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Steely Dan - Countdown To Ecstasy CD (album) cover

COUNTDOWN TO ECSTASY

Steely Dan

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 119 ratings

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Gorloche
4 stars COUNTDOWN TO ECSTASY is a perplexing album. They went from the somewhat straightforward and in many ways (but less than its detractors may say) CAN'T BUY A THRILL to some very spacious, jazzy and prog-inflected rock tunes. A great deal of this stuff wouldn't be out of place on the more open Zappa albums that are less focused on claustrophobic and highly precise unison runs or controlled freak-outs.

"Bodhisattva" kicks off the album in a rather broad jazz-rock atmosphere and features a beautiful solo section where the two lead guitarists of the group toss lines back and forth with some piano popping in from time to time as well. Meanwhile, the closer "King of the World" always struck me as a prog rock track trapped on this album against its will; it features some very interesting and esoteric melody and harmony decisions, as well as usage of certain effects that distort the sound not unlike how a more controlled (stay with me here) MARS VOLTA might go about things. These two songs set up the two poles of the record and the rest of the tunes move between them with a certain amount of freedom; in many ways, this is a very proggy record due to the amount of songs that are built around generally prog rock ideas about how to combine jazz and rock.

However, it's nagging fault is the degree of subtlety on this record. None of the songs are bad; far from it. The Dan had grown too wise by this point to knowingly place a poor cut on their albums. But the tunes are generally so esoteric, not quite comfortably fitting as rock tunes, jazz tunes, fusion tunes, pop tunes, or prog tunes, but somewhat splitting the difference between all four, shifting in unkind ways at inopportune moments in order to keep you off your feet. This is a strength in the way that it gives depth to the songs, but it also provides a barrier that even several mighty prog listeners, we who are accustomed to listening to records sometimes up to 10 spins before clicking with it, can be put off by. Even still, the quantum leap in song-writing acumen and the sonic depth of this record make it 4 stars, easy. I can't imagine a prog fan not enjoying this.

Gorloche | 4/5 |

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