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CAN'T BUY A THRILL

Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Steely Dan Can't Buy a Thrill album cover
3.50 | 114 ratings | 26 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing


1. Do It Again (5:56)
2. Dirty Work (3:08)
3. Kings (3:45)
4. Midnight Cruiser (4:08)
5. Only a Fool Would Say That (2:57)
6. Reelin' In the Years (4:37)
7. Fire in the Hole (3:28)
8. Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me) (4:21)
9. Change of the Guard 3:39)
10. Turn That Heartbeat Over Again (4:58)


Total Time 40:39

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians


- Donald Fagen / piano, electric piano, plastic organ, vocals
- Walter Becker / electric bass, vocals
- Jeff Skunk Baxter / guitar, pedal steel guitar
- Denny Dias / guitar, electric sitar
- Elliott Randall / guitar
- Jerome Richardson / tenor saxophone
- Snooky Young / flugelhorn
- Jim Hodder / drums, percussion, vocals
- Victor Feldman / percussion
- David Palmer / vocals
- Venetta Fields / background vocals on Brooklyn and Kings
- Clydie King / background vocals on Brooklyn and Kings
- Sherlie Matthews / background vocals on Brooklyn and Kings

Releases information

LP ABC Records

Thanks to clarke2001 for the addition
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AjaAja
Remastered
MCA Records 1999
Audio CD$1.86
$1.10 (used)
Definitive CollectionDefinitive Collection
Remastered
Geffen Records 2006
Audio CD$3.74
$1.87 (used)
Can't Buy A ThrillCan't Buy A Thrill
Remastered
Mca 1998
Audio CD$1.88
$0.85 (used)
GauchoGaucho
Remastered
Mca 2000
Audio CD$1.91
$1.98 (used)
Very Best of Steely DanVery Best of Steely Dan
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$5.57
$4.60 (used)
Pretzel LogicPretzel Logic
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$2.96 (used)
The Royal ScamThe Royal Scam
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$0.43 (used)
Katy LiedKaty Lied
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.78
$1.78 (used)
Steely Dan Countdown To EcstasySteely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Remastered
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Audio CD$1.83
$2.00 (used)
Two Against NatureTwo Against Nature
Giant Records 2000
Audio CD$6.85
$0.01 (used)
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STEELY DAN Can't Buy a Thrill ratings distribution


3.50
(114 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
19%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
47%
Good, but non-essential (28%)
28%
Collectors/fans only (6%)
6%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

STEELY DAN Can't Buy a Thrill reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Steely Dan's debut album way back in 1972 with arguably their most stable line up!For a band famous for hiring and firing musicians...Can't Buy a Thrill has all the characteristics as to why this band would evolve to more jazz influenced rock, but in essence this first album set such a high standard for the band it was extremely hard for them to make anything of lower quality. These guys ( Walter Becker and Donald Fagen) are and were even back in 1972 perfectionists so much so they experienced plenty of attrition in terms of session players and guest musicians as alluded to above. The album kicks off with the hugely popular Do It Again, great funky groove, slick sultry vocals and a great chorus line. Dirty Work follows and is the typical kind of SD song that was to surface on many future albums, slightly off key vocals from Fagen, the jazz influences all present. Only A Fool Would Say that another great song with such clever lyrics, satirical would be an apt description. Reelin In The Years is arguably one of SD's most memorable singles and in many respects quite unlike most of their work. More kind of Rock and Roll, this song has so much nostalgia attached to the lyrics, it is I think for this reason so many people relate to it. Change Of The Guard is another fine song. I guess summing up Can't Buy A Thrill it is hard not giving it a five star rating because it is a milestone in rock, unique American progressive sounds that influenced so many other bands yet true to it's original form. Unique and of such high standard, it's only drawback is that follow up studio releases from Steely Dan were even better.

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#180679) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Naming a band after a dildo in William Burroughs's novel "Naked Lunch" is definitely a radical, humorous act but it pretty much set the tone for the unorthodox direction this "group" would boldly take in the decades to come. I loosely apply the term "group" because Steely Dan is really more of a conceptual project put together by keyboardist Donald Fagin, bassist/guitarist Walter Becker and wiz- kid producer Gary Katz than a normal rock and roll band. Katz's relocating the two musician/songwriters from New York to Los Angeles in 1972 had to be a severe, overwhelming culture shock for them both but it also proved to be the most significant turning point in their creative careers. It landed them smack dab in the middle of the whirlwind of tradition-smashing, wholesale changes occurring minute by minute in the music world of the early 70s.

