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Steely Dan - Katy Lied CD (album) cover


Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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4 stars There are two bands in the entire music history that can influence my mood in a positive way as soon as I play one of their albums. And those are Santana and this great and special band Steely Dan. It's also the great strength of Steely Dan to bring out a very special atmosphere in their music, that's why I love the band.

And this album Katy Lied is a very good example of such an album. After the two first tracks I'm always in the fine mood I'm talking about and I feel that's a huge quality. Black Friday is a great rocking song, one of the few they made in this style but also one of their best songs ever. The second is Bad Sneakers, a little jewel I always loved so far and will love forever. This is one of those songs that touches heart and soul, I don't know why, it's not about the lyrics, it's simply the composition, it's so special.

Downside of the fact that the first two songs are ones favourites is that the rest of the album is almost a disappointment but that is not quite fair because a few other songs are very nice as well, especially Doctor Wu (in fact the title track because the words Katy Lied are sung frequently) and also Rose Darling and Everyone's gone to the movies. The other tracks are somewhat less but still ok.

So that means not really an equable album but all in all I think 4 stars is a fair result although slightly rounded up.

Report this review (#180855)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars What do you get when you combine the talents of two neo-intellectual songwriters with a penchant for jazz as well as an affinity for expensive German microphones, and you assemble them with a roster of all star studio musicians including Hal Blaine and Michael McDonald? You get Katy Lied, Steely Dan's fourth studio album. With the considerable talents of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker leading the way through a set of songs which feature their trademark tongue-in-cheek approach to lyric writing, their heavily jazz- influenced tune smithing, and rock solid performances by the legendary roster of studio pros, Katy Lied is indeed a classic, and among Dan fans is arguably their best work.

The first thing one notices when listening to Katy Lied is how unassuming the overall sound is. It doesn't really sound all that complex for a Steely Dan album, although it is replete with the requisite Steely Dan jazz influence and killer guitar solos courtesy of Denny Dias, Elliott Randall, Larry Carlton, and Rick Derringer. However, thanks to the sonic perfectionism of Fagen & Becker and the effortless performances of the studio musicians, the listener is only fooled into believing that he or she is listening to standard FM rock faire. With more careful listening, one discovers why this album was one of the finest of the 1970's.

The late Jeff Porcaro's masterful shuffle groove, jazz harmony vocals that would make the Manhattan Transfer blush, and the dark comedy of the tale of financial ruin make the lead-off track, Black Friday, a gem of a tune and a fitting opener to this classic album. Another gem follows with Bad Sneakers and its saracastic lyrical nod to the original Steely Dan lineup. Other standout tracks include the additional dark comedy of Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More, the sensational cryptic tale of drug addiction, Dr Wu, and the raw emotion of the introspective Any World (That I'm Welcome to).

While the ensuing Steely Dan albums from Royal Scam to Gaucho are perhaps a little more progressive sounding with a bit more jazz, more lyrical wit, and even more killer guitar work, there is something truly magical about how it all comes together on Katy Lied. Add to that the near-perfect sonics, and you have a truly amazing audio experience. For fans of progressive music, it receives the highest of recommendations.

Report this review (#180871)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Katy Lied" is extremely significant in the evolution of Steely Dan. It's the first album to be created after Donald Fagen and Walter Becker jettisoned the traditional band concept in order to become the ongoing two-man research and development department at their very own private recording studio laboratory. No longer limited to relying solely on the talents of other members of a set group, they now had the revolutionary freedom to pick and choose for each individual song the talented session musicians they considered best able to translate their compositional ideas onto tape. Don & Walt were also continuing to meticulously mold and refine their own unique style, one that separated them from every other artistic endeavor on the planet then and now. Whereas most of the pioneers of the Jazz Rock/Fusion movement were jazzmen intent on bringing a hard rock mentality into their realm, Steely Dan was doing the opposite. They were primarily a rock & roll outfit intending to boldly season their tunes with flavor-packed dashes of contemporary jazz, both classic and modern. The result is progressive music that sounds like no other.

Case in point. "Black Friday" begins with a percolating Rhodes piano rising stealthily up from the shadows, soon to be yoked to the young drum whiz Jeff Porcaro as he lays down a solid, driving foundation for them to build this rocker on. The boastful protagonist has, for vengeful reasons known only to him, somehow schemed to cause the company he works for to go belly-up in spectacular fashion. "When Black Friday comes/I'll collect everything I'm owed/and before my friends find out/I'll be on the road." Fagen chortles gleefully. The hot guitar that bulldozes through the number is deliciously brash and dirty and the solo is a scorcher. One of the many charms of this album is their use of no less than seven different axe men (see credits) to achieve their uncompromising goals, so trying to determine who played what and when can be a challenge unto itself. On the surface this fiery cut may seem to be no more than a standard bluesy rock song but when the chorus hits the whole complexion of the track changes. It's a great opener, that's for sure.

The excellent "Bad Sneakers" is next and it has a smooth, jazzy groove to flow in. The faux sitar effect is graciously subdued in the mix and Michael McDonald's unmistakable voice in the harmonies adds a fresh timbre to the surroundings. The tune's point of view comes from a poor individual who is in the frightening process of losing his marbles. ".I'm going insane/and I'm laughing at the frozen rain/and I'm so alone/Honey, when they gonna send me home?" he pleads. The guitar ride is exquisite. On "Rose Darling" Donald's voice is a bit Dylan-like in its delivery of double-entendre words that I interpret to be an ode to self-stimulation. Giving himself a hand he sings "All I ask of you/is make my wildest dreams come true/no one sees and no one knows." So much for subtlety, boys. The inventive chord structure and strong, cascading chorale make it work. "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" is a blend of R&B and 50s rock and roll spread over an easy, infectious rhythm. The street- level lyrics describe a con man that has either gone on the lam or now swims with the fishes. "Driving like a fool out to Hackensack/drinking his dinner from a paper sack/he says I gotta see a joker/and I'll be right back." Or maybe not.

The apex of the album follows and it is pure, hypnotic magic. Starting with enticing hints of the mystical aura that is to resurface years later on the "Aja" album, "Doctor Wu" is simply fantastic in its brilliant blend of expert arranging, use of melody and inspired individual performances. Fagen's vocal has just enough wistful sadness to draw you into the world of a drug addict desperately in love with his narcotic and actually have you feel sorry for the sap. "Don't seem right/I've been strung out here all night/I've been waiting for the taste/you said you'd bring to me," he moans, "Katy lies/you could see it in her eyes/but imagine my surprise/when I saw you." The song is poetry in motion and when saxophone legend Phil Woods leans into his instrument and pours out his passionate notes the whole thing ascends into the clear blue ether. You don't want it to end. Nothing could comfortably follow that masterpiece so the light, Caribbean samba of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" fits into this spot as well as any could. The dark side of this duo loves perverts and this ditty about a guy who gets his jollies showing skin flicks to unsuspecting youngsters is right up their demented alley. It's a decent casserole of sax, vibraphone and Latin percussion and includes a spicy Rhodes piano break.

