How does Donald Fagen do it?

It seems, to my ears, that Donald Fagen is able to get an amazing sound out of a mixing board, much better than other producers can.  I have read that he is a perfectionist and uses extreme attention to detail when in the studio.  Do you notice the same thing in his recordings?  A shout out to the late Walter Becker too.
Not only does Donald Fagen have the gift, he surrounds himself with gifted people. Enjoy the music
Fagen has a great ear and musical sense, but don't underestimate Nichols. Read about "Wendel" which he invented for Gaucho.
Yes, Fagen has great ears and knows what he wants. Nichols is an excellent engineer, but let’s not forget the role of the producer. Gary Katz produced many of their records including “Gaucho” as well as Fagen’s solo outing “The Nightfly”. You may find this interesting:
fagen and becker were well known to be perfectionists, and because of it, total pains in ass when producing their records (or at least their later ones post katey lied after they figured stuff out)... they used absolutely the best studio musicians and were super attentive to the smallest of details

that being said, some of the best rock/pop music ever!!!
My late uncle introduced me to Steely Dan and I use Gaucho as a reference piece.
What the hell is wrong with Katy Lied?

have you listened to it on a decent system?
Interesting article nicotico, nevertheless ‘Katy Lied’ is one of Steely Dans best records. Listen to the most recent remaster that Donald and Walter did, it crushes any vinyl release. 

As far as ‘Gaucho’, it’s a good sounding recording, much like ‘Aja’ but the material doesn’t live up to their first five albums. My favorite is ‘Countdown to Ecstacy’ but ‘Katy Lied’ is a close contender.

As for recording quality, ‘Two Against Nature’ and ‘Everything Must Go’ are easily better sounding than their previous recordings. I’d also argue that their isn’t one weak song on either of those records.

I’ve been loving Steely Dan since the early 1970’s and still do, to the point where my friends say I’m living in the Steely Dan past. They were one of the few rock bands that made me feel grounded. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them live but I’m hoping to catch Donald with Steve Winwood.
check out Becker on 11 Tracks of Whack. Of course there is variability across the Dan and solo catalog....but ah, the music.....
I was never really a fan of Becker’s solo efforts. However, he did a great job producing Donald Fagen’s ‘Kamakiriad’. I like all of Fagen’s solo records except for ‘Sunken Condos’ which to me doesn’t even sound like Fagen. Can’t wait to hear from the Steely Dan band.
@goofyfoot  - I saw Steely Dan (Fagen and Becker) about 3 years ago w/Steve Winwood. Fantastic show! Much better than I was expecting. Loved the Dan and Winwood was fantastic too.
reubent,  l love Traffic and Blind Faith so I want to see Fagen and Winwood but I’m not sure what’s happening given my location and the COVID.
Who knows what summer will bring. The show is currently on the schedule for my local outdoor theater. Hopefully we get to hear some live music this year. But I wouldn't bet on it.....
I might want to see Dead and Company though John Mayer’s singing makes me cringe.
@goofyfoot  - I saw Dead and Company the same summer, at the same venue, as Steely Dan. It was an OK show. But it was more polished than I was expecting. Didn't have a jam band feel at all.
@tomic601  - Listening to "11 Tracks of Whack" now. Never listened to it before. So far, I really like it. Thanks for the heads-up....
one reason why i own an absolutely killer dac and server, some things don’t exist is a big world....
Kamakiriad didn’t grab me, at least initially, like Nightfly did. But it has grown on me over the years. The song Florida Room is killer. Anyone listened to the song Gaucho side-by-side vs. Keith Jarrett’s ‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours, from the album Belonging? Supposedly Jarrett took legal action and won (see Keith Jarrett wiki). To me the songs are too similar to be pure coincidence.
In 1978, AJA was such a sensation...and an amazing sounding recording, given the technology that Fagen and Becker had to work with.  I wore the grooves out of that one.


I took my entire family to see that Steely Dan / Steve Winwood concert: The Dan Who Knew Too Much. We saw the concert at the Shoreline Theatre, Mt View CA. That show was spectacular. Perfect sound and mixing. Winwood got a standing ovation several times. The wall of sound coming from Steely Dan’s largest number of musicians on a concert series..something like 27 musicians... was stunning. Oh,the brass and backup singers! Wow.

Our entire family plays instruments (older son - 15 years at the time of concert - plays piano, synth, percussion/tympani, and marimba; younger son 10 years old at the time - plays piano and tenor sax, wife violin, myself piano). Many adults asked me if my kids knew who the bands were....said "yes"...we all play..they laughed and said the kids have good taste. Kids already knew playing pop music is really boring when your a musician.


Regarding Steely Dan precision, I also read they went through musicians like water if they were NOT on time. Kind of like the movie "Whiplash" you know if your fast or slow? That movie raised my blood pressure and I think about that movie from time to time when I practice for my weekly piano lessons and doing scales and Hanon....I know I am fast or slow but the fingers are unwilling participants. Fagen and Becker just kicks out the musicians rather than ask.