That being said, their debut, "Can't Buy a Thrill," is the least progressive album they ever made. After years of honing their craft by trying to write hit songs for other artists like Barbara Streisand, this calculated collection represents the Top 40 pop mentality they had been forced into by the industry. But the cold, hard fact was that widespread airplay was the name of the game and the overnight success of the opener, "Do It Again," put them on the map and it sent this album soaring into the top 20 of the crowded LP charts. As a reviewer, the catchy tune has been so overplayed that I can't be objective about it at all. I'll admit that I never liked it all that much, though. It offers the first exposure to Fagin's unique voice but the song's absolute lack of dynamics makes it difficult for me to sit through. I'm no fan of the faux sitar effect. Its overextended ride, along with the boring, cheap-sounding organ solo, leaves me unimpressed (although it places me in the minority of society as it peaked on the singles charts at #6). Next up is "Brooklyn," a good pop ditty but far from being progressive. Singer David Palmer has a passable but nondescript voice on display here and the inclusion of the dreaded C&W-style steel guitar tends to make me cringe.

I've always admired "Dirty Work" for being a well-crafted tune with a nice horn arrangement but, unfortunately, it shows its age and won't attract the attention of many proggers. The obligatory saxophone solo is routine, at best. "Kings" is a return to Donald's svelte vocal tones and at least the number's arrangement is somewhat unconventional but overall it's a weak entry despite Denny Dias' cool guitar ride. "Change of the Guard" is a better song but it still resides firmly in the pop category. The strong electric guitar break is worth mentioning. Palmer mans the microphone again on the pedestrian "Midnight Cruiser" with the usual droll results and it marks the nadir of the proceedings. Even the dull guitar solo will put you to sleep.

Fagin returns to sing "Only a Fool Would Say That" and the track's slick, jazzy feel is a big step up in quality from the previous cut. The highlight comes in the form of the hot but short-lived guitar ride. "Fire in the Hole" hints at future progressive leanings with its offbeat progression and here Donald gets to show off his under-appreciated piano skills. I make it a point to ignore the corny steel guitar that appears just before the fadeout. The #11 hit "Reeling in the Years," with its brittle, edgy guitars is yet another horribly overexposed, played-to-death tune that, while it grates on my nerves to this day, made the band a household name. Sure, guest Elliot Randall left an indelible imprint on pop music with his flashy guitar spasms but Steely Dan was destined to showcase much better six-string performances in the years to come. The album ends with the quirky "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" that stays consistent with the atmosphere they created, yet the impressive jazz chordings they employ are a harbinger of what's to come on their next outing.

As debuts go, this one was remarkably successful in establishing them as a radio-friendly entity but it is so pop-oriented that I would never recommend it to a Steely Dan-as-crossover prog newcomer. The lack of imagination contained within compared to the astounding inventiveness that would come to be their trademark can be very misleading. The group belongs on this website without a doubt but I could do without "Can't Buy A Thrill." What a fitting title.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#180708) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Initially I wanted to let the two very famous songs be the key of this review and I will do so mostly but I will also spend some attention to the others, I think that's only fair.

Because the opener (Do it again) and the evergreen rocker (Reelin'in the years) are actually the two standing out tracks for me (it will not be a big surprise). Do it again is a song that's very special to me from the moment it was created, so that is for 36 years now. It was a huge hit in the Netherlands as it was in most pop-minded countries no doubt. I must have heard it several hundreds times by now and guess what: I'm still not bored by it. I can't say it's still growing on me, that would be exaggerated but it's greatness will never die, it's much too special for that. One of the most original popsongs ever. The other great one, Reelin'in the years is less special, it's simply a fantastic rocksong with a great guitar solo as absolute highlight. Along with Black Friday the best they ever did in this style. Another example of Dan's versatility ! I will do a song by song rating with a bit of comment to set out the rest of the songs. 1. Do it again 4,5* 2. Dirty work 3,2 * very accessible, poppy track with vocals by David Palmer 3. Kings 3,5* good (rocky)song with a solo by Elliot Randall 4. Midnight cruiser 3,5* same thing, slightly more ballad-like 5. Only a fool would say that 3,4* well known track, occasionally heard on dutch radio but not too special 6. Reelin'in the years 4,2* 7. Fire in the hole 3,8* with great piano work by Fagen 8. Brooklyn 3,5* sounding like a country ballad, talking about versatility ! Also sung by Palmer by the way 9. Change of the guard 3,3* mediocre track with original but not outstanding guitarwork 10. Turn that heartbeat over again 3,4* another track that is sometimes played on the radio up to today.

So that means an average of some 3,6* resulting in 4 stars for this fine debut.

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#180852) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review by micky
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars * Steely Dan Act I: Artists leaving the womb*

In October 1972 Steely Dan released their debut album onto the market with little to no fanfare, but also with no expectations placed upon them. Steely Dan was a band formed in secret. The brainchild of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, songwriters at ABC Records in Los Angeles. In cahoots with mentor and ABC Records producer Gary Katz they set out on recruiting members for the band. Denny Dias was brought in as a guitarist, whom Becker and Fagen had met earlier in New York through an advertisement Dias placed in The Village Voice newspaper, reading Looking for keyboardist and bassist. Must have jazz chops! He was flown out to LA and along with guitarist Jeff Skunk Baxter and drummer Jim Hodder formed the core of what soon became Steely Dan.