For die-hard proggers the waltzing "Your Gold Teeth II" (the amazing first part is found on the "Countdown to Ecstasy" album) may represent the highlight of the proceedings. Piano, vibes and synthesizer color the cool intro and the tune sports a contagious modern jazz atmosphere that is undeniably intelligent. I have no idea what the song is about but the full chorus of "Throw out your gold teeth/and see how they roll/the answer they reveal/life is unreal" is very effective, the slinky guitar solo is engaging and Porcaro dazzles on the drumkit. The slow, bluesy swagger of "Chain Lightning" makes the listener feel as if he's perched on a barstool in a smoky nightclub, sipping on whiskey and smoking Lucky Strikes. Donald croons "don't bother to understand." and I'll take him at his word. Guest Rick Derringer spits out a defiant, spontaneous guitar ride that completes the scene.

The low point arrives with "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" in that it is too straightforward pop for my tastes and offers nothing in the way of surprises. For a long time I didn't think much of the album ender, "Throw Back the Little Ones," but that's because I wasn't really paying attention. It has numerous changes of styles and rhythms coming one after another that fascinate and the abstract lyric content ("Lost in the Barrio/I walk like an Injun/so Carlo won't suspect/something's wrong here.") just adds to the Zen of its oddness. The horn section's brief spasm that appears right after the guitar ride is downright Zappa-ish and the bizarre piano run at the end will make you cock your head like the old RCA dog sitting in front of the newfangled gramophone.

I was so glad to get the reissue a while back because my vinyl copy suffered from thin, lifeless sound and the remastering job done for the CD went a long way in correcting that tragic flaw. (The technical gremlin attacks that bedeviled the recording of "Katy Lied" live in infamy. Donald and Walter were so traumatized by the experience that they refuse to discuss it to this day but you can check out Denny Dias's retelling of that unbelievable horror story on the SD website.) Having escaped the rat's maze of the spirit-breaking, record-tour-record-tour routine the labels demanded of their contracted property in those days, Steely Dan was at this point blazing their own trail and playing by their own rules. This album is not your typical combination of jazz and rock. It's not typical at all. In fact, it's more about progressive songwriting than anything else and that's an area that I've always thought to be underappreciated in the prog world. Give it a spin.

Report this review (#181062)
Posted Friday, August 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Session musicians aplenty on Katy Lied, this their fourth studio album and a noticeable positive progression on it's predecessor. Black Friday gets the album off to a rollicking start, lyrically it sounds like Fagen and Becker are taking a stab at the record moguls. Bad Sneakers is a great follow up probably the most commercial on the album. The album as a whole has more continuity and feel to it than Pretzel Logic. Doctor Wu is another great song with it's insistent chorus Can You hear me Doctor repeating ad fade..The most progressive sounding track Your Gold Teeth part II is also the longest at a whopping 4:12 but it is a great song nevertheless. This album is probably the hardest of all Steely Dan releases to categorise. Whilst it's flow is lot smoother, it is still a very difficult album to try and put a label to. Is it more jazz than rock and visa versa? Yes it does have some progressive elements but they are well disguised in the mix. It is a short album under 35 minutes but for 1975 a vintage release for sure. I have to say also without undertaking any detective work the cover has baffled me all of these years to. An excellent addition to your collection.
Report this review (#181111)
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars *Steely Dan Act IV: The Artist emerges from the cocoon...fully changed*

'Starting with Katy Lied, I simply accepted that, since EVERYTHING they had done to date had been outstanding, it was likely that this new thing was outstanding, too. I also knew that I would probably have to spend some time with it, before I would really get it. If things didn't sound quite right at first, I knew it was my problem...and that they would, in time, sound perfect.'

a random internet fan of Steely Dan.

'Machines 10, Humans Nil' - Walter Becker

Picking up where we left off with Pretzel Logic. With the new album in the can ABC sent the road weary band back on the road to support Pretzel Logic with another tour. This tour featured some important faces that would come to help to define Steely Dan's signature.. and very unique sound. Michael McDonald was enlisted as a background singer and Jeff Porcaro, not scared off by the noose in the barn stayed with the group. The tour, musically, was a fabulous success but it was the final straw for Becker and Fagen and after a July 4th 1974 show in Santa Monica Steely Dan folded up shop and 'broke up' as a band. Becker and Fagen found themselves back in LA with no band, no manager, no plans. After some soul searching ABC Records head Jay Lasker was approached with the idea to bring Steely Dan back to life, not as a touring band, but as a studio only outfit. Though skeptical about whether their careers would survive, he gave them his blessing and Becker and Fagen retired to their new home at ABC studios on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Once again in an unused office at the studio with only a couch, a piano, and a lamp they worked away on new songs. Steely Dan the band was dead. Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter was off to join the Doobies. Denny Dias was around and hanging around the studio and would be the only original group member to contribute to the album. Porcaro was off playing with Sonny and Cher but was brought back to play on all the new songs but one. In place of a working band Steely Dan recruited some familiar faces from past albums to play on their new songs and slowly, but happily spend the rest of the year perfecting their new songs and earning the reputation as task masters who demanded perfection from every performance. Repeating take after take till everything sounded perfect to them, as I said in an earlier review... till not a note was out of place. The album was released in March of 1975 and again was a critical success with rav reviews from the musical press. Commercially the album was again a disappointment to ABC though the album did well reaching #13 on the charts. No singles managed to dent the charts. Black Friday was the closest thing to a hit but only made it to #37 on the charts. The album is sort of a sore subject to Becker and Fagen who did not listen to the album in final form because of sonic imperfections in the recording due to a faulty machine. To this day... no credible account has come from anyone as to where these imperfections are. If you know them... again.. PM me.. I'd love to know. To these ears is a perfectly produced album. Oh yes before the review of the album itself... there is the subject of the cover. The insect on the cover is a katydid from the family Tettigoniidae, an insect more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers. The album cover was a picture that Fagen's girlfriend Dorthy White took and loved, so it was used as the album cover. The album's title was a joke based on a play of words. 'Katy lied? Katy did.' Personally it is my favorite album cover from them

