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Steely Dan - Citizen Steely Dan CD (album) cover

CITIZEN STEELY DAN

Steely Dan

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.38 | 20 ratings

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cfergmusic1
4 stars This box set, released in 1993 during Steely Dan's original comeback tour, collects every original album track released during the first phase of the group's career (1972-1980), in chronological and album order on 4 CDs/cassettes, plus various non-album rarities scattered throughout. One could almost think of this as replacing the original albums in that case, arguing that if you have this box set, you really don't need the albums, and vice versa (of course I'm crazy enough to own both sets.), so this is essentially a review of the non-album tracks, of which there are four.

The live version of "Bodhisattva" from the July 5th, 1974 show in Santa Monica, CA (the Dan's last gig for 19 years), is the only one to be officially released during the's band original tenure, as the B-side of "Hey Nineteen" in 1980. Prefaced by a memorable two-minute introduction by Steely's MC-in-residence, the constantly inebriated Jerome Aniton (who actually introduces Donald Fagen as "Mr. Steely Dan"), the band powers through with a fire not heard on the studio version. Even though Becker/Fagen did not like performing live in the least, the band nonetheless had a reputation for producing exciting, high-energy concerts, and some say that the '74 band was their best, with the double-drumming of Jim Hodder and Jeff Porcaro. The sound quality may not be that great today, but Steely's live engineer, Dinky Dawson, was a genius in his time (being the first person to mix the audience live with the band), and so this recording should be listened to with that in mind. This rendition appears in the middle of disc 2 in between the tracks from Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied.

The next track, "Here at the Western World" on disc 3, was originally released on 1978's Greatest Hits compilation and recorded during the Royal Scam sessions (and appears here between those tracks and Aja) but probably would have fit better on Katy Lied, as it's a gentle, piano-based medium-tempo tune typical of that album. This song about hanging out at a brothel (the "Western World") contains a typically stellar guitar solo by Dean Parks, emotionally affecting in its own way. Pop fans take note: one of the background singers on this track is the late Kasey (Kvitka) Cisyk, a national treasure in her ancestral homeland of Ukraine, best known for singing the original "You Light Up My Life" before Debby Boone replaced her vocal tracks for a Big Hit cover version of the tune.

Two rarities abound on disc 4: "FM," from the little-known 1978 film of the same name, also appeared on 1985's compilation A Decade of Steely Dan as the lead-off track. For the second and final time, Becker/Fagen employ a string arrangement, this time by Johnny Mandel of "MASH" fame; the chart employs rich, full jazz chords and string sections typical of Mandel. In another return appearance, Pete Christlieb ("Deacon Blues") blows his tenor sax again, and here's where we have an exclusive to this box for the first time; the version heard on the FM soundtrack and Decade feature a Walter Becker guitar solo at the end, but the version on this box, previously heard only on the closing credits to the movie, feature another Christlieb sax solo over the same ending loop. Christlieb gives it his all on this one, and his collaborations with Becker/Fagen would prove fruitful, as they produced his jazz album with fellow tenor Warne Marsh, Apogee, released in 1978 on Warner Bros. (Longtime Dan guitarist Denny Dias also assisted with production duties on that album, which by the way is essential listening for any fan of post-bop and West Coast jazz.) "FM" appears here between Aja and Gaucho.

The final track on disc 4, and on this box, is another exclusive: the rare 1971 demo of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" (a song which originally appeared on Katy Lied) with the original band of Fagen, Becker, Dias, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, and Jim Hodder. Stripped down to the basics, this version is much funkier than the later version (that guitar line will stay with you for days) and has less restrictive chord movement in the verses (the choruses are basically the same); of note is that Fagen's (?) keyboard solo on the album version was originally a Skunk guitar solo with the chorus at the end, as it appears here. Background vocals are supplied by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of the Turtles, who were calling themselves "Flo and Eddie" around this time; their parts should be fairly easy to pick out.

Although some people probably thought this was the complete representation of Steely Dan on record at the time, that couldn't be further from the truth. The pre-Can't Buy a Thrill singles "Dallas" and "Sail the Waterway," as well as various pre-Dan demos released as bootlegs, are conspicuous by their absence, solely because Becker/Fagen had trouble finding anything in the vaults that they liked. Of course now, most everything by the Dan can easily be found on places like YouTube, including those early bootleg demos, which certainly wasn't the case in 1993! The booklet includes a hilarious letter by Becker/Fagen to MCA vice-president Andy McKaie on this very subject, along with a lengthy press release regarding the comeback tours as well as various Dan artwork and paraphernalia. Only the most die-hard Dan fans will care about this sort of thing, though, so as great as this music and box are, I can only recommend it to them despite my high rating. 4.5 stars out of 5.

cfergmusic1 | 4/5 |

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