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Steely Dan

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Steely Dan: Can't Buy A Thrill (1972)

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ITEM# SR-ABCX758
Ratings: C=VG+; LP=VG+

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

Can't Buy A Thrill

Released: 1972
Label: ABC Records
Catalog: ABCX 758
Genre: Rock / Progressive Jazz-Rock / Pop
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Do It Again
02 Dirty Work
03 Kings
04 Midnight Cruiser
05 Only A Fool Would Say That
06 Reelin' In The Years
07 Fire In The Hole
08 Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)
09 Change Of The Guard
10 Turn That Heartbeat Over Again
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Album Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were remarkable craftsmen from the start, as Steely Dan's debut, Can't Buy a Thrill, illustrates. Each song is tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics. All of these are hallmarks of Steely Dan's signature sound, but what is most remarkable about the record is the way it differs from their later albums. Of course, one of the most notable differences is the presence of vocalist David Palmer, a professional blue-eyed soul vocalist who oversings the handful of tracks where he takes the lead. Palmer's very presence signals the one major flaw with the album -- in an attempt to appeal to a wide audience, Becker and Fagen tempered their wildest impulses with mainstream pop techniques. Consequently, there are very few of the jazz flourishes that came to distinguish their albums -- the breakthrough single, "Do It Again," does work an impressively tight Latin jazz beat, and "Reelin' in the Years" has jazzy guitar solos and harmonies -- and the production is overly polished, conforming to all the conventions of early-'70s radio. Of course, that gives these decidedly twisted songs a subversive edge, but compositionally, these aren't as innovative as their later work. Even so, the best moments ("Dirty Work," "Kings," "Midnight Cruiser," "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again") are wonderful pop songs that subvert traditional conventions and more than foreshadow the paths Steely Dan would later take.


Steely Dan - Countdown To Ecstasy [ABC Records ABCX-779] (July 1973)

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ITEM# SR-ABABCX779
Ratings: C=G-; LP=G+

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

Countdown To Ecstasy

Released: July 1973
Label: ABC Records
Catalog: ABCX-779
Genre: Rock
NOTE: Does not include original inner sleeve with lyrics.


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Bodhisattva
02 Razor Boy
03 The Boston Rag
04 Your Gold Teeth
05 Show Biz Kids
06 My Old School
07 Pearl Of The Quarter
08 King Of The World
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Album Review

Countdown to Ecstasy is the second studio album by the American rock band Steely Dan, released in July 1973 by ABC Records. It was recorded at Caribou Ranch in Nederland, Colorado and at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, California. After the departure of vocalist David Palmer, the group recorded the album with Donald Fagen singing lead on all the songs.

Although it was a critical success, the album failed to generate a hit single, and consequently charted at only number 35 on the Billboard 200. It was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), having shipped 500,000 copies in the United States. Well-received upon its release, Countdown to Ecstasy received perfect scores from music critics in retrospective reviews.


Steely Dan - The Royal Scam [ABC Records ABCD-931] (31 May 1976)

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ITEM# SR-ABABCD931
Ratings: C=VG+; LP=VG+

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

The Royal Scam

Released: 31 May 1976
Label: ABC Records
Catalog: ABCD-931
Genre: Rock, Jazz Rock


T R A C K L I S T:
01 Kid Charlemagne
02 The Caves Of Altamira
03 Don't Take Me Alive
04 Sign In Stranger
05 The Fez
06 Green Earrings
07 Haitian Divorce
08 Everything You Did
09 The Royal Scam
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Album Review

The Royal Scam is the fifth album by Steely Dan, originally released by ABC Records in 1976. The album went gold and peaked at #15 on the charts. The Royal Scam features more prominent guitar work than the prior Steely Dan album, Katy Lied, which had been the first without founding guitarist Jeff Baxter. Guitarists on the recording include Walter Becker, Denny Dias, Larry Carlton, Elliott Randall and Dean Parks.