The album kicks off which a beast of a cut. The fabulous Black Friday. Jeff Porcaro's crisp brisk drumming leads the 3 headed musical monster through a tale of a stock speculator who retires to Australia with his ill-gotten booty before the market crash of 1929. David Paich and Michael Omartian duel on electric piano and the brand new Bosendorfer piano bought just for the album respectively. While Walter Becker leaves the bass duties in the master Chuck Rainey's hands and delivers a blistering guitar solo. Fagen's vocals here are strengthened by the UNMISTAKABLE vocals of Michael McDonald in the songs chorus sections. A great.. great album opener. Bad Sneakers is next up. A song about the unease of living in LA and away from their native New York City. Listen carefully to the guitar solo by again Walter Becker. It reportedly was painstakingly the rate a bar an HOUR. The stand out part of the perfect piece of music by Steely Dan are Michael McDonald's soulful vocals in unison with Fagen's. Rose Darling is next up the opening line is a line that I swear I can not sing without having a smile on my face. Another song whose cryptic meaning is completely unknown to me. I think it is vaguely sexual though. Anyone know who or what Snake Mary is supposed to be hahhaa. A bright preppy tune with Omartian's piano being the star of this. Next up....ooooohhhhh... if I had to pick ONE.. only one Steely Dan song that I would only be to listen to for the rest of my life... it would be this one, Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More. The intro with Porcaro's half step snare and cymbal crash entry behind Becker's guitar just hooked me from the first listen. Stinging guitar licks galore with Fagen's snearing voice relating the tale of a broken down wiseguy. Something I noticed about Steely Dan.. more since their addition that is, I been looking even more closely at their musical structures. They often use interesting twists on song structure. The longest song on the album is just over 4 minutes. But few of these songs fit traditional song structure. Daddy Don't Live in New York City is yet another example. The song consists of 7 verse sections with the odd one.. the 5th serving as the instrumental break if you will in conjunction with a few bars of guitar. The organ leads the lead into the 2nd, 4th 5th, and 7th verses are just that perfect sonic touch that make sounds special to us. Where someone who hears this song may think.. yeah.. great song .. one of MANY great songs. That intro.. those organ leads are just the little things that make the song for me the Steely Dan song that encapsulates everything I love in the group. Doctor Wu closes the first side of the album.. maybe one of the most analyzed song in the Steely Dan catalog. Often reported to be about Heroin abuse and the tale of a love triangle between with Doctor Wu (heroin) the singer and Katy. The music is another heavily jazz influenced composition with a laid back vibe with the piano leading the melody. The saxophone solo here by Phil Woods is a classic Steely Dan moment. One of the real high-lights of Steely Dan. A classic song.. one that I heard on the radio not long after getting into them.. and led me directly to this album. Which in tern led me to becoming a life long fan of the group.

Side two opens with Everyone gone to Movies. The most depraved song you will ever hear that will have you tapping your toes and smiling as you sing. Such a happy sounding song. I giggle how many people laugh and sing along to the song not knowing.. or realizing the song about Pedophilia hahhaha. What genius's they were. The joke was on those who bought into them.. but didn't realize what they were getting into. A nice Caribbean tinged song with great harmony work in the chorus sections. Your Gold Teeth II is up next. One of real progressive workouts on the album, at a mammoth 4 minutes and change. Listen to Porcaro's drumming on this. Don't think he hadn't been listening and learning from the jazz masters. Sources are unclear on who plays the fabulous guitar solo on this.. but it might be Denny Dias. Which makes sense.. being such a jazz freak as he was. Like we like to say about Crossover prog.. this is prog any fan could love.. packaged in an easy to digest form that those who would turn up their noses at what was traditional labeled prog would love. Letter perfect. Some take 18 minutes to say what they want to say.... Steely Dan did it in 4:14. Chain Lightning is up next. Much like Pretzel Logic on the last album.. a fling with traditional blues structure. Yet ... have you ever looked at the lyrics. A shout out to who PM's me and figures out what they are referring to. They are not ambiguous... just not exactly pop related subject matter. Definitely not in a 'blues' jam. Jeff Porcaro steps out from behind the kit on the next one. Any World (that I'm welcome to) and in steps drum legend Hal Blaine. Great drumming and the lyrics really hit home as to state of the world we live in. As appropriate now as they must have been then. The album closes with a song I wanted to have as a sample here, but as of now hasn't been loaded onto the site. Another song that traditional prog fans will immediately identify with. The outro section in the song is one of my favorite moments of the song. Odd time signatures shifting meters.. and odd instrumentation. A great way to close a truly great album.

Rating the album. Another hard one to rate. Start to finish this is Steely Dan's best album so far with not ONE weak moment on it. Moments of overt prog bliss... and lots more of a more subtle nature. The album is beyond all doubt my favorite from the group and in my top 10 albums ever. This album.. and Porcaro's drumming led be to try my hand at drumming and on one memorable night to hand off my bass and sit behind the kit and sing and drum to my band's cover of Daddy don't Live in that New York City. A moment I'll never ever forget. For me 5 stars plus.. an album I'll be buried with. For the site.. 4 stars.. for you.. the best is yet to come as the jazz influences become less subtle and more overt. For me.. they equaled.. but never topped this album.

Michael (aka the big Mick)

Report this review (#182457)
Posted Sunday, September 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Almost Good?"

"I went searching for the song you used to sing to me."

Steely Dan's fourth album is the weakest of their classic 7, trapped between the authentic character of the first three and the class of the latter three. On this one they sound positively uninspired to me and most of the tracks very close to boring for the progressive listener. Our lads jokingly give this installment of their history "Almost Good" in their liner notes but it was no joke. After coming off their last tour disgusted and disillusioned with road life they decided to ditch the band and manager and morph into the Steely Dan as we would come to know them. Only one member of their earlier band remained (Dias) as they decided to recruit outside musicians to work their songs. And so "Katy Lied" would be the beginning of the journey that would yield three killer albums soon enough, but this one must have been the dry run, the practice session, the pre-season.pick your cliché. I won't call it a bad album but rather the "least impressive" and the one to get last (and thus the fans only rating). The big exception is the exquisite "Doctor Wu" which even more than "Rikki" on the preceding album showcases the soon-to-be masters of the smooth. It absolutely has that maturity that makes it sound like an "Aja" outtake, great lyrics, and a cool sax solo by Phil Woods. It is the brightest spot by far and if you love Doctor Wu, you haven't lived until you've heard it performed by the legendary Minutemen. But too many tracks involve a relatively static and predictable trot through the verse section leading to some pretty unmemorable payoffs in the choruses. Individual performances can be impressive, such as the masterfully restrained drumming and delicate piano on "Your Gold Teeth II", the second best track. And of course there are many excellent lead guitar drops sprinkled throughout the album. You can't argue with the Dan chops but I'll definitely argue that this album did lack the vigor and oomph in too many tracks. The good news is that it was all uphill from here. On their next release the Dan would deliver a stand-up triple.

