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Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy CD (album) cover


Steely Dan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.02 | 216 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "If I stay inside, I might live 'til Saturday"

Steely Dan never made a bad album but they did make a few average ones. My opinion is that their debut is a classic with fresh, quality songs and that some of the next several dipped a bit as they slowly changed from the live band they were into the studio whizzes that gave us Aja. That doesn't mean these early album lack character, on the contrary they really deliver more intimacy and smiles than the later stuff and for that reason will appeal more to some Dan fans. But for chops fans they simply are not on the same sophistication level as the later stuff would be. The Dan themselves in their endearing and extensive liner notes admit as much, noting that Countdown was the result of working while still being put through the painstaking live shows they apparently did not enjoy. Despite the abuse they were going through they note that there are a few fans in the Steely Dan ranks who consider Countdown to be the best of the Dan recorded catalogue, and they strongly suggest one keep their distance from anyone who holds this view. Reading through the waist deep sarcasm and jokes one can sense a bit of reluctant pride the boys have in this work. They take further fiendish joy in describing the scene of the record company listening party when the suits who were hoping for more hits like "Dirty Work" ended up convinced they had just been handed an album of "weird German art music, or worse."

From my perspective Countdown is a decent album but less fresh and consistent than the debut. It happens to contain two of my least favorite SD tracks which doesn't help, the overblown twaddle of "Bodhisattva" (which I skip every time I play the album) and the obnoxious repetition of "Show Biz Kids" which makes me want to put a nail gun to my head. But some fine early morsels remain. The two which sound like they could come from the debut are "Razor Boy" and the hit "My Old School," both of which contain that precious sense of nostalgia that have an interesting effect on me. Those kinds of SD tracks trigger memories from my own past that seem connected to the songs even though that is logically impossible. It's a testament though to the power of good emotional songwriting skills when an artist can make the listener relate on more than a superficial level. In short, the gift is not just delivering a sweet melody but making the listener actually give a damn about the track. "Razor Boy" just won't leave my head.I hear it in the shower, in the car, and I have to smile. The last track "King of the World" is another highlight of the album. A really spacious, snappy track with wonderful guitar noodlings just around the edges and cool sounding synths accompanying some truly Hunter Thompson-esque lyrical images. Great ending track. The extensive personal liner notes from the boys make every album worth getting if you appreciate their humor. They take you on their journey through each period with great flair and constant laughs. They are great storytellers in addition to their musical talents, they are an American treasure.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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