Steely Dan are noted for their exacting and meticulous recording style. Unfortunately 'Reeling In The Years' by Brian Sweet is written in almost the complete opposite of Steely Dan's style. Long on gossip and hazy recollections by Steely Dan alumni Sweet's account never gives us what we want: Steely Dan!
After informing us that he could not get any interviews with either of Steely Dan's principals Walter Becker or Donald Fagen in his preface, ("for reasons best known only to themselves, Becker and Fagen, declined to be interviewed despite several earnest requests."),Sweet then spends the next 36 pages detailing Fagen's childhood (but not Becker's), the songwriters school days at Bard College and then a long study of a terrible film the duo wrote the score for in 1971 ('You Gotta Walk It, Like You Talk It'..so bad that it's never been aired on tv).
One of the things that die hard 'Dan fans hoped for before this book came out was a detailed account of how and when the group came into being when they were signed by ABC Dunhill Records in 1971. Despite lots of details and a plethora of non-source credited quotes (in fact none of the quotes in the entire book are sourced!)the reader will still come away somewhat confused as to how the original group (which toured for three years) was first assembled. Sweet himself seems confused, on p. 40 he states that Denny Dias, a longtime guitarist for the band, was the first to join the band. Five pages later he states that the group had already recorded and released their first songs before Dias had "yet to arrive in California."
Aside from compiling a sloppy chronology Sweet gives off obsessive tones with comments like "What more do they want?" as he demands they release a new album in his introduction. Later he takes on the roll of psychologist with, "Fagen seemed to be blaming his parents and the American lifestyles in the Fifties for his thirtysomething creative problems." What lifestyles of the 1950's were a! ffecting Fagen some 30 years later one can only guess but Sweet seems confident in telling us the true psyche of this person he's never interviewed.
Now I don't blame all of these faults with the book on the writer..... But what you get is a half baked account, slapped together (complete with a picture of Donald Fagen in kindergarten)for a quick buck....maybe Fagen and Becker are saving their version of the Steely Dan story for Hollywood!....I can see it 'Steely Dan: The Trip We Made To Hollywood..(and back)!