The band begins rehearsing after work during the day as songwriters for ABC, at night in a cramped, abandoned office in the ABC building and began recording with Roger Nichols, a former nuclear engineer, as their recording engineer, a relationship that continues to this day. Since Fagen was uncomfortable as the lead singer, they also decided to sign up vocalist David Palmer as the front man. Since Palmer's vocal style didn't convey the attitude that Becker and Fagen wanted for most of the songs, and the also needed to finish the album, Donald reluctantly sang lead vocals on all but three songs on their debut album, which they named Can't Buy A Thrill. A special note to the cover art.. for a band, like many prog bands that well known for it's interesting artistic covers, this cover is nothing short of ... terrible. I remember seeing a thread on the site which had a link that listed the worst prog album covers of all time. This ranked at 2. Don't remember what the worst was. My paycheck on ELP though.. they always win those kinds of polls hahaha.

Anyway.. on to the album we go.

The song kicks off with ...oh god.. Do It Again. A hit song hahhaha. What did you expect.. Close to the Edge. No but if you expect pop music.... you also have come to wrong album.. and definitely the wrong group. From the first song of the first album a Dan trademark is unleashed upon the listener. Like much of prog, and very much unlike pop music and groups. This group dealt with more highminded lyrical content than simple pop fluff. Do It Again can be seen a number of ways. Like many of their songs, it's hard to make sense of the lyrics, which seem to be about some combination of addiction, second chances and the inevitability of fate. The song has two instrumental breaks both using instruments again.. rarely found in pop.... The instrument used on the first instrumental break is an electric sitar. The primitive keyboard or 'plastic organ' played by Donald Fagen on the second instrumental break is a Melodica. You blow through a reed and depress keys on a mini plastic keyboard attached. Also making an appearence on the this album and forever associated with the group is a quality I have always identified with is a wry sense of humour. This song is described as Trad. (meaning traditional, like many Folk songs) in the album credits. This is a fairly typical Donald Fagen/Walter Becker prank. For entertainment, google an interview of Becker and Fagen. A laugh riot.

Next up is Dirty Work... a song I have never liked. Mainly for what makes it so distinctive. David Palmer is the singer here. While in fact he might be a better singer than Fagen. Palmer's vocals are erstwhile and passionate. The lyrics are typical Dan. dark.. though not as cryptic. The song's about a guy who is the man she cheats on her husband with (when he's out of town, she lights a candle for romance, sends the maid home early), and the moral dilemma - sex or cuckold the hubby. He's unable to overcome his desire for her, despite the terrible risk, every time - thousands of times before. Nice song.. but missing the elements of what Steely Dan.. Steely Dan for me. Good uses of horns though. Next up is Kings, featuring Fagen on the piano and lead vocals, strong vocal harmonies with with Clydid King, Shirley Mathews, and Venetta Fields. Though the group claims no political significance. The song is often thought to be about Magna Carta. Richard the Lionhearted was a grand king of England who had total rule. He was succeeded by his younger brother John. John was weak and had to cave in to the English noblemen who wanted to share in the rule of the country. By asserting that the king had less than total rule over his country and all his subjects, Magna Carta became the initial basis for many principals which are now part of what we consider to be basic human rights. Richard was a much more valiant king, but he ruled without regard for the common people. John was a terrible king, but his weakness made his government less despotic. A song I really like.. edging toward what future Steely Dan would become. Not as out there musicially but still satisfying as hell musically. Midnight Cruiser is next. With Hodder on the vocals. A song easy to peg as a song dedicated to Thelonious Monk. Strong vocal harmonies. A song strangly covered across the ocean by the English band Capability Brown. Not a bad song.. but there is reason Hodder is not a vocalist. Not bad.. but not was sweet as Palmer .. or as biting as Fagen. Side one closes with my favorite from the album, Only A Fool Would say that. The opening line "The world becomes one, of salads and sun" evokes the utopian possibility of "Imagine", only to be derisively dismissed as the musings of a fool. Denny Dias and Skunk Baxter provide a perfect contrast in acoustic and electric guitar to Fagen's sneering vocals. An early Steely Dan classic, foreshadowing the wry, depraved themes featured in much of their later work. I love the song with it' swirling Latin melodies. Great song

Side 2 kicks off with a cover of Close to the Edge.. hahhah.. nah... but something just as good. The overplayed to death.. but still KILLER Reelin' In the Years. Pure decadent pop... with fiery guitar solos. Studio 'ringer' Elliot Randall's guitar solo is OUT OF THIS WORLD. One of my favorites alltime. Yet underneath the shiny musical exterior... something for the prog fan comes peaking through. Have you tried to figure out the lyrics.. a famous prog past time, and one that any SD fan revels in.... try this on for size. Read this somewhere.. makes perfect sense.

