In a brilliantly and detailed analysis, the knowledgeable music essayist Polyphonic takes a look at the absolute genius of Steely Dan. He specifically speaks to the absolute need for perfection on the parts of both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen that drove them to use a rotating roster of absolutely brilliant session musicians whose respective styles embodied the mood of the specific song.
While Steely Dan is driven by the core two members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, those two alone don’t make up the band. In fact I think the proper way to think of Steely Dan isn’t even really as a band. Instead I think that Steely Dan was an aesthetic carefully curated by Becker and Fagen and that aesthetic is one that relied on intense perfectionism, unique lyricism and a rotating roster of talented session musicians.