Report this review (#185524)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

After the break up of the group (first started by Skunk's defection to Doobie Brother's infection, prior to PL's release), the group collapsed, but the masterminds stayed together as a team, vouching to become a studio band (which is what they were anyway) and never to tour again (until the 90's I think), but everything was to be rebuilt as they had no manager (probably wouldn't need one) but still a label that gave them the go-ahead under the duo's diktats. So heading back to the studio with a fill of song, they called up old acquaintances from previous album and started recording the tracks. The album came out with a very ugly insect artwork (and stupid title) and sold quite well, but there was no single and apparently the duo were extremely displeased with the album's sound, but my take is that the batch of songs was not up to par with the albums to come and the CTE album. It seems to follow up on PL's idea of having a bunch of really short songs, the longest is a reprise of Your Gold Teeth from their Countdown, and it is barely above 4 minutes all in normal usual song verse-chorus format or close enough that we don't see the difference, and those usual hate-worthy chorus lines.

Apart from a fairly lively Black Friday (the failed hit single about that '29 crisis) with good double piano play and Becker's good lead guitar, the album is a slow boring suite of songs. If Bad Sneakers is not yet catastrophic, it does sounds uninspired (excepted for the lead guitar breaks, when they come around), but Rose Darling (and its sexual antics), Daddy (upbeat and guitar-friendly but ultimately boring) and Doctor Wu (this is as close to a title track as you'll get here, with the opening Kati tried lyrics) with its unwelcome sole sax solo >> don't you hate when an instrument is popped up from nowhere, brought up to the forefront for one single solo and never heard again on the album??? For me this is an example of poor song writing that plagued the second part of the 70's. That and Michael McDonald vocals on choirs. No wonder the Doobies went stale when first Skunk Baxter than McDonald joined them.

The uneasy lyrics of Gone To The Movies are only part of the creepy groove that SD install (excellent drumming and percussions) from the start makes it an highlight. The second instalment of Your Gold Teeth (from Countdown) fails to match its predecessor, yet it is a peak in this album, precisely because it's the jazziest of all their tracks on the album. The album closes on the seriously uninspired blues Chain Lighting (ciggies of course) with Derringer's solo in the middle, the boring filler (and bored itself) Any World, the seam-less Little Ones, which punctuates the album's lack of plot and consistency.

Certainly not much an improvement on Pretzel or Thrill, Kati might just be the "group's" low point in their "studio-only years", mostly due to indeed relatively flat production and recording, but also relatively weak songwriting (by SD standards); but let it be known that a bad SD album is still a good album, because of the usual Dan-esque subtleties sprawled over the album.

Report this review (#186650)
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Katy Lied is the fourth full length studio album from US Pop/ Rock act Steely Dan. Katy Lied continues the sophisticated Pop/ Rock style of its predecessor Pretzel Logic but fails to deliver anything as exciting as the jazzy approach they had on their second album Countdown to Ecstasy.

The music is unmistakably Steely Dan from the moment the opening song Black Friday starts. Sophisticated and cleverly arranged, cool and laidback pop/ rock. All songs are of high compositional quality but they are not very challenging for the conventional proghead as they all follow the vers/ chorus formula. There is a special mood in Steely Dan´s music and that mood is of course present here too. Warm and pleasant music that you put on when you need to relax and not think too much. It´s still sophisticated enough to partially entertain me though.

The biggest assets on Katy Lied are the excellent musicianship and the high quality compositions.

The production from Gary Katz is warm and pleasant. Really professional and well sounding.

I can´t say I´m too impressed with Katy Lied when it comes to me liking the songs ( they are good but not excellent), but when it comes to an objective view on the qualities of this album I´ll have to rate it 3 stars ( a big 2 star rating rounded up). Simply because it´s very few artists who are able to write music like this. Steely Dan could do so much better though which they proved on Countdown to Ecstasy but have chosen a more commercial approach on the last two albums ( Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied) instead. I sure hope they will get back on track on subsequent albums because I´m starting to question their place here on PA.

Report this review (#188588)
Posted Monday, November 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Typical Steely Dan, perfect sound, golden melodies, well balanced music. If you like other Stely Dan albums, you will like that one as well.

So, what the diffrence we can find there ( in comparence with earlier works? I think main difference is "Katy Lied" is more rock songs album ( in sense of Steely Dan, for sure). You hear more structurised soft-rock songs and less jazzy arrangements, it's for sure. For me the result is not bad at all. Yes, I like jazzy clothes of Steely Dan songs, but there you can see another side of their music, and it side is realy nice.

I can recommend this SD album for those who prefer more rock sound against jazzy arrangements. All in all, very strong and beautiful album.

Report this review (#235135)
Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hey, I grew up with this album. Some of my favorite songs are here. Such as "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More". "He Don't Get tight every night, pass out in that bar-room floor" (I cant stop singing it, sorry) "Rose Darling" (rose darling). "When Black Friday Comes", I'm gonna dig myself a hooooole. WHAT COULD BE BETTER IN A SD ALBUM (What the f^%$ I have white powder all over my jeans and it's not the stuff that your'e thinkin') O.K......O.K. Katy Lied............................."I Was On THE other side of NO tomorrow" You walked in and my life began again THIS ALBUM ALONG WITH "THE ROYAL SCAM" is the (shall i say) the best that "THE DAN OF STEELITH" can bring you. Go ahead, go to "AJA", but this is where i grew up, in the heart of '"Doctor Wu" and everyone's gone to the movies now we're alone at LAST

Seriously, Jeff Paccaro on drums and Roger Nichols producing... Like They Say, The Best Steely Dan Album, Ever

Report this review (#251128)
Posted Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Matthew T
4 stars With a bizzare mention of the recording equipment used on the session on the back cover of Katy Lied, rumour was the two main men of the band were not happy with the finished product. I was and still am today. This may not be the best album from the band but neither is this a poor effort as this album contains the songs Black Friday, Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More,Doctor Wu,Chain Lightning and Bad Sneakers. Not a bad list and there are even some more worth a mention but as the backing band had basically fractured with the departure of all the members bar Denny Dias. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were needing more musicians,. Victor Feldman returns on vibes, Jeff Porcaro who was a session musician on Pretzel Logic gets the main role on drums this time around, Rick Derringer makes an appearance and Phil Woods does a lovely little sax solo as a giant of Jazz will come along and contribute one on Aja the 2nd album to follow.The list is almost endless as it was for the previous album Pretzel Logic but even through all these issues the quality remains.