@stuogawa  - That's awesome. My teenage son also has great taste in music. He listens mostly to the same music as me, but throws in a bit more electronic music and more modern pop'y rock bands. But he's also turned me on to some great music like Neutral Milk Hotel's - "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" and Titus Andronicus' - "The Monitor".
@reubent  That is great when your son started turning the tables and begun making recommendations to you.   Awesome!
Sprinkles of light reflecting their maturity, courage and conviction.
stuogawa, if your kids want to study at a conservatory, CCM has a small but excellent jazz program. It’s like the Juilliard but without the insane tuition costs. Their art music programs are strong also.
From Wikipedia:

"Band leaders Becker and Fagen were dissatisfied with the album's sound quality because of an equipment malfunction with the then-new dbx noise reduction system. The group has claimed that the damage was mostly repaired after consulting with the engineers at dbx, but Fagen and Becker still refused to listen to the completed album."

You can hear the problem manifest itself in the way Jeff Porcaro's cymbals sound. They kind of sound out of phase or some other strange effect. 

Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite Dan albums. Dr. Wu and Rose Darling are two particular favorites. 

@goofyfoot  - CCM? Are you a Cincinnati guy too? BTW, great music school......
reubent, yes I graduated from DAAP but my grandparents met at the college of music before the college and the conservatory merged.
@goofyfoot ....thanks for the recommendation. The older one is going to major in psychology...or at least that is what his passion is (for now!). He is exploring this as a foundation for law school. The younger one is starting to follow my foot steps into engineering. I have seen both improvising on music they like to play...and that was awesome...when you see them light up, practice music they want to play, and improvise over the top.  The sparkles of creativity start to shine and not just accept what is just handed to you. Priceless.  

I, on the other hand, will eventually sign up for the Berklee School of Music online! I have no intent of changing my career at this late juncture, but i am really passionate about jazz. I took my ABRSM Level 3 piano exam a couple of years ago (I am well over 50 years old) and passed with distinction! Crazy trying to memorize 3 songs, orally echo back notes played to you by the examiner, play on demand melodic and harmonic scales! What was I thinking?! But sadistically intrigued by the torture.
Since the pandemic started I have been working out in the mornings
while listening to "Alive in America."  Nothing else will do!
Hate steely and his nasaly, annoying voice. I wish Dan would sing. Dan always takes the back seat to Steely. Poor feller. 
stuogawa, I have some friends that attended Berkeley in Boston. My old pianist from a jazz trio I played in when I was junior high went on to Berkeley after high school. Berkeley a little easier to get into than Juilliard or CCM but their playing skills are right on. Plus Berkeley is a big school and so there are more opportunities to play in ensembles. The thing about jazz and popular music is that being able to transcribe four part Mozart piano sonatas isn’t really important. Some conservatory graduates over think jazz. It’s really about listening not thinking.
We met the band in Nice Airport, flying out early the day after a great concert in the Sporting Club, Monaco.  Fagen was really friendly, outgoing and talkative, lovely guy, sitting with the two girl backing singers.

Becker was sitting by himself the other side of the nearly empty lounge.  Even (especially?) Fagen wasn't paying him mind.
Everything Must Go is a very good Dan lp, very overlooked. It may have been the last Dan studio record with Becker.  I have them all, as well as Fagen solo lps. You can get Kamikiriad (sp?) on vinyl in the Cheap Christmas box set. Also re: 11 Tracks of Whack, yes! Someone needs to do it on vinyl!! Seen the Dan twice with Becker. First time with Wayne Krantz on guitar in Charleston, SC for the Art Crimes tour, 3rd row, center. First show of the tour. Reportedly Becker was into history so the story was they rehearsed tour in Charleston thus the kickoff. Who knows if this is true. Anyway, anyone got a vinyl copy of Two Against Nature to sell? LOL!! Talk about one that needs to be more reasonably priced on vinyl!! 
I'm a Dan fan as well, saw Becker/Fagan/Winwood at Red Rocks in Colorado with my wife and kids.  Becker gave a moving speech about what a privilege it was to play/write with Fagan for 50 years.  That was June of '16.  Becker died the following year in September.

Saw the Dan (just Fagan) again in Boston November '19.  The band was very tight very good, but the acoustics sucked in the old theater.

Weirdly I get Steely Dan songs stuck in my head, and they play and play.
Have to listen to whatever track it is on the rig to get it cleared out.

Does anyone own the Aja Speakers Corner vinyl reissue? It’s out of print so I’m sure it’s costly but word has it, that nothing else out there sounds as good. 
Cisco is now Impex and yes, they released Aja in 2007 but Speakers Corner also released a vinyl reissue and I’ve read that it is the best.