In common with other Steely Dan albums, The Royal Scam is littered with cryptic allusions to people and events both real and fictional. In a BBC interview in 2000, Becker and Fagen revealed that ''Kid Charlemagne'' is loosely based on Augustus Owsley Stanley, the notorious drug ''chef'' who was famous for manufacturing hallucinogenic compounds, and that ''Caves of Altamira'', based on a book by Hans Baumann, is about the loss of innocence, the narrative about a visitor to the Cave of Altamira who registers his astonishment at the prehistoric drawings. [wikipedia.org]


Steely Dan - Aja (ABC AA-1006) (1977)

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

Aja

Released: 1977
Label: ABC Records
Catalog: AA-1006
Genre: Rock / Progressive Jazz-Rock / Pop
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Black Cow
02 Aja
03 Deacon Blues
04 Peg
05 Home At Last
06 I Got The News
07 Josie
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Album Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

Steely Dan hadn't been a real working band since Pretzel Logic, but with Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records. Instead, it's a measured and textured album, filled with subtle melodies and accomplished, jazzy solos that blend easily into the lush instrumental backdrops. But Aja isn't just about texture, since Becker and Fagen's songs are their most complex and musically rich set of songs -- even the simplest song, the sunny pop of "Peg," has layers of jazzy vocal harmonies. In fact, Steely Dan ignores rock on Aja, preferring to fuse cool jazz, blues, and pop together in a seamless, seductive fashion. It's complex music delivered with ease, and although the duo's preoccupation with clean sound and self-consciously sophisticated arrangements would eventually lead to a dead end, Aja is a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest.


Steely Dan: Greatest Hits 1972-1978 (1978)

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ITEM# SR-ABCAK1107-2
Ratings: C=G+; LP=VG-

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

Greatest Hits 1972-1978

Released: 1978
Label: ABC Records
Catalog: AK 1107/2
Genre: Rock / Progressive Jazz-Rock / Pop
NOTE: 2 LPs on 1 CD
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Do It Again
02 Reeling In The Years
03 My Old School
04 Bodhisattva
05 Show Biz Kids
06 East St. Louis Toodle-oo
07 Rikki Don't Lose That Number
08 Pretzel Logic
09 Any Major Dude
10 Here At The Western World
11 Black Friday
12 Bad Sneakers
13 Doctor Wu
14 Haitian Divorce
15 Kid Charlemagne
16 The Fez
17 Peg
18 Josie
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Steely Dan - Gold (MCA-5324) (1982)

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ITEM# SR-MC5324
Ratings: C=NM-; LP=NM-

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Artist:

Steely Dan

Title:

Gold

Released: 1982
Label: MCA
Catalog: MCA-5324
Genre: Rock / Progressive Jazz-Rock / Pop
NOTE: CRC on back cover
T R A C K L I S T:
01 Hey Nineteen
02 Green Earrings
03 Deacon Blues
04 Chain Lightning
05 FM
06 Black Cow
07 King Of The World
08 Babylon Sisters
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Album Reveiw

by Craig Lytle [allmusic.com]

Donald Fagen and Walter Becker wrote many outstanding light-rock tunes with a somewhat soulful appeal. This compilation album plays host to quite a few of those songs, among them "Hey Nineteen," "Deacon Blues," and "Black Cow."" The twosome have an uncanny style of conveying their messages in a very overt way without forfeiting the songs' charisma.

Steely Dan's Biography

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine [allmusic.com]

Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions. Becker and Fagen never truly enjoyed rock -- with their ironic humor and cryptic lyrics, their eclectic body of work shows some debt to Bob Dylan -- preferring jazz, traditional pop, blues, and R&B. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. With producer Gary Katz, Becker and Fagen gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring professional musicians to record their compositions. Though the band didn't perform live after 1974, Steely Dan's popularity continued to grow throughout the decade, as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of AOR and pop radio stations. Even after the group disbanded in the early '80s, their records retained a cult following, as proven by the massive success of their unlikely return to the stage in the early '90s.

Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards) were the core members of Steely Dan throughout its variety of incarnations. The two met at Bard College in New York in 1967 and began playing in bands together shortly afterward. The duo played in a number of groups -- including the Bad Rock Group, which featured future comedic actor Chevy Chase on drums -- which ranged from jazz to progressive rock. Eventually, Becker and Fagen began composing songs together, hoping to become professional songwriters in the tradition of the Brill Building. In 1970, the pair joined Jay & the Americans' backing band, performing under pseudonyms; Becker chose Gustav Mahler, while Fagen used Tristan Fabriani. They stayed with Jay & the Americans until halfway through 1971, when they recorded the soundtrack for the low-budget film You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It, which was produced by the Americans' Kenny Vance. Following the recording of the soundtrack, Becker and Fagen attempted to start a band with Denny Dias, but the venture was unsuccessful. Barbra Streisand recorded the Fagen/Becker composition ‘I Mean to Shine’ on her album Barbra Joan Streisand, released in August 1971, and the duo met producer Gary Katz, who hired them as staff songwriters for ABC/Dunhill in Los Angeles, where he had just become a staff producer. Katz suggested that Becker and Fagen form a band as a way to record their songs, and Steely Dan -- who took their name from a dildo in William Burroughs' Naked Lunch -- was formed shortly afterward.

Recruiting guitarists Denny Dias and Skunk Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, and keyboardist/vocalist David Palmer, Becker and Fagen officially formed Steely Dan in 1972, releasing their debut, Can't Buy a Thrill, shortly afterward. Palmer and Fagen shared lead vocals on the album, but the record's two hit singles -- the Top Ten "Do It Again" and "Reeling in the Years" -- were sung by Fagen. Can't Buy a Thrill was a critical and commercial success, but its supporting tour was a disaster, hampered by an under-rehearsed band and unappreciative audiences. Palmer left the band following the tour. Countdown to Ecstasy, released in 1973, was a critical hit, but it failed to generate a hit single, even though the band supported it with a tour.

Steely Dan replaced Hodder with Jeff Porcaro and added keyboardist/backup vocalist Michael McDonald prior to recording their third album, Pretzel Logic. Released in the spring of 1974, Pretzel Logic returned Steely Dan to the Top Ten on the strength of the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." After completing the supporting tour for Pretzel Logic, Becker and Fagen decided to retire from live performances and make Steely Dan a studio-based band. For their next album, 1975's Katy Lied, the duo hired a variety of studio musicians -- including Dias, Porcaro, guitarist Elliot Randall, saxophonists Phil Woods, bassist Wilton Felder, percussionist Victor Feldman, keyboardist Michael Omartian, and guitarist Larry Carlton -- as supporting musicians. Katy Lied was another hit, as was 1976's The Royal Scam, which continued in the vein of its predecessor. On 1977's Aja, Steely Dan's sound became more polished and jazzy, as they hired jazz fusion artists like Wayne Shorter, Lee Ritenour, and the Crusaders as support. Aja became their biggest hit, reaching the Top Five within three weeks of release and becoming one of the first albums to be certified platinum. Aja also gained the respect of many jazz musicians, as evidenced by Woody Herman recording an album of Becker/Fagen songs in 1978.

Following the release of Aja, ABC was bought out by MCA Records, resulting in a contractual dispute with the label that delayed until 1980 the release of their follow-up album. During the interim, the group had a hit with the theme song for the film FM in 1978. Steely Dan finally released Gaucho, the follow-up to Aja, in late 1980, and it became another Top Ten hit for the group. During the summer of 1981, Becker and Fagen announced that they were parting ways. The following year, Fagen released his solo debut, The Nightfly, which became a critical and commercial hit.

Fagen didn't record another album until 1993, when he reunited with Becker, who produced Kamakiriad. The album was promoted by the first Steely Dan tour in nearly 20 years, and while the record failed to sell, the concerts were very popular. In 1994, Becker released his solo debut, 11 Tracks of Whack, which was produced by Fagen. The following year, Steely Dan mounted another reunion tour, and in early 2000 the duo issued Two Against Nature, their first new studio album in two decades. It won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Steely Dan followed it in 2003 with Everything Must Go. Fagan’s solo album Morph the Cat was released in 2006, and Becker released Circus Money in 2008 as Steely Dan embarked on another tour.
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