'This song came out during the first wave of a huge nostalgia boom for simpler times. Happy Days was a new show on TV. Capitol Records had released The Beach Boys Endless Summer which went double platinum. Disco was rearing it's ugly head on the far horizon.

The first verse gives it away: Your everlasting summer... - obvious reference to Endless Summer.

The girl in the song was a metaphor for the record buying public. Steely Dan had spent years becoming a top notch jazz/blues/rock act, and now the public wanted endless summer rather than progressive music.

You wouldn't know a diamond if you held it in your hand, the things you think are precious, I don't understand. - compares the progressive music of Steely Dan to the simplistic music of the nostalgia boom.

The college likely refers to early 1970s college and freeform radio, where obscure artists were played, and the weirder, the better.

Reelin' In The Years - trying not to grow old by trying to relive endless summers of the past.

You've been tellin' me you're a genius since you were 17 - obvious references to Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon.

I still don't know what you mean. - I never got it. I'm into a different groove.

The things you think are useless, I don't understand. - there was a conscious effort during 1974 - 1976 to reject all things progressive. Maybe it was the advent of the nation's 200th birthday? Maybe just a time? But, the record buying public came to feel that progressive was useless, and nostalgia was in.

Fortunately, the public came to their senses about 1978. But, can you sense the disdain the the SD lyrics, as they rag on the record buying public, who they compare to a wayward girl who can't make up her mind?'

nice. Great song.. not terribly progressive musically.. but that isn't all that progressive rock was about. Steely Dan is a different animal that you have ever explored.

Fire in the Hole is next. Nice steel pedal from the Skunk and great piano solo from Fagen. Not at the level as some the previous songs.. but one thing you will notice about Steely Dan. Simply.. this group DID NOT MAKE BAD SONGS. Learn that.. and you be on the way to understanding this group. Brooklyn is next from the group. Dedicated to a neighbor while they lived in NYC. Nice slide guitar. again.. quality music. Not much for the prog fan though. Change of the Guard is next. What did I say earlier... oh yeah.. but at times they make songs that really don't say much or do much of anything. This is one of them. Not bad by any means.. not much to write really other than a nice solo by the Skunk. However the number of times you will here 'Na na na na, na na na na' in a SD song after this album are ...ahhh.. like zero. The album closes with Turn That Heartbeat Over Again. Not the best thing SD ever did... but this was somewhat a blueprint for where they would later go. Fulling shifting melodies, rhythms, and moods. The song is a bit of an odd one. Called a solemn prayer for peace by the group. My take on it.. the speaker gets his friend mixed up in some dangerous stuff and his friend dies. Nice happy stuff huh. hahahha

Ranking the album... For the prog fan. Ehhhh.. a bit on the soft side. If you listen to this.. you might ask yourself what kind of [&*!#] was the site thinking when adding this band. The elements are there alright. If they had never progressed this band would have never been included here. Which would be developed later on down the road. Not bad for an album conceived in an abandoned office. Ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as #238 in it's list of the 500 greatest records of alltime. The best part is though.. for the prog fan... it only get better from here. Even Genesis had their FGtR which ..hahha.. I didn't see on that list. If you a died in the wool prog-o-holic. Don't start here.. come back to it if you like what you hear. If you love great music.. you could.. but I woudn't. Unless you were born under a rock you have heard many of these songs already. So what is it I am saying... this is a prog site. 2 stars for the site. If it wasn't.. 4 stars. For me personally.. .3 stars. If you are a Republican.....

Michael (aka Micky)

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Posted Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars STEELY DAN debut is a remarkable record because of two things at least: a sophisticated musical hybrid of rock, pop, jazz and R'n'B along with cynical sometimes cryptic lyrics and campy cover art in the vein of LITTLE FEAT or ROXY MUSIC on one hand; and on the other the phenomenal piece of art in the shape of the opening mega tune Do It Again. Distinguished rhytmic pattern, melodic Fagen's vocals and interplay between the solo parts of electric sitar and organ made this track one of the DAN highlights right from the start of their career.

Still, the rest of the album is not on par with the promising opener. David Palmer's vocals on Dirty Work, Midnight Cruiser and Brooklyn are too cheesy and better suit to a crooner-type vocalists. Music is often a too straightforward rock'n'roll with an occassional blues or jazz chord that approaches a type of easy-listening soft-rock. I read somewhere that someone had assessed SD as the first Adult-Oriented Rock band, even before the term was coined. Even if we agree with that, the later work of the duo would certainly overpass any cathegorisation and would be highly evaluated among jazz, rock and prog listeners alike. The hints of the better works to come are present here in clasically arranged Kings, anti-Hippie vignette Only a Fool Would Say That and a fiery rocker Reelin' In the Years.

