Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography

STEELY DAN

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Steely Dan picture
Steely Dan biography
Founded in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA in 1972 - Disbanded in 1981 - Reunited in 1993 up until Becker's death in 2017 - Inducted into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 (Performer)

In the year of our Lord, 1967, at the esteemed institution of higher learning known as Bard College located in Annandale-On Hudson New York, two jazz loving musicians met and decided to form a musical partnership that would cast a long shadow over American music over the 1970's and whose reputation and stature has only grown over time with new generations discovering their music and appreciating their unique and uncompromising way of making music. Never associated with progressive rock... yet.. as progressive as any group asssociated with progressive rock. Music made with crytic, highly intellectual lyrics grounded not in mythology or sword and sorcery but in the experience of living in 1970's America. Full of dark humour, social commentary delivered with a biting sarcasm by one of rock's greatest unappreciated lyricists. The music itself was a highly demanding unique treatment of the jazz-rock fusion that was so fresh and creative in the 1970's. The music though was not a mere vehicle for musical indulgence, expression, or wankery but was presented in a mainstream context with the music, and the lyrics being strengths that set the group apart from contemporaries in the jazz-rock scene. Tales abound of multiple retakes, from the greatest instrumentalists in American music, repeating complex parts over and over till they met the demands of the groups leaders. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

Fagen and Becker at Bard and discovered a shared passion for the music of Brubeck, Coltrane, Ellington, and Charlie Parker. During college.. like all of us music loving college have done..they formed several bands that explored their love of jazz. After Graduating in 1969 they left for New York City to try their hands at becoming songwriters and selling the songs they had written together. While that did not pan out for them, they did make an acquaintance in Kenny Vance of 'Jay and the Americans', that would set them on the road to success. They got their first taste of life on the road as back-up musicians and even doing the soundtrack for the low-budget Richard Pryor film 'You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It'. However their most important contact was soon to come. Gary Katz of ABC Records.

Katz took Fagen and Becker under his wing and in 1971 brought them with hi...
read more

STEELY DAN forum topics / tours, shows & news


STEELY DAN forum topics Create a topic now
STEELY DAN tours, shows & news Post an entries now

STEELY DAN Videos (YouTube and more)


Showing only random 3 | Search and add more videos to STEELY DAN

Buy STEELY DAN Music



More places to buy STEELY DAN music online

STEELY DAN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

STEELY DAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.57 | 214 ratings
Can't Buy a Thrill
1972
4.02 | 219 ratings
Countdown to Ecstasy
1973
3.70 | 188 ratings
Pretzel Logic
1974
3.72 | 165 ratings
Katy Lied
1975
3.74 | 188 ratings
The Royal Scam
1976
4.14 | 337 ratings
Aja
1977
3.69 | 173 ratings
Gaucho
1980
3.31 | 99 ratings
Two Against Nature
2000
2.99 | 75 ratings
Everything Must Go
2003

STEELY DAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 33 ratings
Alive in America
1993
0.00 | 0 ratings
Maria McPartland & Steely Dan: Piano Jazz (Radio Broadcast)
2005
3.50 | 6 ratings
In Concert
2008
3.00 | 1 ratings
Going Mobile
2013

STEELY DAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.26 | 8 ratings
Classic Albums: Aja
2000
3.59 | 16 ratings
Two Against Nature
2000
2.14 | 2 ratings
In Concert
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dilectus
2012

STEELY DAN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
Fagen & Becker: You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It (OST)
1971
5.00 | 1 ratings
Steely Dan
1978
3.58 | 13 ratings
Greatest Hits
1979
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Very Best Of
1979
4.00 | 1 ratings
Steely Dan
1981
4.00 | 1 ratings
Walter Becker / Donald Fagen - The Early Years
1983
3.71 | 18 ratings
A Decade of Steely Dan
1985
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Very Best of Steely Dan: Do It Again
1987
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Very Best of Steely Dan: Reelin' In the Years
1987
3.17 | 10 ratings
Gold ( Expanded Edition)
1991
4.00 | 5 ratings
Then And Now - The Best of Steely Dan
1993
3.40 | 21 ratings
Citizen Steely Dan
1993
4.00 | 6 ratings
Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980
2000
4.00 | 2 ratings
The Definitive Collection
2006
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of
2007
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Best Of
2009