Released in 1975 on the ABC record label and Black Friday is the tune that leads us in with its gradual build up in volume at the intro and we are off with one great rock tune with Australiana all over it and of course is one of my favourites from the record ( Black Friday was a Huge Bush Fire Disaster in 1939 which unfotunately has been long eclipsed by others ) Bad Sneakers follows on and one great Denny Dias guitar solo is one of the tunes best moments.Rose Darling follows is quite a nice pop/rock combo. Daddy Don't Live In That New York is one great funk tune which is the 4th track but the following song Doctor Wu with Phil Woods providing the sax is a high point from the record which unfortunately does not seem to carry on with side 2 but although there is not a bad one the last two tracks from side 2 do not seem to do it.Chain Lighting would be the best with your Gold Teeth II

A transitional album perhaps but only in band but not the two core members were still writing all the material and following their own path into contempary music history. A great record from a great time.

Jeff Skunk Baxter and Mike McDonald did not land on the scrap heap they joined The Doobie Brothers and sold many a record with them.

Report this review (#262215)
Posted Saturday, January 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars While definitely not a bad collection of songs, this just isn't an excellent album- it's rather faceless, really, especially during the second half. The Steely Dan sound is there, but the overall delivery isn't. Some up-and-comers work on this album, most notably Michael McDonald on vocals, and the late Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. I enjoy the album okay, but just barely.

"Black Friday" This song reminds me of Joe Walsh for many reasons, not the least of which are the gritty lead guitar solos and the inflection of the vocalist. "Black Friday" is a fun, jaunty song.

"Bad Sneakers" One of my favorite songs from Steely Dan (and there are a few of those, I'll admit, despite not really considering myself a fan of the duo), it just begs for the listener to sing along to, and the guitar solo is one of their best.

"Rose Darling" After a stunning introduction, the music takes on an upbeat, almost theatrical musical quality. As is not unusual for Steely Dan, the vocal harmonies are quite strong, and not used in excess.

"Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" Incorporating traditional funk music with a granular and at times psychedelic sound, this is a decent track. While I like the urban poetry of the lyrics, I don't really think the fluttering of the lead guitar is congruent here.

"Doctor Wu" The source of the album title, this song has a nice bunch of memorable parts. The saxophone is a great addition, if mixed to be a bit too loud.

"Everyone's Gone to the Movies" Like many Steely Dan songs, this one boasts a dark, heinous theme behind a big smile, bright sounds, and a major key. The lyrics involve a child molester who shows pornographic movies to kids, but if the listener were just bobbing his head along to the music, this would easily go unnoticed due to pleasant, punchy sounds.

"Your Gold Teeth II" Perhaps the most progressive song on the album, and not just because of the instrumentation and arrangement in the beginning, but because of how it rolls as a whole. It has both a pleasant and virtuosic jazz guitar solo and a gentle bit of drumming to break it up.

"Chain Lightning" A nice blues song, this doesn't really have much of the pizzazz of some of the other songs on this album- faceless, but not bad.

"Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" Like the previous song, this has a pleasant melody and theme, but is just a decent pop song and nothing more.

"Throw Back the Little Ones" This makes use of tempo and stylistic changes, from old hard R&B to suddenly easy listening bits. Unless the hearer is already accustomed to and likes this song, it is a bit difficult and somewhat unrewarding to follow.

Report this review (#273589)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my favorite Steely Dan album. However, as I did with Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses", I gave it a mere four stars because I don't feel it is an ample demonstration of what "progressive" music is. These are a collection of immaculately-written, immaculately-performed, stinging, satirical, sarcastic compositions. There really aren't enough stars in the world to describe how I PERSONALLY feel about this record, a mainstay in my Top 5; but your progressive rock music collection will be fine without its inclusion.

However, it can only benefit from its inclusion. "Black Friday" is a blistering bit of almost-social commentary, featuring great guitar workouts from Walter Becker; "Bad Sneakers" is a tasty pop tune with a mourning and pensive solo by, I believe, Larry Carlton, "Rose Darling" is about hiding an affair and it rules, "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" is a nasty number whose intentions are as impure as any the Dan ever concocted, "Dr. Wu" is one of those songs to journey off on a country road to and is, to me, the funnest song in their entire catalog to interpret. My own judgment tells me the protagonist has gone to a psychologist, Dr. Wu, to examine his relationship with Katy. Rather than helping the patient, Wu absconds off somewhere with Katy and leaves the protagonist to contemplate his relationship with both parties.

The second side of the album is just a bit weaker. "Your Gold Teeth II" and the Caribbean-tinged jangly "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" are by no means bad songs, but they don't hold up to the quality of the rest of the album. "Chain Lightning" is a groovy blues number, but the album thankfully closes as strong as it began with the album's strongest and most personally-identifiable hook in "Any World That I'm Welcome To" and the brilliant "Throw Back the Little Ones", one of those songs whose lyrics are fun for their own sake. You'd probably be disappointed if you found out what they're actually supposed to mean, if they're actually supposed to mean anything.

A great, great album. George Starostin described it as "A dangerous, yet strangely peaceful record - then again, be warned, as 'peaceful' often alternates with 'boring'." I don't much agree with him after the hyphen, but the first part of it hits the nail right about on the head. The album is dangerous, perhaps their most dangerous, in fact, and Steely Dan have always been a slightly dangerous band. This aspect of them is lost on many people, but they can really say some unnerving things if you're bothering to listen closely, and nowhere is that side of Dan more prominent than on Katy Lied.

Report this review (#293074)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars What got into Steely Dan with Katy Lied? Or perhaps more appropriately, what inspiration failed to get into Fagen and Becker with this album?

I'm not usually one to promote Greatest Hits compilations--and I'm not recommending it for Steely Dan either, by any means--but albums like this one pro against many cons regarding why a compilation disk may be a good idea.

What we have here is one great song--the cool, shuffle rocker Black Friday, featuring some killer guitar licks and genuine energy--and another definite keeper, the charming and catchy Bad Sneakers. After these openers, there's really little reason to listen further, as none--that's right, not even ONE!--contains a tempo, attitude, or energy that I would consider to be rock. At this point, Steely Dan have been making a definite downward trend, and I would dare even call them underachievers in the aftermath of Katy Lied.

So, familiarize yourself with Black Friday and Bad Sneakers in any way you see fit, and my recommendation for the rest of Katy Lied would be this: Move along folks--nothing to see here!