This Lp is not essential for prog collections, but I would surely advise you take a chance and listen to it. If only more songs were done in the way of Do It Again (and without Palmer vocals) I would consider 4 stars...

PERSONAL RATING: 3,5/5

P.A. RATING: 3/5

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Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The shot across the bow

I was only about 6 at the time the Dan broke on the American scene but I often wonder what music fans of the time must have thought: Who are these two weird-looking smart-asses playing this stuff? When most of the country were likely rocking out to Zeppelin and the Stones along came the acerbic tongued twins peddling a different sound. It was rock and roll for sure but it sounded different. Jazzy and a bit funky with great lyrics.dark to be sure but with a wicked sense of humor somewhere between Holden Caufield and Lenny Bruce perhaps? I simply have to quote this short section from the dreaded Wiki purely for entertainment value: "Fagen immediately took to the Beatnik lifestyle while attending college: They never came out of their room, they stayed up all night. They looked like ghosts - black turtlenecks and skin so white that it looked like yogurt. Absolutely no activity, chain-smoking Lucky Strikes and dope." Fagen himself would later remember it as probably the only time in my life that I actually had friends." I love that-I knew some people like that!

"In the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table"

Musically the first album seems light years from the exquisite perfectionism of "Gaucho" but that's in no way a slam. "Thrill" is my favorite of the early Dan works and the one I play the most. I'll go against the grain and say that "Thrill" is the best of their pre-Aja albums to my ear-certainly not the most complex or chops-oriented, but the most pleasing to me on a personal level. I love the different vocalists on display here and think it adds. I don't care that much about "prog quotient" when it comes to this band because SD is not who I listen to when in the prog mood anyway. Dan is first and foremost a good rock band to me and this is a great collection of tracks with much flavour, mood, and snap. The album has so much personal sentimentality which is something I cherish rather than dread like some critics do. Coming out of their college years and sharing their personal histories and stories in these songs, it's almost twisted folk music lyrically put to inventive rock. I sense nostalgia here even if the boys would bristle at the charge-they can't fool me. There are so many little highlights throughout. Beyond the three big radio songs present here (all of which are really quality songs) there is one hell of a solo by Elliot Randall on "Kings." There is the simply sublime lament of "Midnight Cruiser" buoyed by the great melody. The feistiness in the funky piano of "Fire in the Hole." Some nice steel work by the Skunk on "Brooklyn" along with a nice vocal by Palmer with the harmonies behind him. I'm not sure what to make of "Turn that Heartbeat" but I think the looseness of this album, the humor, and the variety are what make the package work overall. The playing is tight and the arrangements already above the competition, yet the bottom line is that this album is not afraid to display the range of emotions and sentimentalities that some of their "cooler" upcoming work would lack. This album has the grit of the corner bar on its heel, the smell of stale beer and cigs, and the throb of a hangover. "Can't Buy a Thrill" is an American rock classic that works in its own way and really shouldn't be compared to something like "Aja." For a debut I think it holds up very well and will not disappoint any fan of the Dan. The next several albums would get more complex but in the process lose some of the charms and indeed.thrills..that the debut holds for me. The evolution was bound to happen but would not completely succeed for a few years.

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Posted Saturday, September 20, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Can't Buy a Thrill is the debut studio album from Steely Dan. The album was released in 1972. Iīm new to the band and listening to this album itīs hard to understand why Steely Dan is on PA, but Iīm sure that some of their later albums are more prog related and those are the ones who have earned them their place here.

The music on Can't Buy a Thrill is pop/ rock or soft rock with little or no progressive tendencies. What makes this album interesting anyway is how professional these compositions sound. Itīs obvious that main composers Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are very talented composers and musicians. The production is also a big asset when listening to the album. Itīs very detailed, warm and pleasant. Songs like the opener Do It Again and the great Reelinī in the Years are very good pop/ rock songs. Note the melody line in the vers in Reelin' In the Years. Thatīs a well composed melody line if I ever heard one. The vocals are really great and warm.

The first time I listened to the album I was sure I was gonna give it 2 stars, because of the lack on progressive elements but Iīve come to enjoy the pleasant mood and groovy rythms a bit more than I had expected and adding the very clever pop/ rock arrangements and compositions to my overall opinion Iīll have to rate this one 3 stars. The more I listen the more I enjoy it. Music for a quiet sunday afternoon in the sun. Just donīt expect anything challenging or progressive. Iīll be looking forward to listening to more from Steely Dan.

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Posted Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Review by 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.