STEELY DAN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Dallas
1972
4.00 | 3 ratings
Reeling In The Years
1972
3.33 | 3 ratings
Dirty Work
1973
3.33 | 3 ratings
Show Biz Kids
1973
4.00 | 3 ratings
Pretzel Logic
1974
4.00 | 3 ratings
Bad Sneakers
1975
3.33 | 3 ratings
Haitian Divorce
1976
4.00 | 3 ratings
Kid Charlemagne
1976
4.00 | 3 ratings
Black Friday
1976
4.00 | 3 ratings
Josie
1977
2.50 | 2 ratings
Four Tracks From Steely Dan
1977
4.00 | 3 ratings
FM
1978
4.00 | 3 ratings
Do It Again
1978
3.50 | 2 ratings
Do It Again (Hazlo Otra Vez)
1978
4.00 | 3 ratings
Peg
1978
3.83 | 5 ratings
Rikki Don't Loose That Number
1979
3.67 | 3 ratings
Hey Nineteen
1980
4.00 | 3 ratings
Time Out Of Mind
1980
3.50 | 2 ratings
Reelin' In The Years
1982
2.00 | 1 ratings
Remastered: A Sample of Steely Dan
1993
2.00 | 1 ratings
Sampler
2000
3.67 | 3 ratings
Cousin Dupree
2000

STEELY DAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Can't Buy a Thrill by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.57 | 214 ratings

BUY
Can't Buy a Thrill
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It's a bit strange to imagine a period in Steely Dan's career in which they were actually a full-fledged band, but that era does indeed exist. Prior to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's transition to full-time studio experimentation, their first three records had a solid lineup of musicians to record and tour with. But even in this early phase, their perfectionist tendencies led to members leaving left and right; some of them, such as singer David Palmer, only had one stint with the duo because of clashing personalities and simply not fitting in stylistically. Hey, even back then Becker and Fagen knew what they wanted out of their musicians! In hindsight, it's no wonder they eventually stuck with only session players. But if you want to hear an aural snapshot of the time Steely Dan were the closest to being an actual band, Can't Buy a Thrill will provide just that.

As debut albums go, this one is surprisingly accomplished. Although it tends to be much poppier and softer than future records, the jazz influences and cynical lyricism still surface pretty prominently. If you're a casual Steely Dan listener, you probably at least know "Do It Again" and "Reelin' in the Years"; they still get tons of airplay to this day, and it's not without reason. The former's latin flavor and sitar-esque guitar work result in instant memorability, while the latter matches rich vocal harmonies with a sunshine pop atmosphere to great effect. Not to mention, you've got Elliott Randall's amazing lead guitar work in that tune, which frequently graces several "best guitar solo" lists even today. But what makes Can't Buy a Thrill so interesting is the experimentation found in several of the deep cuts. This may actually be the most diverse Steely Dan album, despite still maintaining the level of focus that usually goes into their songwriting. Elements of pop, soft rock, folk, and even country creep into their usual jazz rock sound; this level of variety really makes the album's runtime fly by, as it ensures the tracklist doesn't get homogeneous.

Let's get into those deeper cuts, shall we? I'll break it down by genre. To represent the pop and soft rock elements, we've got "Dirty Work", "Only a Fool Would Say That", "Midnite Cruiser", and "Change of the Guard". Can't Buy a Thrill is probably Steely Dan's most easygoing record, and it's mostly due to these cuts; with that said, there's still some really solid songwriting here. "Dirty Work" and "Midnite Cruiser" are two of the only songs that aren't sung by Fagen - they're sung by Palmer and drummer Jim Hodder respectively - and it's interesting to hear how their voices blend with Becker and Fagen's musical/lyrical aesthetic. The former is particularly noteworthy as Palmer's soft, warm voice contrasts wonderfully with the song's harsh lyrics about having an affair; you can tell the band's penchant for being subversive and witty was already being established here. Meanwhile, the folk rock side has the smooth slide guitar of the country-influenced "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)" and the wonderful three-part vocal harmonies of closer "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again". Both go a long way in making the record a more multifaceted experience, though perhaps "Brooklyn" sounds a bit cheesy and dated by today's standards.

Finally, the jazz rock sound would be represented by the likes of "Do It Again", "Kings", "Reelin' in the Years", and "Fire in the Hole". Now that might seem like a small number of jazz-based tunes compared to what's found on later efforts, and that's because it is. And while "Kings" and "Fire in the Hole" are fantastic efforts that demonstrate Fagen's underrated piano skills, one wishes that more of these types of songs were on the record. The album's diversity is to be admired, but the whole thing still feels quite embryonic compared to the sound and aesthetic the main songwriting duo would perfect in the future. Still, Can't Buy a Thrill is a strikingly solid launching pad for what would become one of the most unique and fascinating bands to grace the 70s. Interestingly enough, Becker and Fagen both called the record a rush job despite putting in several months of writing and recording before its release. I suppose it's a testament to how dedicated they were to crafting just the right sound and style, something that would become more evident with every passing album. But if Can't Buy a Thrill is considered a "rush job", then I wish more rush jobs were this good.

