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Steely Dan - Can't Buy A Thrill CD (album) cover


Steely Dan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.53 | 186 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars This "group" was built around the songwriter partnership of Fagen & Becker, but it's anything but a real rock group that climbed its way through the garages and clubs. Blessed by record producer Katz, the group was assembled the way the music industry did for years before the rock revolution happened. It's any wonder at all SD was a real group at all, since it was mostly "studio rats" joining forces, much like Toto would in the late 70's. But at this point of release of the aptly-named CBAT (and its very kitsch hooker artwork) , it was still uncertain that this would be a "touring group", until Do It Again and Reelin' In The Years became two huge hits propelling the album up the charts, thus forcing the "group" on the road.

With the two singers/songwriters Fagen on keyboards and Becker on bass, the group has two guitarist, the first being the strident-sounding Skunk Baxter and the other being the more rhythmic Denny Dias, while the drum stool is held by Hodder and main vocalist (at least in the early stages) David Palmer >> not Tull's Dee Palmer) and the "group" invited a myriad of fellow studio rats to accomplish a few more tasks (horn section and extra percussions) on the album.

Of course two huge hits like these (each starting their own album side) just mentioned above can only create healthy to enormous, but this is certainly not SD's best effort, and I dare say that this is probably shared by most fans who happen to be progheads as well. Aside those two much over-played (and over-rated) tracks (the former does have an infectious electric piano line), the album is filled with songs that don't provide much unity. Dirty Work became the third hit of that album and is a catchy tune with a horn-ladden chorus line, while Midnight Cruiser is a good cruiser (but could be a filler as well) with CSN&Y-type harmony vocals, etc.. nothing that is really there to quench our thirst for tricky time sigs and extended interplay. Brooklyn is a horrible country rocker (that's part of the problem with AOR, CR and C&W are never far away) and features horrible lapsteel (remember Howe's sound in GFTO and Tormato?), courtesy of Skunk, who represents that "country" tendency in this group as well as later in the Doobie Brothers. Actually the closing Heartbeat is probably the best thing the proghead will find to sink his teeth into, with those fine jazz arrangements.

For reasons already mentioned, this exactly the type of music industry product that has a certain stench about it, something that was equally bothersome with Toto or Steve Perry's Journey, both that would end sometimes being called "corporate rock", where every aspect of the music is closely calculated for maximizing profits. While SD predates this "industry take-over" by a few years, they were certainly one of the industry's earliest attempt at creating adult-aiming RnR into albums and thus helping the change from Album-Oriented Rock playing in Album-Oriented Radio (once the prog/glam/blues/hard rock wave of the late 60's/early 70's was running out of breath), suddenly changing the radios into Adult Oriented Radio and open to shorter song format. So in a way SD involuntarily played a role against freedom on the airwaves with their distinguished jazz-laden west- coast pop music. So while I respect SD's work for what it is, I never really lose sight that this is mostly a product of the huge control-hungry music industry and therefore it's rather unlikely as I start reviewing this group that I'll managed higher a rating than 3.5. And with this direction-less collection of song, we'll certainly not get close to that max.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |


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