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Posted Thursday, October 16, 2008

Review by Matthew T
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Way back in late 1972 my older brother came home with a bunch of records that he'd borrowed off a friend and Can't Buy a Thrill was one. I have been playing this album ever since.This would be my number one album,desert island disc, etc. I only came to this conclusion about 2 years back when I was about to play the album and realised that I really can not remember at least playing this every year at some time since 1972 and through sheer repetition alone it has to be the one.

This is the first Steely Dan album released and the only one where Donald Fagen did not do all the lead vocals as ABC records wanted David Palmer to do some of the vocals as they were concerned about Donald Fagen's. David Palmer did lead vocals on Dirty Work and Brooklyn ( owes the charmer under me) and shared vocals on 3 other tracks. Jim Hodder also appeared and did lead vocals for the track Kings.

Denny Dias played guitar and electric sitar on Do it Again and remained on every album as a full time member or a guest till Gaucho which he did not appear on. Jeff Skunk Baxter who later left the band to join the Doobie Brothers also pays steel guitar on Fire in the Hole. One other notable mention is the backing vocalists Shirley Matthews,Vanetta Fields and Clydie King who were originaaly Ikettes till 1966 and left to form the group the Mirettes. They quickly became one of the top session backing vocalists around and appeared with practically everybody, Bob Dylan,Pink Floyd,Rolling Stones,Aretha Franklin,Diana Ross,Leonard Cohen and the list goes on and on. One other mention is Walter Becker who plays bass and guitar with a small vocal part and who is also the founding member with Donald Fagen who also sings lead vocals,plays piano,keyboards and even a melodica which he still uses in concert today.

There are 10 tracks on the album and the 2 most well known are Do It Again and Reelin in the Years but another also would be Dirty Work. The album has a jazz influence throughout but is basically a rock/pop album which does need to be heard a few times to appreciate it which I found even when I was 13 as after the first listen I couldn't see what the fuzz was about but things quickly improved with the next play. One of my favourite tracks would be Changing of the Guard with that Skunk Baxter guitar solo and even in the chorus you even got Na nana na na.(Great hey).

This album always appears in those top 100's normally and I know that everyone will say what about Gaucho but at the time I heard this Countdown to Ecstasy had not long been released and Gaucho was still 6 albums away. This album I really cannot say that it is not a masterpiece especially as it is a debut as well but if you are looking for progressive music this is not your album. It is one great rock record from the early seventies

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Posted Friday, January 30, 2009

Review by Kazuhiro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The music character based on the rhythm and blues might already have been established to some degree as their styles. It was about at 1967 that two people (Fagen and Becker) met in student's age. It liked Jazz and blues more than the lock, and they wrote and accumulated the tune in amateur bands. The music that they created was not already a simple tune. For one thing, it was in the content of a flow of the complex code and poetic lyrics about their charms. Therefore, it is guessed that the activity of their music did not develop at once. However, they got the job of Music of the movie etc.Men who establish the shape of the band gradually meet producer's Gary Katz. This event will greatly expand the width of their activities. It settles down in recording musician's shape the form though they were being offered the place where the tune can be created. It was concretely surely expressed and their music invented directionality as the band though they were forecasting neither various guests nor tours, etc.Their senses can already be found though this album is their debut albums. The feeling of the chord progression and the rhythm gives birth to a peculiar flow as there are an element and the blues of pop in the basis. Their styles have already been established and if their music characters are pursued, might be almost blocked in this album. There might have been an environment and a fate for it to besiege them that they were able to create the tune freely to some degree. Everything starts from this album. And, Fagen and Becker become units of two people and create a masterpiece further.

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Posted Monday, July 13, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Steely Dan has their own status in the world of tasteful music. People who never heard about prog-rock, and who even don't care about it, like their music. And music fanatics, who can speak about Trey Gunn's importance in KC MkIII, like them as well. So, just take it easy...

Debut album of these two guys (plus huge team of other musicians, as usual for them) is real Steely Dan. Golden melodies, well calculated and well crafted songs,warm sound.

OK, you can hear much more r'n'b or blues-rock roots there. And still less jazz, as it will happens later. But you can't make a mistake, no way - it's Steely Dan's music from very first sound.So, if you like them, you will accept this album with pleasure. If not - you will stay with your opinion as well.

I don't think that discussion about how proggy are Steely Dan has any sense. They have their own style, intelectual pop/soft rock , well arranged, often with jazzy clothes. It variates from album to album,getting it's peak in "Aja" album. All other their works are the same formula with some different nuances.

For sure, the first album isn't perfect, but even there you can hear some perfect things (near very average things). I think, they just show us example what quality pop-rock should be.

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Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Do not let the absolutely dreadful cover fool you--there is good music to be found within!

As a progger, there are many reasons for me to dislike the Dan (i.e., pop sensibilities, reliance on session musicians, no perfect genre to pigeonhole them into, etc), but I simply cannot help it...I love the Dan.