 Can't Buy a Thrill by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.57 | 214 ratings

BUY
Can't Buy a Thrill
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

4 stars Steely Dan takes the listener on a true ride with their very first studio album 'Can't Buy a Thrill'; going all the way from hard rock to jazz, R&B, soft rock, some blues and Latin rock, and adding a tint of prog in the atmosphere, you get a trailblazer of a record that sounds as good as ever at the verge of its fiftieth anniversary - a true sign that it was quality over quantity for this American band.

Formed in 1971 by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Steely Dan, a band named after a dildo in a William S. Burroughs novel, is one of the somewhat underappreciated classic rock acts, which would of course mean that they never reached the mainstream appeal of other giant bands like Deep Purple, or Fleetwood Mac, or even The Eagles, should we name a few. The music of Steely Dan, however, is no less spectacular. And then again, hard rock or rock'n'roll would not be a very helpful tag for SD for the ones that have not heard this band; Their music reaches so many different places and creates such an unmatched atmosphere with its pleasant gush of classy rock tunes that might be considered sophisti-pop on some occasions.

All of this should come as no surprise, given the stellar line-up and the presence of three different vocalists throughout the record, all of which have excellent and memorable voices. Donald Fagen handles the keyboard and lead vocal duties, Walter Becker the bass and backing vocals, Jim Hoder the drums and the lead vocals on 'Midnite Cruiser', Daved Palmer on vocals as well, and finally Jeff Baxter and Denny Dias on guitars.

The warm and virtually perfect production hits you from the opening notes of 'Do It Again', arguably their most famous song, a jazzy, steady-paced soft rocker that contains one of the most memorable choruses in all of 70s rock music; on top of that, the instrumental breaks are marvelous (not only here, but throughout the whole album). Then comes 'Dirty Work', a sing-along radio rocker that is much more appealing than one could expect from such a stripped-down song. 'Kings' has beautiful vocal harmonies, another hit for Steely Dan; 'Midnite Cruiser' could be described as a combination of the three songs that preceded it, and 'Only a Fool Would Say That' is a gentle nod to Latin rock, with yet another memorable chorus, great instrumental work and fine vocal work.

Opening side two is 'Reelin' in the Years' that is followed by 'Fire in the Hole' and I can say that both of these songs are simply legendary; Moreover, all of the above descriptions apply for them as well - amazing songwriting, top-level production, instrumental prowess and beautiful vocals, a mixture of the band's rock and blues roots and their jazzy, almost radio-friendly inclinations. The rest of the album is contained in songs like 'Brooklyn', a slow-paced track with lead vocals from Palmer, 'Change of the Guard' and 'Turn That Heartbeat Over Again', a really strong composition.

Not all classic bands began their careers with excellent releases. Steely Dan did, and what is more, they presented an unmatched palette of sounds, a vibrant energy and masterful songwriting, all resulting in the creation of what is evidently one of the most enjoyable albums ever recorded. The diversity in this album alone, the somewhat philosophical lyrics, the masterful way of composing with the minimal number of notes and the laid-back swagger of the songs, are all adding up to the charm of this really excellent record and band.

 Katy Lied by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.72 | 165 ratings

BUY
Katy Lied
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Much like Florence and the Machine or post-Spiritual Healing Chuck Schuldiner, Steely Dan's two founding members eventually decided to ditch the band format altogether and instead use a revolving door of session musicians. 1975's Katy Lied was the first record to be released in this format, and it really helps it stand out from their previous albums. Ever since Can't But a Thrill, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had been slowly incorporating more and more jazz elements into their rock sound; around this point in their career, it's about a 50/50 split of both jazz and rock. And quite impressively, songs as jazzy and progressive as "Your Gold Teeth II" and "Doctor Wu" co- exist with pop rock tunes like "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" and "Black Friday" more easily than you'd think.

In fact, it might make for the band's most balanced and consistent recording overall. It still retains that slick, city-like "nightlife" atmosphere that defines most Steely Dan works, primarily influenced by the duo's time spent in Los Angeles during the recording sessions. Combined with an increasing emphasis on jazz influences and techniques, there's a really chilled-out vibe to most of Katy Lied. This is especially apparent on the second half, which features such moments as the swingin' blues rock of "Chain Lightning" and the light jazz swing of "Your Gold Teeth II", the latter of which sounds like it could have been taken straight out of A Charlie Brown Christmas (especially the verses). Meanwhile, the duo manage to expand the scope of their influences with the light latin feel of "Any World"'s verses and the complex mood swings of the fusion-meets-soft-rock album closer "Throw Back the Little Ones". And if I had to pick out the best blend of the complex and the poppy, it would have to be fan favorite "Doctor Wu," mixing progressive piano arrangements with straightforward rhythms to relate a surprisingly dark story of intense drug abuse.

