Category: Steely Dan

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

ARTIST: Steely Dan                        Pretzel_Logic_album

TITLE: Pretzel Logic

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #8 US, #37 UK

SINGLES: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (#4 US, #58 UK), Pretzel Logic (#57 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Any Major Dude Will Tell You, East St. Louis Toodle-OO

LINEUP: Donald Fagan, Walter Becker, Jeff Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder – plus 15 other session musicians.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album from jazz-pop group finds the band become more of a duo + session musicians, and the songs are shorter and less jazzy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Are shorter songs better? Well, they’re no doubt more commercially viable. Personally, while the set of songs put forward by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are just as complicated and lyrically obtuse, for my ears I preferred their longer excursions.

That’s not to say that this isn’t chock full of great stuff. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” may be the ultimate Steely Dan song, and the second side has all kinds of characters running in the lyrics. The playing is impeccable, of course, with barely a note out of place.

It seems to my ears that some of the songs could have had some more exploration, since there’s some interesting ideas put forward.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was the last album that the original group toured in support.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: A-: I do think that some songs should have been explored further, and some could have been saved for another day. That’s just me.

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

ARTIST: Steely Dan                                       Steely_Dan-Countdown_to_Ecstacy

TITLE:  Countdown to Ecstasy

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION: #35

SINGLES: Showbiz Kids (#61), My Old School (#63)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bohdisattva

LINEUP: Donald Fagan, Walter Becker, Skunk Baxter, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder with Victor Feldman, Ben Benay, Ray Brown, Rick Derringer and session saxophones and backing vocals

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fantastic second album explores Steely Dan’s jazz leanings without sacrificing rock-and-roll.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With this, their second album, Steely Dan has become a product of the studio. Sure, at this time they still toured, but their sound, scope and style were all dictated by the confines of the studio.

Donald Fagan’s vocals are anything but straightforward; he’s always sounding like he’s up to something, even on the ballad “Pearl of the Quarter”. Meanwhile, his electric piano and keyboards lead the charge into jazz territory, allowing Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias to color each songs with the perfect guitar fills and solos. The songs are immaculately constructed and produced (you can always hear new things in “Your Gold Teeth), and always leave you wanting to hear them again.

There’s not a weak cut, per se. I could take or leave “Showbiz Kids” but I can see even that’s of quality and distinction. Nothing is wasted here, except your time if you want to try to figure out the lyrics. I’d just go with them.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Vocalist David Palmer left the band as Donald Fagan became more comfortable as a singer.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A+:  This may not have any hit singles, but dang this cooks, especially the deep cuts like “Razor Boy” and “Your Gold Teeth”. See how they roll.

 

 

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill

ARTIST: Steely Dan                            cant_buy_a_tcant_buy_a_thrill

TITLE:  Can’t Buy a Thrill

YEAR RELEASED: 1972

CHART ACTION: #17 US, #38 UK

SINGLES: Do It Again (#6 US, #39 UK), Reelin’ in the Years (#11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dirty Work, Kings

LINEUP: Donald Fagan, Walter Becker, David Palmer, Denny Dias, Skunk Baxter, Jim Hodder

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First album by sophisticated rock band already shows their impeccable production and somewhat ‘interesting’ songs.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: While most of rock was still in the boogie-boogie-boogie throes of Grand Funk, or the wimpy-wimpy-wimpy throes of singer songwriters, here comes Steely Dan, with sophisticated melodies and chords, great production, and hooks.

Already from the first album, you can tell that Steely Dan was going to feature fantastic production. Not every rookie band with two hot shot guitarists would ask yet another guitarist to do the solo in a song because of how it sounded. The performances are spot on, the harmonies almost perfect, and the arrangements are definitely, adult, instead of what was happening out there at the time.

This record, though, has some of the weaker songs in the Steely Dan canon. That’s almost to be expected, since it’s a debut, and Walter Becker and Donald Fagan were just starting to flesh out their ideas. A few tracks are more of a lounge act than rock band. But when at its best, this is a winner.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: David Palmer was added as a vocalist on the road because Fagan was unsure of his voice, and did the lead vocal for “Dirty Work”. Also, there is an early single that the band has basically buried – it’s never been on album or collection.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  A great debut with a unique sound for the time (and to this day, really).