Report this review (#318119)
Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars If PRETZEL LOGIC was built out of a kind of post-Watergate rage and confusion, then KATY LIED is built from what feels at least initially as a kind of elegiac sadness. Imagine an album structured after the fantastic "Charlie Freak" from their previous album and you get the idea. Not that anger doesn't appear; the opener "Black Friday" is one of the fiercest tunes STEELY DAN ever laid to tape, having a rough-and-tumble throbbing propulsive (okay, that's enough adjectives) rhythm to it, with distorted or overdriven guitars and dark, echoed vocals. But the rest, from "Rose Darling" to "Your Gold Teeth II" to "Any World" bleed a kind of sadness and perversion. Not a sexual perversion; perhaps dementia would be a better way to describe it. You can hear a combination of hope and pain in these songs that would gestate into the kind of blistering (for Steely Dan, anyway) rage of THE ROYAL SCAM.

For a long time, this was my favorite album by Steely Dan. This was primarily due to the dense atmosphere conjured on this album, rife with a kind of sadness and hazy heavy-heartedness that appealed to me. I think, looking back on this album, that these elements are what make this album interesting in the face of both Steely Dan's other records and fusion in general. In fact, it may be best to generalize this outward to Steely Dan's output in general; while a great deal of fusion was built around an admittedly somewhat masturbatory approach to exploring texture (and don't get me wrong; I own my fair share of fusion records and it is a big musical inspiration for me), Steely Dan was focused on writing songs. And with that territory, of songs versus instrumental pieces, there comes a focus on building mood, development of mood, and all of these other things that are part-and-parcel with pop songwriting. It grounds their musical excursions and those of their guests in a way that I think is somewhat alien to a lot of listeners of this type of music and is perhaps why they were held back from the archives for so long; while other bands free up their sonics to explore anything that may fit the moment, Steely Dan stayed true to the emotional intent of the piece, keeping them relatively unadventurous internally, even if no other group sounds like them.

That having been said, there is a kind of... disconnection here, for lack of a better word. These songs are perhaps not as polished as I would have liked, which is ironic given their record. And there is certainly an amount of roughness or directness missing from the mix which I think hurts these tunes. But overall, it is still a wonderful album. Four stars.

Report this review (#415019)
Posted Sunday, March 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Katy Lied ? 1975 (3.2/5) 11 ? Best Song: Doctor Wu

If ever an album were to be considered 'quintessential Dan', then this'll be Katy Lied's legacy. Where Can't Buy a Thrill had all the good in the band and Countdown to Ecstasy had all the bad (what a range!), and Pretzel logic was the systematic concision, meshing, and condensing of both toward a more commercial product, then Katy Lied is the band's melting pot of all the influences. There's the blistering jazz rock on track one, the soothing, twisted guitar minimalism driven soft rock of track two, and the whole thing's at least got to be some of the most well-produced music in all of the 1970's. It's clear, clean, and definitely crystallized as to garner that mass appeal. The guitar's a little more prominent this time around, too. They've got a handle on diverse jamming, don't they? Even if half the songs sound very similar (more on account of the band's centralized vision than any serious lack of diversity), the funk of 'Daddy Don't Live In That' is quite the treat. It's as much a collection of influences as it's a sequel to Pretzel Logic, as well. They're still not branching out, instead taking the more commercial route. I've got no problem with that, some of the songs are amazing, but only in ways the band's tread before. The professional revolving door trade-off soloing is still exciting, but no longer so fresh. They've taken a closer step toward fancy elevator music, excellent fancy elevator music.

Report this review (#440488)
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Of their first six albums this is my least favourite. I think the bottom line is that it just doesn't have much in the way of good songs. Of course i'm comparing it to the other five and for me it doesn't measure up them.The album cover is brilliant in connection with the title of this work. "Black Friday" sounds dated to me, you know like the music on AM radio in the mid seventies dated. It's catchy and the guitar is prominant but... "Bad Sneakers" is a laid back tune with both the piano and vocals standing out. A pretty good chorus on this one. Michael McDonald helps with backing vocals at 1 1/2 minutes and a minute later. A guitar solo in this one too. 'Rose Darling" is probably a top three for me. It's fairly uptempo with the focus on the vocals.Good song. "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" is a bluesy song but i'm not a fan. "Doctor Wu" is mostly drums and piano early as the vocals join in. Sax after 1 1/2 minutes. "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" has an "island" flavour to it.The chorus is catchy. It's an okay track. "Your Gold Teeth II" is my favourite song on here by far. A taste of "Countdown To Ecstacy". Just a great sounding jazzy tune. "Chain Lightning" has bluesy guitar leads and is a toe tapper. "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" is the other top three track for me. I really like the mood of this one. "Throw Back The Little Ones" has some interesting vocals with lots of piano. Nice guitar solo 1 1/2 minutes in. I just can't get enthusiastic about this album but it's worth 3 stars.
Report this review (#447439)
Posted Friday, May 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perfectly produced and beautifully performed pop jazz-rock, with razor-sharp lyrics and finely- polished compositions from the warped minds of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen: that's what you want when you hear a Steely Dan album, and that's what Katy Lied delivers in spades. From the suddenly topical again stock market ditty of Black Friday to the nostalgic and emotionally loaded Doctor Wu, Becker and Fagen prove once again that they are the masters of studio craftsmanship. Sure, it means a bit towards unfashionable soft rock (or "yacht rock", as the cool kids are calling it these days), but when it's performed this well and sounds this good I certainly don't care.
Report this review (#541073)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I may be in the minority of PA reviewers when I assert that Katy Lied is top-drawer Steely Dan. I think it's in the top 3 albums for this band. There are no bad, or even mediocre, tracks on this album. It is as brilliantly written as most of Steely Dan's material, which earns it 4 1/2 stars.

One of the reasons Steely Dan is on my list of favorite bands is their particular combination of musical elements. It's one of the defining traits of "progressiveness.". Katy Lied is not as ironic or sarcastic as many of their other albums, perhaps the reason for its lower score. "Everyone's Gone to the Movies", a song apparently about showing porn movies to teenagers, is one exception! The Royal Scam, often given a higher rating, is just one example. This album has a stronger R & B vibe to it. Another reviewer, Chicapah, makes the same point. "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" and "Chain Lightning" are strong examples.

A lot of the songs on Katy Lied almost sound (brace yourself!) nostalgic. Examples are "Bad Sneakers", "Rose Darling", and "Any World That I'm Welcome To". No one listens to Steely Dan to hear Donald Fagen sing, but "Any World" is one of Fagen's best performances. I don't know why Denny Dias and Jeff Baxter (not part of this album) are never referred to as some of the best guitarists in rock music. "Bad Sneakers" and "Your Gold Teeth II" are excellent examples of what I mean. I just love the rhythm of "Your Gold Teeth II", like a warped waltz.

All the tracks on Katy Lied are excellent. I don't know if Katy Lied succeeds at the level of Aja or Pretzel Logic, but it comes real close. The combination of interesting musical elements and the brilliant songwriting are what earn this album its 4 1/2 stars.