And I particularly love this album. Each song is fairly simple, but each have the charm of skilled songwriters and musicians that did not yet have the time or money to overextend--or overproduce--their material. Each piece has a warm sound and a newbie's energy and soul.

What amazes me is that there is no dud to be found on this album--I honestly enjoy each song, from the classic rock shuffle of Reelin, to the bossy bossa nova Fool, to the soothing slide of Charmer, to the quasi-anthem Guard. As a notorious song-skipper, this is remarkable for me.

So, as a debut for the Dan, I'm going into 4 star territory for Can't Buy a Thrill. I admit some personal bias--I just love this album, while few others would put it among their Steely Dan prizes--but Can't Buy a Thrill at least bought me a good deal of musical satisfaction.

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Posted Friday, November 12, 2010

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
3 stars Steely Dan got their name from a talking dildo in William Burroughs' novel "Naked Lunch". Soft Machine also got their name from Burroughs. This is their debut album, not as jazzy as later efforts. On this album they even had a 'lead vocalist' in David Palmer. I think at this point the group still played live but would soon become just a studio band. The music here doesn't sound very complex but if you really study it, it is harder to play than it seems.

"Do It Again" is now a staple of classic rock radio. One of the band's best songs. Nice mix of Wurlitzer and percussion. Electric sitar solo then an organ solo. You can play this song in one of the Guitar Hero games. Not only do you play the sitar solo but also the organ solo too! It's actually funny when you use the whammy bar during the organ part. Unlike the last song sung by Donald Fagen, "Dirty Work" has Palmer on vocals. Another highlight. The chorus is good. I like the horns after the first one. Good sax solo with organ.

"Kings" is a good song. After the chorus there is a nice melody on something(electric piano? electric sitar?). "Midnight Cruiser" has drummer Jim Hodder on vocals. Love the guitar after the choruses. Good guitar solo. "Only A Fool Would Say That" is the shortest and weakest song on the album. It's sandwiched between two of the better songs. "Reelin' In The Years" is another staple of classic rock radio. Good lyrics. Great lead guitar tone and playing. The guitar part after the second chorus is some of the best playing of the 1970s. That part comes back later. Awesome guitar solo with good rhythm section back up. The song ends with another great solo but unfortunately it gets faded out.

"Fire In The Hole" has great piano playing at the start and in the middle. Also some good twangy steel guitar. Cool chord changes in this song. "Change Of The Guard" has a great guitar solo in it. SD would go on to make better albums with great production and playing from studio musicians. This album is not the proggiest thing in the world, but it is a good debut album. 3 stars.

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Posted Thursday, December 09, 2010

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I have read that Fagen and Becker were not very happy with this album other than the hits "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years" which they would continue to play live for years.The rest of the album though ? No, other than "Dirty Work" they ignored these tracks in a live setting. I must admit I take artists criticisms of their albums with a grain of salt because we all have our own tastes but man they were right about ths one. I don't think i've ever listened to such a top heavy album in my life. By that I mean we have those three amazing tracks i've already mentioned and then a universe away we have the rest of the songs. I honestly could care less if I ever heard the "other" tracks again in my life.That's just my opinion of course.This is where it all started for Becker and Fagan and boy did they open some eyes all over the world with those three tracks. It made them famous.

"Do It Again" reminds me of SANTANA to start with that percussion, it will continue throughout. Such a cool track and I like the organ 4 minutes in. "Dirty Work" is a sentimental favourite of mine that reminds me of when I was a kid. I actually didn't even know this was a STEELY DAN song until recently. I like the relaxed sax solo with the organ floating in the background after 2 minutes. "Kings" opens with piano as vocals and a fuller sound join in. It's catchy but I find the lyrics lame. "Midnight Cruiser" is okay I guess and so is the jazzy "Only A Fool Would Say That".

"Reelin' In The Years" is all about the lyrics and guitar.You can't get much more classic than this. "Fire In The Hole" puts the focus on the lyrics. It's okay. Guitar comes in late. "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)" has a Country flavour and it reminds me of the EAGLES. Not a fan at all. "Change Of The Guard" is worse. Just awful. So it prepares us for "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" which is pure crap.

I couldn't give this less than 3 stars because of those three incredible tunes but man it's tempting.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#449376) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Steely Dan are a unique jazz-rock combo who instead of blending hard rock with cutting-edge jazz instead combine the conventions of smooth jazz and soft rock, with their quirky, sardonic sense of humour and exceptional virtuosity saving the mixture from becoming overly saccharine or cheesy. Their debut album takes this model and crafts it into beautiful, haunting, sarcastic pop classics. Of particular note is Daniel Palmer's lead vocals on Brooklyn and Dirty Work. This is the most commercial of Steely Dan's albums, as well as being one of the least dark and least technically flashy with later albums providing a better showcase for the musicianship of Becker and Fagen and their gallows humour.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#501584) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review by Sheavy
COLLABORATOR Progressive Electronic Team
4 stars A masterpiece, just not of Prog.