Considering this is the first Steely Dan to feature a whole cast of guest musicians, the list the band compiled is really impressive. The names were pretty much the who's who of that era of rock music: legendary guitarist Rick Derringer, Denny Dias, The Doobie Brothers' Michael McDonald, the late drumming virtuoso Jeff Porcaro, and the list goes on. The fact that Fagen and Becker could find so many great players so early into their career is a testament to how quickly they'd earned respect from their peers, and it isn't without reason. Even with all the extra talent to lend a hand, it has to be emphasized that the duo themselves are the only writers of the songs found on Katy Lied. There's a sophistication on this record that you don't often find in pop rock; even simpler numbers like "Black Friday" and "Rose Darling" have chord changes and mood shifts that, while natural and well-placed, use subtle hints of jazz to add a little more depth and quirkiness to the rockin' riffs. The former's chorus is a perfect example, as layered vocal harmonies and strange descending piano chords meet each other for a really cool moment together.

While The Royal Scam and Aja might technically be jazzier and less poppy than Katy Lied, the latter is still the Steely Dan album I come back to the most. Something about the track flow, the near-perfect mix of jazz and pop rock, the atmosphere? it all just works so well. The list of guest musicians is top-notch, and they really help flesh out the vision of the joint songwriters (just check out the incredible guitar work from Denny Dias on "Your Gold Teeth II"). And at only 35 minutes, nothing really feels like filler. If you enjoy laid-back pop rock, jazz fusion, or even progressive rock, I can't recommend Katy Lied enough.

 Aja by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 337 ratings

BUY
Aja
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by marcobrusa

3 stars When i discovered Aja i was surprised because i thought the sound quality was impeccable and the musicianship was... well, perfect. A 70's album could not sound like this if you asked me. Music wise, i feel there's a lack of energy. Not speed, energy. The arrangements are not interesting enough for my taste. Even though the compositions are excellent, not a single track in this record modifies me. I want to be transported with music and this kind of soft jazz rock does'n sound like something to listen to with your eyes closed. It's too static. Maybe i'm an intensity addict, i don't know, but in my opinion this is an overrrated album. The quality is there. The excitement is missing. Overall: good album. If you enjoy preciseness and perfection, get this album. If you prefer action -maybe with compositional and/or technical mistakes-, this is not a necessary album.
 Pretzel Logic by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.70 | 188 ratings

BUY
Pretzel Logic
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Seems that this band is just full of surprises, given how after Countdown to Ecstasy, I'd expected Steely Dan's next album to slowly progress into more jazzy, complex territory as the next logical step towards Aja. What actually happened however, was that Pretzel Logic felt more like the continuation of Can't Buy a Thrill, feeling far more stripped back and breezy, with far more attention given to the catchy hooks and laid back melodies than ever before. This can be immediately seen by the opening track, Rikki Don't Lose that Number, with a lot of that same sort of faux-jazziness that doesn't sound quite right, but still is able to evoke the sort of relaxed atmosphere that I'd assume the band was going for here. The chorus is also extremely catchy, with the gradually increasing intensity and passion put into it as it goes on making for a really great track. The way this ties into the album's sound in general is cool as well, with a lot of other tracks taking these sorts of key elements and applying them to the core approach, with the main differences coming mainly from the fact that this is a pretty eclectic album.

While the album is very cohesive as a whole, a lot of the tracks have slight tinges of other genres thrown into the mix, such as the folkiness of Any Major Dude's opening, the light funkiness of Night By Night, and the Country twang of With a Gun. Of these, Night by Night is easily the best of these, the the aforementioned funkiness of it contributing a lot to creating an engaging listening experience, especially when combined with the best guitar solo on the album. While it's understandably not very well liked, East St. Louis Toodle-Oo is a track I'm also quite partial to, with its sound being the exact kind of thing that evokes imagery of old-timey films, and the instrumentation as a whole being really nice and well played. The one other song that warrants some mention is the title track, for being so memorable based on the fact that it so closely resembles the instrumentation of Bill Withers' Do It Good, with a steady groove that remains in your head for days after. While there are definitely many more songs on the album, here's where the issue comes in, I can't remember any of them, they're pleasant when they come on, but end up lacking much in the ways of memorable songwriting, all blending together to create an amorphous pile of music that is indistinguishable by memory alone, so I guess it's fortunate that the music with these tracks at least sounds nice regardless, otherwise I wouldn't like the album much at all.