Report this review (#1010353)
Posted Saturday, August 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Katy Lied is like the Atom Heart Mother of Steely Dan's work. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are perhaps so unhappy about it sound getting compromised in the recording for technical reasons (which I won't be getting into) that they have a rather lukewarm opinion of this album. I quote from their notes to the 1999 issue of Katy Lied, 'What to call this latest installment in this saga? "Too Little, Too Late?" "Almost Good"? "And Then There Were Three?" "The Rape of the Domini?" ' It doesn't get a particularly overwhelming thumbs up from fans or critics either, though Robert Christgau does seem to like it more than Royal Scam or Aja.

With due respect, I submit that just as in the case of AHM, a Steely Dan aficionado would do well to politely disregard the take of the band members and instead find out for themselves. All things considered, Katy Lied is not as bad as it is made out to be. It may well be the weakest in a run of great Steely Dan albums. Which is a bit like saying Rubber Soul is lame because it is not nearly as good as Revolver (I mean, so what?). Does that make it avoidable? No sir!

Katy Lied presents another important milestone in the development of Steely Dan as a band. Having already decided circa Pretzel Logic that sessions musicians delivered more value for them than their 'real' band members, Steely Dan snapped the proverbial umbilical cord en route to Katy Lied. Since the other members wanted to tour and Steely Dan were having no more of it, they just fired them, leaving the old firm of Fagen & Becker to work with an enviable roster of 'hirelings' to borrow a phrase used by the duo. As yet, the list 'only' included Larry Carlton, Jeff Porcaro and Mike McDonald (it would swell to 'epic' proportions by the time of Aja).

The result: an album that sounds fantastic in spite of aforesaid technical issues. Seriously, I have played this one and Mirage (Camel) back to back and the sound of Katy Lied is pristine and crystal clear with no disturbances. It is no wonder that Fagen and Becker go ga ga over the contribution of Roger Nichols who patiently delivered to two exacting perfectionists what they were looking for.

And of course, all those musicians didn't hurt either. There is a great saxophone solo on Doctor Wu, followed by more superb sax on the coda of the same song. There are plenty of great guitar solos to choose from, be it on Chain Lightning or Throw Back the Little Ones (the last one evoking the famous Kid Charlemagne solo in places). My favourite, though, is ironically the solo contributed by original member Dennis Dias (now playing the part of session hand) on Your Gold Teeth II. Did Pat Metheny listen to Steely Dan in the mid 70s, by any chance? There are some songs like Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More or Everyone's Gone To The Movies that don't do much but even these aren't necessarily bad, only overshadowed by tracks like Your Gold Teeth II. What, not a word thus far about Black Friday? How can that be? Anyway, it's a catchy rocker with (again) some tasty guitar but it probably belongs on Countdown to Ecstasy rather than Katy Lied.

Speaking of which, Katy Lied continues Steely Dan's evolution towards a smooth, jazz-rock based approach. Black Friday apart, there's nothing here that's particularly rocking in the way of a My Old School or Bodhisattva and even the rough edges of a Night after Night seem to be on their way out. More and more, their songs revolve around keyboard chords rather than a bluesy riff to set the tone. It should by all accounts have made them even more distant for the public. Instead, they only grew stronger with each album as they moved further and further from 'rawk', eventually striking gold with Aja. As I said in my review of Pretzel Logic , Steely Dan bucked the conventional wisdom of 70s music culture and did themselves a world of good that way.

In fact, I wonder why it took yet another album after Katy Lied before they could come up with Aja. Only a little more expansive writing, a little more studio gloss and they would be there, the way I see it. But they decided to have yet another fusion outing on Royal Scam. Was it a lack of confidence or did they just need to get another set of great chord progressions out on record before putting together their magnum opus. More on that when I attempt to review Royal Scam. 4 stars for Katy Lied.

Report this review (#1047343)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Dan bounced back from their sophomore slump with the previous year's Pretzel Logic and now they release the solid Katy Lied to universal praise and playlist favorites "Black Friday", "Bad Sneakers", "Any World (That I'm Welcome to)", "Throw Back the Little Ones", and my favorite, "Dr. Wu." Though stellar guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is now gone and playing for The Doobies, Donald, Walter, and producer-extraordinaire, Gary Katz, have gotten into the routine of enlisting a broad palette of LA studio musicians including soon-to-be regulars Jeff Pocaro (drums), Larry Carlton (guitar), and singer Michael MacDonald. The new style, interestingly, was to in fact bring in a specific lineup of studio musicians for specific songs--a tactic that would be perfected for the Aja album on which no two songs had the same lineup. On Katy Lied it was the guitarists who performed a kind of revolving door according to stylistic preferences and availabilities. Also, Katy Lied illustrates the band's evolving preference for an expanded lineup of jazz-oriented musicians, including full horn section, vibes, and percussionists.

A good solid album, though not great, and, again, where's the prog?

Report this review (#1199124)
Posted Friday, June 27, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars I have to say that I absolutely hated this album for quite a long time. However, for whatever reason, I kept playing it when I accidentally bought it looking for tracks similar to what was then my favorite Steely Dan song "Black Friday". Of course, there is only one similar to that song on here and that is the excellent "Chain Lightning". Everything else on here is a pop/jazz fusion.

A few years later, "Aja", the almost perfect album, came out. I fell in love with the amazing title track on that one almost immediately. The other tracks were excellent too. Suddenly, a new light was shed on this album, which now I think is the closest album to "Aja" that Steely Dan recorded.

So, I called this music a kind of pop/jazz fusion. I hate pop music, unless there is some semblance of originality to it, which there is with this music. There are so many beautiful jazz elements in this music, that I wonder how I missed it at first. The guitar is usually understated, but listen to it closely, especially the solos. You'll notice that the guitar is not always mixed to the front, so it's not always obvious how excellent the guitar work is here. The piano/keyboards are also genius. The music is so simple, yet it's so complex. When I listen to this album, I think about how tough the sessions must have been, because everything is so perfect here, and the guests musicians were plenty, and they were top notch also. The music sounds perfected almost. That is usually a turn off for me, but it sounds so good here. Every note, every sound has it's perfect place throughout the album. It's almost too perfect, which works against it somewhat. But you can really hear how the masterpiece "Aja" would emerge from this kind of music. That album would also have the perfect sound, but all the problems would be worked out and the songs on that album would be allowed to breath a lot more, while the songs on here are not allowed to develop so much, probably in an attempt to win over some radio airplay.

Fagen and Becker put a lot of effort into this album and they were disappointed when the sound wasn't what they expected because they were using new technology at the time. Some of the problems were worked out, but they refused to listen to this album for quite some time. Newer issues of this album have resulted in a cleaner, crisper sound, and the music is so good here that those reissues should be purchased over the original. The original recording was way too soft and the intricacies that make this album so excellent are not as pronounced as they should be, but that problem is worked out in the reissues.

