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Steely Dan - The Royal Scam CD (album) cover


Steely Dan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.76 | 202 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Dan pinnacle, part 1: The Underdog

"I know you're out there, with a rage in your eyes and your megaphones"

In this chapter of the famous Dan liner notes the boys speak of wanting to "redeem themselves" from a general feeling of underachievement. Despite some obvious success they were still wishing to "see our own names written on the stars alongside the greats, the near-greats, and ingrates of jazz, funk, and/or rhythm and blues." They wanted to raise the bar and with "The Royal Scam" they finally made a perfect Steely Dan album. History would reward "Aja" with that title but I think for many Dan-heads it wouldn't necessarily surpass this for pure listening pleasure. After the lackluster "Katy Lied" the boys found here that special blend of jazzy rock and roll that would frame their final three classic period albums. This one is arguably the most "fun" as it still contains some grit and gruffness whereas "Aja" and "Gaucho" would get significantly "dryer" in taste. Every aspect is firing on all cylinders here: expertly-crafted songs, biting lyrics, and phenomenal execution of performance and arrangement. Perhaps the only misfire here is what the Dan themselves note "the most hideous album cover of the 70s, bar none-except perhaps "Can't Buy a Thrill." Well, it is more hideous than their first album cover but nevertheless works with the lyrical content. Musically the Scam is probably my personal favorite of the great Dan catalogue, bubbling with energy and attitude, getting close to the maniacal perfectionism of the next two albums while retaining plenty of rocking fun. "Kid Charlemagne" and "Green Earrings" are two of Steely Dan's finest works, powerful and jazzy especially in the live versions from the "Two Against Nature" DVD. Uptempo, crisp, with a rolling groove is "Kid" accented by the fabulous female vocals. "Earrings" is all glamour and stepping out on the musical town in the baddest duds for martinis and all manner high class debauchery. "Don't Take Me Alive" is one of the Dan's finest radio hits with a great Fagen vocal and excellent lead guitar throughout. "Sign-in Stranger" is another highlight via some funky piano chops and great chugging percussion. "The Fez" is another one of those novelty Dan tracks but this one works and is listenable unlike some earlier ones. The last 3 tracks are not of the same level as the first 6 and this makes the album a tad less consistent that Aja, but worry not-if you are considering a SD purchase, you will not be scammed by this one. In the argument over which Dan album is the finest The Royal Scam may be the underdog but is a contender nonetheless.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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