Overall, while at times this album can be very unmemorable, it's still largely a positive listening experience with some great highlights throughout. As is the standard for the band, it sounds very meticulous even in its most conventional, accessible moments, which goes a long way to have them distinguish themselves from a lot of other acts of the time. With that said, it's also probably their least distinctive album of the 4 I've heard, with the more middle of the road nature of a good half of the tracks makes it an album that while preferring to Cant Buy A Thrill, would be far from my first pick to give to someone. Steely Dan may have a knack for making some great, catchy pop music, but it doesn't make this album epitomise a lot of the gripes people have with the band any less prominent, it's just a good thing that I like the band so that stuff isn't egregious to me.

Best tracks: Rikki Don't Lose That Number, Night By Night, Pretzel Logic

Weakest tracks: Barrytown, Through With Buzz

 Countdown to Ecstasy by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.02 | 219 ratings

BUY
Countdown to Ecstasy
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Considering that the main reference points I had for the progression of Steely Dan were Can't Buy A Thrill and Aja, this album ended up surprising me quite a bit in the direction it took, rather than becoming even smoother and more elegantly composed, it went in the opposite direction and led to an album with a bit of a bite to it. While Countdown To Ecstasy still largely follows the same sort of subdued, comfy sounding approach, the use of distorted electric guitar comes into play more prominently, making for many moments that are comparatively heavy to SD's other material, all while still sounding remarkably meticulous in its composition. While doing this to set the album apart from their debut, CTE also represents some maturation of the band's style, with each song still being very immediate, catchy and all around fun despite the cynicism that bleeds through, but far more detailed, a lot more going on in each song, making it more interesting to closely listen to for reasons other than the amazingly clean sound that is a consistent aspect of the band's material as a whole.

This difference in sound is made immediately apparent from the opening track, Bodhisattva, taking on a distinctly bluesy, rock n roll aesthetic, but having a lot of underlying complexity to it, ranging from the multiple solos throughout that are backed by an extremely elegant keyboard line, to the way that it all sounds very stripped back without sounding hollow. Very cool how they managed to make a song that's simultaneously so playful and danceable, yet also feels like the perfect track to kick back to. That said, when talking about heavier moments on the album, I'd be remiss to avoid talking about Show Biz Kids, which ends up being a bit of a strange sounding moment, with the repetitive backing vocals setting a steady rhythm that's both hypnotic and mildly uncanny simultaneously. Adding to this is the way the vocal melodies have a couple of small places where they jump around a bit and don't feel like they properly stick to a beat, contrasted with some other parts that are very repetitive which is something that's made a bit more unusual sounding due to how "perfect" Steely Dan always made their music sound, even during the bad songs. Closing it off is the distorted guitar solo that makes it the rare, genuinely intense SD moment that brings the song to an extremely climactic close.

On the other side of things, moving away from the heavier sound of some of this album, there's the fact that everything here sounds so much more well put together, especially in terms of the jazzier moments on the album actually sounding somewhat jazzy rather than regular pop rock song with pretty saxophone and organs. This is especially true to Gold Teeth, which has very lush instrumentation that becomes more detailed and complex as it goes on, with the last couple of minutes especially featuring some excellent drumming balanced with a couple of parts that almost end up bordering on something you'd hear on an easy to listen to jazz fusion album. The other area this album excels at is how it consistently knows how to end a song, with the last minute or 2 consistently being by far the greatest part of the majority of material here, and are the reason why some of the best songs on the album are as good as they are. The Boston Rag is the clearest example of this, being a good song, but becoming something truly special once the piano kicks in, providing an amazing backing groove to the finest guitar solo on the album.

While there's a lot more to ramble about on the album, such as how good King of the World is, but at this point it really would be just that, rambling about parts of the album that I love. At the end of the day, this is definitely a marked improvement and sign of maturation from Can't Buy A Thrill to the point where even the songs that could qualify as filler, such as Razor Boy and Pearl of the Quarter still end up being really lovely to listen to with clearly a lot of attention given even to these lesser parts. The fact that I feel like this is yet another album with a very distinct identity also lends credence to the quality of this band even if on the surface they could seem like generic, overly commercial sounding pop rock to some. Definitely worth checking out yet again for those into this sort of vaguely jazzy, polished music, because yet again, just like with Can't Buy a Thrill, this music seems meticulously made with that sort of listening experience in mind.