Steely Dan's debut shows Steely Dan's song-writing ability already at full force, with their excellent blend of pop, soft rock, and jazz. Can't Buy A Thrill features a ton of Steely Dan's most well known, and best songs, such as Do It Again, with it's amazing guitar solo courtesy of Denny Dias, and excellent organ solo by Donald Fagen, and it's spanish flavorings, or the excellent pop of Reelin' In The Years, with more excellent guitar playing, with a nice guitar harmony part, and some nice piano playing.

I've always thought of Steely Dan as the Pink Floyds of pop, due to their absolutely stunning lyrical capability, which is more akin to Prog, than Pop, lyrics ( see Fire In The Hole, Midnite Cruiser, Do It Again, and Kings, my favorites from here). Their lyrics would also get even better on their later, more Proggy, albums.

As Steely Dan were not in their Prog phase yet, this cannot be given a perfect five stars, but this being said, it is a masterpiece, and Steely Dan's poppy songs should appeal to prog fans based on their mix of smart lyrics, good muscianship, and good compositions.

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Send comments to Sheavy (BETA) | Report this review (#776105) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, June 22, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars This first album by Steely Dan has grown in stature for me over the years. Steely Dan is one of my top ten bands, without a doubt, and Can't Buy A Thrill has only a couple of weak songs. On that basis, I give Can't Buy A Thrill 4 stars. It's great, but not their best. It's impressive what ... (read more)

Report this review (#1104201) | Posted by thwok | Tuesday, December 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Can't Buy a Thrill ? 1972 (4/5) 12 ? Best Song: Do It Again The Steely Dan duo are smart folks. No, they aren't any smarter than your average smart person, and they aren't any more talented than your average?supertalented jazz rock outfit. What they got, and I mean they got it ? in spades, ev ... (read more)

Report this review (#440465) | Posted by Alitare | Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Along with THE ROYAL SCAM, parts of GAUCHO and, of course, AJA, this is the best Steely Dan has to offer. It seems to be a bit more rock oriented rather than Jazzy like their later works but it is a wonderful debut from a great band. It's amazing how many classic songs are on this one disc: ... (read more)

Report this review (#440064) | Posted by mohaveman | Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Here we are, at the beginning of the STEELY DAN train. Their debut, CAN'T BUY A THRILL, I have to admit has better songs than I initially remembered, but after listening through their stuff again in preparation for writing these reviews, I discovered some nuggets on it. Tracks like "Do It Again", ... (read more)

Report this review (#415013) | Posted by Gorloche | Sunday, March 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4.5 Stars. Of ourse this isn't prog. This isn't even jazz/rock fusion. This is album rock. Made for FM radio. Quick--name a band that had 3 alltime pop classics on their debut album Maybe CCR, The Doors, The Beatles, Otis Redding......Steely Dan. "Do it Again," "Dirty Work," an ... (read more)

Report this review (#378945) | Posted by Suedevanshoe | Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What more can I say about this highly influential band's debut album that hasn't already been said? Well, in my opinion it was great start for Steely Dan. Their unique super blend of jazz, rock, R&B and pop should not be missed. The songwriting is very literate, inventive, dark and sometimes t ... (read more)

Report this review (#350241) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, December 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Can't Buy a Thrill, an underappreciated album, that is for sure! Can't Buy a Thril, Steely Dan's first album, was released in 1972. The album is an interesting blend of jazz influence (especially on piano, sometimes even on drums), pop singing (the vocals being clean, melodic and really charming, ... (read more)

Report this review (#306138) | Posted by Ogilla | Friday, October 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It was March or April of 1973, and my mother, sister, and I were on a brief trip on Highway 90 out of New Orleans to Fort Pike in the Rigolets. During this journey, courtesy of WTIX-AM, I first heard Reeling in the Years. This song has had a place in my imagination ever since. I was pleased ... (read more)

Report this review (#203890) | Posted by ken_scrbrgh | Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Good to see Steely Dan added to the Progarchives. They certainly belong there, though this first album wasn't enough to do it. When I first heard the album back in 1972 I was attracted by the inventiveness compared to so much pop rock. Mssrs Becker and Fagen where apparently caught between the ... (read more)

Report this review (#180820) | Posted by DocB | Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Hey, we've got Nightwish in the archives, why not? Steely Dan is not a progressive rock band as the term is used at all, but they certainly helped to progress rock music. Steely Dan were the first band to really popularize jazz rock, it had certainly been done before, but never so smoothly and w ... (read more)

Report this review (#180717) | Posted by King Crimson776 | Sunday, August 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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