Fans of "Aja" should check this out for music that is similar to that album. Give it time and you'll find the jewels that are abundant in this album, which tends to get ignored by a lot of fans because it moved away from the harder rock sound of their other albums. But to me, it is what gave birth to their masterpiece and what would become their true signature sound. Excellent album.

Report this review (#1436175)
Posted Monday, July 6, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars After Steely Dan released Pretzel Logic in 1974, they embarked on what would be their last tour for a while, in the US and UK. The touring band was Donald Fagen on keyboards and lead vocals; Walter Becker on bass; Denny Dias and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitars; Jim Hodder and Jeff Porcaro on drums; Michael McDonald on keyboards and backing vocals; and Royce Jones on percussion and backing vocals. This tour has been documented on various bootleg recordings, although one official track (a live version of "Bodhisattva") has been released and will be covered in a future review. Anyway, after that tour, to cement their dislike of touring in general, Becker and Fagen effectively broke up the live band as well as firing their manager. Baxter took his steel guitar with him (although not to his next band, the Doobie Brothers), Hodder and Jones pretty much vanished off the face of the earth, but Dias, Porcaro and McDonald were retained to work on the next Steely Dan album, Katy Lied, the following year.

One thing that has always struck me about this album is the overall positive vibe of the music. Even though the Dan's first album as a studio band (and yes I do consider this a band, given that it was the same basic rhythm section throughout) had some technical problems in the end, owing to a malfunctioning noise reduction system that affected the quality of the final record, the music is crisp and punchy (helped out by studio pianist Michael Omartian on Bosendorfer), Porcaro lays down some great rhythms, Chuck Rainey shines on bass and Fagen's voice is as strong as it's ever been. In short, the new-for-1975 Steely Dan sounds like this was what they wanted to do all along.

"Black Friday" was, amazingly, a top 40 hit upon release (amazing because, again, there was no touring going on). Porcaro foreshadows his future as the shuffle king on this track (remember that this was the man behind the "Rosanna" groove some years later) and fellow Toto member David Paich plays electric piano as well. In spite of Becker's drug problems around this time (or perhaps because of them), he turns in one of his best solos. This may also be the only song I know of that references the town of Muswellbrook, Australia (which is located in New South Wales).

"Bad Sneakers" is, simply, a song about loneliness and isolation in Los Angeles. By this time, Becker and Fagen were very homesick for their hometown of New York and basically admitted that they only stayed in LA because of convenience. In hindsight, it's amazing that they could create such bright, positive-sounding music out of those feelings. Becker, in particular, has a very impassioned guitar solo (his last of the record). I also like the sitar-led refrain just before the verses.

"Rose Darling" shows Becker and Fagen trying some new things musically; the chorus utilizes counterpoint in the vocal lines and the guitar solo, unusually, was written out note-for-note (and played here by Dean Parks). Hard to tell exactly what this song is about; deception, murder or self-gratification? It rocks in its own way though.

"Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" (longest Dan title ever?) is notable for being the first appearance on guitar for Larry Carlton, who would come to define much of the sound of the next two albums, The Royal Scam and Aja. (The track, I believe, also features Jazz Crusaders saxophonist Wilton Felder on bass guitar.) This song about a mob hit is bolstered by a phasing effect on Fagen's voice and a low E note on organ (synth?) that rides the fade-out, almost subliminally.

"Doctor Wu" is one of the most famous Dan tracks and the one that has inspired the most lyrical interpretations. The sharp-eared listener will hear noise from the aforementioned DBX noise reduction system at the beginning of the track, proof of Steely Dan's technical gremlins around this time. Nevertheless, it has gone on to become a staple of the band's history thanks in part to Porcaro's solid groove, Omartian's piano backing and alto sax solos from jazz great Phil Woods.

"Everyone's Gone to the Movies" has a Latin-rock flavor to it thanks to Victor Feldman's percussion and vibraphone backing. The lyrics are about a peodphile who likes to videotape young children for his own personal benefit--not the most savory of lyrical matters, but the hooks are hard to get out of your head after listening to it. The Wurlitzer solo in the middle may be by Fagen; not sure. (There is a 1971 demo of this tune with the original band that I will review as part of the Citizen Steely Dan box set later.)

"Your Gold Teeth II" is the sequel to the track on Countdown to Ecstasy, in jazz waltz time (Becker has said that this version is more like the original, un-recorded version of the song). It opens, however, as a fast, 16th-note based tune with synthesizer lead and strange metallic noises in the background (which I assume is the "dorophone" credited to Porcaro). Dias has the perfect solo for this tune, although his contributions would continue to be sparse for a good while (starting with Pretzel Logic, he would only do one solo per album, up to Aja).

"Chain Lightning" can be considered the sequel to "Pretzel Logic," at least in terms of groove (this is basically the same shuffle played by Jim Gordon on the earlier tune). The lyrics, believe it or not, describe a Fascist rally (1st verse) and the return to the site of the rally some years later (2nd verse). Veteran guitarist Rick Derringer plays the solo, making his second and last appearance on a Steely Dan record (he previously played slide guitar on "Show Biz Kids" from Countdown).

"Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" is the only appearance of veteran studio drummer Hal Blaine (presumably Porcaro was busy that day). The lyrics continue the theme of longing expressed earlier in "Bad Sneakers," again with a great transitional hook and killer harmonies by Michael McDonald. (I haven't really mentioned him too much, but he is all over this album, although his best Dan moments would be still to come.) Dig the key change just before the outro vamp.

"Throw Back the Little Ones" is without a doubt Steely Dan's most compact/complex track, packing a lot of key changes, transitions and lyrical ideas into just 3 minutes. Amazingly, the song never feels rushed through or badly thought-out. (This aspect of the tune may remind some listeners of Gentle Giant, believe it or not.) Elliot Randall, he of "Reelin' in the Years" fame, has a sparkling solo that is typical of his sporadic work with the band and elsewhere. The piano outro is by Michael Omartian (dig those polychords at the end!).

As we know, Steely Dan essentially became the Beatles of the 70s (not that they weren't already) by operating exclusively out of the recording studio from here until Gaucho. I posit that their body of work underwent a subtle but tangible improvement because of this change, and for the most part, Becker and Fagen themselves would probably agree. I would also say that this album pretty much defined LA rock in the 70s (perhaps more so than the Eagles) and if you like a positive but not contrived sound in 70s rock music, you could do a lot worse than this. Recommended highly. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Report this review (#1450032)
Posted Friday, August 7, 2015 | Review Permalink

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