Best tracks: Bodhisattva, The Boston Rag, My Gold Teeth, Show Biz Kids, King of the World

Weakest tracks: Razor Boy, Pearl of the Quarter

 Can't Buy a Thrill by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.57 | 214 ratings

BUY
Can't Buy a Thrill
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars My knowledge on Steely Dan happens to currently be contained almost exclusively to this album and Aja, but these 2 seem to have painted both a good picture of the band as a whole and the sort of progression of their sound from smooth pop rock to even smoother jazz rock. Smooth really is the best word to use for this music, with even the most technical moments still have an undeniable polished feel to them. While this sort of music can very easily fall into the territory of inoffensive shlock that ends up sounding like elevator music, Can't Buy A Thrill, and really Steely Dan on the whole manage to avoid this with a combination of good songwriting and juxtaposing this smoothness with a very cynical, sarcastic edge that lends towards giving them an entertaining charm. When it comes down to it, this album doesn't really have a lot to it outside of this sort of charm, being little more than a collection of catchy, sometimes anthemic pop rock songs that can worm there way into the listener's head and sit there for a while, with some great playing throughout that ends up being equally as ear catching as the hooks, not that there's anything remotely wrong with that.

The album kicks off with what's by far its best track, Do It Again, with a funky bassline and even sounding a bit like a Santana song, with a bit of that latin rock edge solidifying this sort of comparison. The vocal melodies are particularly on point, along with the way that this segues into a wonderful solo that's both somewhat fast paced yet having that airy, laid back feel to it as to not feel out of place. While the album's been largely praise so far, there are definitely a couple of issues I do have with it, one of the biggest being its use of jazzier elements sounding a bit superficial. What I mean by this comes from the fact that in Dirty Work most of all, it feels as if they decided to have some jazziness but thought that jazz just meant saxophone and piano and left it at that, making some of the songs here sound far inferior than they could have, even if Dirty Work's verses are still nice enough regardless. While there are definitely songs I prefer on the album, Kings is probably the song I'd point towards that reflects the band's sound the best, being quite soft sounding, a catchy hook, and some underlying sense of melancholy and sarcasm to the seemingly positive music. This song's also nicely capped off with one of the best guitar solos on the album, giving it a bit of an additional edge over a lot of other songs here. Both Midnite Cruiser and Only a Fool Would Say That aren't particularly amazingly memorable, but are both examples of chilled out, feel-good songs that are perfect for putting on and kicking back to.

The other big problem with this album comes from the fact that the 2nd side is for the most part a massive drop in quality, kicking off with Reelin' In The Years, which basically feels like the antithesis of everything that makes this album good, even though this is another catchy song. There's an almost taunting quality to the chorus that feels outright grating, and the overbearing sarcasm just ends up being too much to really enjoy, not to mention that the vocals just don't feel like they work here in the somewhat higher register. Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me) similarly just doesn't work, though in this case it largely comes down to the fact it's both extremely repetitive but without a good chorus to even attempt to salvage it, leading to an experience that's boring at best and annoying at worst, without even having the semblance of trying something comparatively interesting. While both Change of the Guard and Turn That Heartbeat Over Again are serviceable but nothing special, there's one other great song on the album, that being Fire in the Hole, which is far and away the most energetic track, with a strongly bouncy, groovy piano, a genuinely extremely fun verse, and solos that barely divert at all from the core sound of the song, hard to say much more about this song, but it's a real treat to listen to.

On the whole, while this album definitely has some issues in terms of pacing, consistency and its sound in general sometimes being a bit off with its attempts at jazziness, at its core, this is a solid, comfy sounding pop rock album that's very easy to throw on and just relax to. The album also sounds extremely polished, funny to say considering that all of Steely Dan's albums past this point were even more so, but it's nonetheless completely accurate to say for this album as well. It's also a bit of a shame that none of the songs are able to quite match the absolute greatness of Do it Again and to a slightly lesser extent, Fire in the Hole, but even so, there isn't too much here that I'd consider outright bad either. This album isn't really incredible and definitely seems like the band went on to strongly refine their sound further down the line, but I can't deny that I found it quite enjoyable to listen to regardless. Definitely give it a listen if you're more into this sort of easy to listen to, chilled out sound, because this album seems tailored towards that sort of listening experience.

Best tracks: Do it Again, Kings, Fire in the Hole

Weakest tracks: Reelin' In the Years, Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)

 Aja by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.14 | 337 ratings

BUY
Aja
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Menswear
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

When I listen to this album, I cannot see anything else but the Muppets playing. Aja is such a cult record, dare I stab at it?

Less a stab than more of a jab. Completely rooted in the zeitgeist of the 70's, Aja is oozing with what made that style corny. It's light jazz you can hear in every Holiday Inn lobby or at 2am when lottery numbers shows on tv. And played by Muppets. I cannot put it more graphically.

