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


Steely Dan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.54 | 207 ratings

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3 stars Steely Dan's debut album, "Can't Buy a Thrill", was released in 1972, and was the least jazzy of what they would sound like by the end of their career. But there was still that jazz edge to it, and it was still infectious. The public welcomed them well as the album ended up with two enduring hits. The lineup was definitely more that just Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, though they were definitely there, but Fagen also wasn't the only lead singer at the time either. Becker stays on bass on this album and the guitars are handled by Jeff Baxter and Denny Dias. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter was also a regular member, but would later go off and be a Doobie Brother. Sure, there is a lot more history to it all than that, but there really is no need to go over all of that since it has been done many times before.

The album opens with the rollicking hit "Do It Again" featuring Fagen on vocals and that definitive guitar and sitar solo. This is one of those tracks that everyone knows intimately. This was followed by another hit, this time much lesser known, "Dirty Work". Though not as catchy, it is still memorable and sung by session musician David Palmer. "Kings" is a return to the catchy track, but missing that guitar hook. Nevertheless, the track is upbeat and has a great jazzy instrumental break with some dissonance thrown in to prove that this was not just another rock band. The track also uses the trademark backing female vocals that you would hear more often in their later music. "Midnight Cruiser" is a bit more mellow, but with a memorable chorus. Jim Hodder sings lead vocals on this one, but his voice has got the vulnerability that Fagen's does, and so it fits in well. You can definitely hear Fagen in the chorus though. The guitar solo is a bit heavier in this one and also features two guitars. "Only a Fool Would Say That" has a lighter jazz touch to it and sounds similar to their later tracks, especially since Fagen sings lead. The spoken Spanish vocal at the end is done by Baxter.

"Reelin' in the Years" another well-known hit opens side 2. Again, there is the excellent guitar solo played by session musician Elliot Randall that most everyone is familiar with, and a leaning to a more standard rock sound, but an excellent song nonetheless. Again, Fagen does the lead. "Fire in the Hole" has a nice piano led intro and instrumental break with a hard stomp sound to it. This is yet another Fagen led vocal and moves back to a jazz sound with a more complex melody. Baxter is doing the pedal steel guitar here and has his own nice solo on the last break. "Brooklyn" also sees Baxter on the pedal steel but is sung by David Palmer again and has a nice chorus. It is a straightforward, almost country rock sound to it, especially with another steel solo. Palmer also sings lead on "Change of the Guard" which also is a teensy bit heavier with a strong backbeat and a nice dual guitar solo. "Turn that Heartbeat Over Again" closes the album and features Walter Becker helping out both Fagen and Palmer on vocals. It also has a more complex sound to it and mixes rock and jazz nicely.

Though it is a bit different from the later albums, it is still an enjoyable album from Steely Dan in their earliest years. It is a great debut album and shows hints of where the music would eventually lead to. Because it is an enjoyable album, it is tempting to rate it higher than it should be, but I honestly think that it is better than a 3 star album because it is done quite well and showcases the bands talent. Personally, I would give it at least a 4 star rating, but for the purposes of this site, I must consider it 3 stars because it isn't that progressive. So that is the reason for the low rating. But don't let that deter you from obtaining this album.

TCat | 3/5 |


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