Saturday, October 13, 2012

Steely Dan - Home At Last

Bernard Purdie is/was one of the coolest drummers around, having played in the 1960s with Aretha Franklin and James Brown. Shamefully, the first time I heard his stuff was on the Steely Dan song "Home At Last" from their classic album Aja (1977). There's a pretty cool exposition below of exactly how he played his so-called "Purdie Shuffle" on the song:

The song itself is a brilliant (both in its composition and how it's so concise) extrapolation of Homer's Odyssey, about Ulysses and his journey home after the fall of Troy. There's a bit of wanderlust in the epic poem, and Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the smartass geniuses behind Steely Dan, give it a perfect hipster summation:

Well, the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last?
Home at last.

I've always identified with that. Home is where your ship is. Like all good Steely Dan songs, it includes a word, "retsina," that you've probably never heard before ("She serves the smooth retsina"). Retsina is apparently a Greek white wine which has been made for at least 2000 years.

The song also boasts one of the most awesome guitar solos in classic rock. I am not a big fan of the Fender stratocaster sound (although I do own a stratocaster myself) but in "Home At Last," Becker turns in a beautiful, almost provocative performance that transcends the blues notes the Strat is known for, and heads off into an entirely different zone. It's like the guitar itself is on the rough shoddy seas with you. Hear the guitar solo below at 3:30.

Aja has some fantastic songs, but "Home At Last" is one of the best--it's the pinnacle of classic adult '70s pop music: there's a big meaning to the song (Homer, Odyssey, Ulysses, etc.) but you don't have to know anything about that stuff. Just tap your feet and shuffle along to the Purdie Shuffle. You'll find yourself rocking back and forth wherever you are.

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