I personnally have to give major thumbs up to Peg, one of the quirkiest and joyful song ever written. Actually my first ecounter with Peg was in De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising album, on the Eye Know track. I also strongly recommend the first DeLa Soul record to anybody looking for intelligent (or nerdy?) old school hip hop.

It's light and breezy (but so is Kenny G) but far from what I expected. I hardly see where all the genius is. I just know that my wife asked me firmly to turn it off. Yes honey, right away.

You know when Saturday Night Live is presenting it's cast on the opening credits? That's the kind of corny-saxophone-beret-with- sunglasses music to expect. Waka Waka!

Good but overrated.

 Walter Becker / Donald Fagen - The Early Years by STEELY DAN album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1983
4.00 | 1 ratings

BUY
Walter Becker / Donald Fagen - The Early Years
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars This record contains pre-Steely Dan demos of the 1968 - 1971, more or less unofficially issued with varying track listings under different titles. All these "s**** boots" (Walter Becker) were sourced from a cassette sold by Kenny Vance in 1983 without consent of the artists, hence the absymal sound quality. It's one of the first albums I've ever listened, around 1986, with a blue cover, and the title "Old Regime", the most commercial song.

Now, let's talk about the songs.

Side A 1. Brain Tap Shuffle (2:56) is a very convinced boogie where Fagen and Becker sing in unison, and where Dias' sharp guitar is in the foreground, and thanks to the backing vocals you reach a great fusion sound between jazz, blues and soul. The only flaw is that it ends too soon. Vote 8.

2. Come Back Baby (4:02) is a beautiful song, another piano ballad with bass bluesy and the two voices of Fagen and Becker in unison. Simple structure, verse and chorus, with a guitar solo (Denny Dias again) in the center and at the end, immediate and inspired song. Rating 8.

3. Don't Let Me In (4:10). Another piano danced to the rhythm of a boogie, with drums (John Mazzi) and bass (Becker) very strong, and with Fagen's voice in the foreground along with Dias' rhythm guitar. These songs flow which is a pleasure for the ear. This is even more catchy than the previous ones, perhaps too commercial. But Dias' sharp solo lifts the quality and makes it a beautiful blues. Rating 7.5/8

4. Old Regime (3:05). A very rhythmic (John Discepolo on the drums), commercial, verse/chorus pop song, in which the fall of the old regime is sung by Keith Thomas. Nice jazz bridge that, after the second chorus, connects the second verse with the third. Very gritty song but conventional. It is the weakest song of the album. Rating 7+.

5. Brooklyn (5:37) is the only song of this collection that will end up on an official Steely Dan record and this version is slower and more resigned than that on "Cant buy a Thrill". This one is very evocative, based on singing by Fagen and keyboards but in the center has an interesting guitar solo (Elliott Randall), then the song expands a lot up to 6 minutes, becoming the most ardous of the album. In my opinion it is emotionally better than the original one included on the debut album, which loses much of its languid charm even if it is better arranged. Rating 8+.

Side B 1. Mock Turtle Song (3:25) is like the first of the A-side: a really jazz-fusion song with soul backing vocals, xilophone (?), jazzy rhythm, percussive piano, guitar solo (Dias). What a grit these early Steely dan! They got still sixties accents. Very radiophonic and commercial, immediate but also inspired. Rating 7.5/8.

2. Soul Ram (2:05). The shortest song of the album: a pop-jazz track: who sings? I think Keith Thomas, and not Fagen, his voice is more high-pitched and more soulful, less melancholy. Great work of keyboards and percussion. Short filler but very lively. Rating 7+.

3. I Can't Function (3:59). Piano ballad with great Becker on bass and where Fagen plays a saxophone solo. Fagen and Becker singing together and in the end we can hear their talkin'. Rating 8.

4. Yellow Peril (4:01). The track has a great piano work (Fagen), it's a refined pop-jazz ballad, with Fagen's voice in the foreground rising to the high notes. Shy electric guitar solo, which the production does not highlight. Beautiful song, solid, with a nice piano tour and an expressive singing. Rating 7.5/8

5. Let George Do It (3:03). Piano ballad in the honky tonk style, very rhythmic, flowing pleasantly, beautiful singing (Keith Thomas), and sorry only that it ends after 3 minutes. Rating 7,5/8.

Words and music by Fagen and Becker except B1: Words by Charles Dodgson. Arranged By - Fagen, Becker.

Album not really prog and composed largely on the piano, which is the sound carpet to every song (except in Brooklyn where keyboards prevail), and which develops with longer songs in the style of ballads, or with shorter and faster songs. There are no real masterpieces but each song is pleasant, melodically inspirated and has an immediacy that will no longer be found on the band's official records.

A record to listen for every fan of the group.

