dirty Work," from their debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill. Although surrounded on that album by such Steely Dan standards as "Reelin' in the Years" and "Do It Again," "Dirty Work" is a bit of an anomaly in their catalog, as it was sung by David Palmer, a singer only temporarily employed as lead vocalist by the band (particularly for early live shows). He was brought on, apparently, due to Donald Fagen's initial reluctance to sing lead vocals -- somewhat amusing in retrospect, due to how connected his voice ultimately became to the band's identity.

In any case, Palmer was a good choice to sing "Dirty Work" -- his voice fits the song like a glove, sounding every bit the fool for love that the song's lyrics convey. The work in question isn't "work" as much as it is semi-reluctant "play" -- that is, being the man-on-the-side of the married woman that he's singing the song to. It features one of Steely Dan's most beautiful melodies, a true pop classic. They could have stopped with this song and album and would still have been remembered very fondly today (although the band's identity would certainly not be nearly as intricate as it turned out to be). But although the band went on to even greater fame, Palmer was out of a job (to continue the "work" theme a bit further) following Can't Buy a Thrill -- but he certainly lucked out when the band chose him to sing this one, cementing himself a footnote in the annals of classic rock.

-- Dave Gershman, Reselect.com

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