Rating: 8,5. Four stars.

 Countdown to Ecstasy by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.02 | 219 ratings

BUY
Countdown to Ecstasy
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars After their decent but far from perfect debut, one of the lead singers (David Palmer) left the band leaving Donald Fagen to sing lead on all of the songs. Who knew that this would lead to a much better album with their follow up "Countdown to Ecstasy", especially when the album cover was so ugly. While it's true that a hit single wasn't generated from the album, it has its share of classic tracks that have become favorites. Eventually, it received the gold status it deserved, but it wasn't an instant success even though the critics loved it. Now many fans consider it one of their best, and rightly so.

The original cover art was created by Dorothy White who was Fagen's girfreind at the time. The record company couldn't see past the fact that her painting had 3 characters and insisted that two more should be added to represent all of the band's members. What ended up happening was the cover looked unfinished. The proofs were also stolen and that didn't help either. Fagen ended up hating the cover, but he pretty much hated all of the early covers.

The subjects of the songs pretty much followed the same themes of the debut with topics like drug busts and living in excess. The music also stuck with the jazz inspired rock sound of the debut, but this time around, it was more evident, and that movement towards a more free feeling sound is what helps elevate this album so far above the debut. Yes, the debut had "Do It Again" and "Reelin' in the Years", and it is tough to beat those to jam-based songs that are definitely some of SD's most memorable and popular. However, the opening track to "Ecstasy" is sooooo much better. With layered vocals, Fagen strengthened his voice, but the biggest draw to this song is the long instrumental sections that feature rocking and bop-style playfulness between Fagen's keys and Becker's bass and Baxter's guitar which was one of the best examples of their ability to work together. The fact that the lyrics alluded to the fact that if you want to achieve spiritual perfection, you don't necessarily have to give up everything you have was a concept that went against what the hippies of the time tried to preach.

From there, we go to a more jazzy, laid-back vibe that also had a nice even level of complexity in the ironic song "Razor Boy". There is a nice, happy, island vibe to the whole thing, plus Jeff Baxter (who would later play for The Doobie Brothers) lends his smooth steel guitar to the mix, and what you end up with is a biting, yet positive feeling track. "The Boston Rag" works off of a heavier rock sound, but retains the shiny jazz feel nevertheless. As the song develops and moves into the final instrumental break, the piano and guitar work together to create a rugged sound and Jeff Baxter once again pushes it to a nice climax with a distorted guitar solo. This is followed by "Your Gold Teeth" which has a great jazz groove established by the solid keyboard work which use jazz harmonies to lay a nice foundation for Becker's bass and Baxter's guitar. The topic is a female grifter and her ability to scam people with her looks and smarts. The sleazy world is well represented and enhanced by the cool keyboard and guitar solos that surround the verses.

"Show Biz Kids" is another SD classic which forms the persistent and infectious groove early on that repeats all the way through the track but never gets tired as the almost hip hop sound of the music. It works its way into your brain and refuses to leave until long after. The rowdy slide guitar solo is performed by the guitar guru Rick Derringer. This one will get your foot tapping and was one of the first popular songs to use the famous "F" word which was sampled by "Super Furry Animals". After this comes the 2nd of the one-two punch of fan favs called "My Old School". This one is also infectous with the solid backbeat and a jazzy flair. The track is autobiographical as it tells about a drug bust that Fagen and Becker were involved in at their high school. "Daddy G", the person mentioned in the lyrics, is G. Gordon Liddy, who was the local prosecutor at the time. Baxter has another rocking guitar solo in this one too. The sassy sax lines created by the 4 person sax ensemble also make this track a keeper and a favorite.

Baxter continues to deliver excellent pedal steel guitar on "Pearl of the Quarter" which has a definite country flair to it, one of the few SD tracks that could be considered country tinged. The final track to this masterpiece album is "King of the World" which explores the theme of nuclear holocaust in a somewhat sarcastic manner, a theme that Fagen would return to. If anyone doubted SD's ties to jazz flavored rock would not be able to deny it after this track and this album. A nice, smooth synth solo in the instrumental break caps everything off perfectly.

Definitely a major highlight in SD's discography, I consider "Countdown to Ecstasy" one of their best and for sure an influential album for bringing jazz/rock fusion and pop together in one seamless style. The album would be the source of inspiration for many artists, even including Joe Jackson, who released an amazing jazz/rock/pop album of his own called "Night and Day". If there is only one SD album that you hear, this is one that should be one of your choices. Excellent musicianship and songwriting persist through this album which never really gets stale and would be the album that would define their unique sound. No doubt that this album is one of their 5 star masterpieces as it raised the "cool" factor 100%.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.