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STEELY DAN

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Steely Dan biography
Induction Year: 2001
Induction Category: Performer

Inductees: Walter Becker (bass, guitar; born February 20, 1950) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, vocals; born January 10, 1948)

"Steely Dan has been more of a conceptual framework for inventive music-making than a typical rock band. Spearheaded by a pair of resourceful musical auteurs - Donald Fagen and Walter Becker - they have done nothing by the books since launching Steely Dan in 1972. The band's very name is a scatological reference from a novel by Beat Generation anti-hero William Burroughs. Though Steely Dan recorded prolifically for much of the Seventies, they toured for only a brief spell early in that decade, deciding they much preferred the studio to the road. This allowed them to craft a wry, nuanced and hyper-literate series of albums - seven in all, released from 1972 to 1980 - that are highly regarded by connoisseurs of pop hooks, jazz harmony and desiccating wit.

Beneath the highly polished surface of Steely Dan's music, astute listeners could hear a visceral love of and identification with the very soul of jazz. Fagen and Becker referenced Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and Horace Silver at least as much as any rock-oriented source material. Even so, there was a certain accessible quality to songs like "Reelin' in the Years," "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" that allowed Steely Dan to connect with rock fans, especially those who were college-aged and -educated"

from Steely Dan's Induction Ceremony in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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 fre...
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Steely Dan official website

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Buy STEELY DAN Music


AjaAja
Remastered
MCA Records 1999
Audio CD$1.73
$1.49 (used)
Very Best of Steely DanVery Best of Steely Dan
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$6.19
$6.88 (used)
Definitive CollectionDefinitive Collection
Remastered
Geffen Records 2006
Audio CD$3.52
$2.19 (used)
Can't Buy A ThrillCan't Buy A Thrill
Remastered
Mca 1998
Audio CD$1.77
$1.88 (used)
GauchoGaucho
Remastered
Mca 2000
Audio CD$1.77
$1.54 (used)
Katy LiedKaty Lied
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.77
$0.23 (used)
Pretzel LogicPretzel Logic
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$1.79 (used)
The Royal ScamThe Royal Scam
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$1.98 (used)
Steely Dan Countdown To EcstasySteely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Remastered
Mca 1998
Audio CD$1.79
$0.91 (used)
Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980Citizen Steely Dan: 1972-1980
Box set
Mca 1993
Audio CD$35.46
$15.75 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
STEELY DAN. AJA. FIRST PRESSING . LYRICS SLEEVE. ABC. AA-1006. 1977 EXCELLENT USD $9.99 [0 bids]
1h 33m
Steely Dan - Two Against Nature CD USD $3.99 Buy It Now 1h 33m
STEELY DAN CAN'T BUY A THRILL 1972 LP ABCX758 BLACK LABEL First Pressing (EX) USD $9.99 [0 bids]
1h 34m
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2h 32m
Steely Dan Gaucho 6102 MCA 1980 Album Rock 12"LP USD $4.99 [0 bids]
2h 33m
A Decade of Steely Dan by Steely Dan (CD, 1985, MCA (USA)) USD $5.98 [0 bids]
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3h 29m
STEELY DAN Gaucho DTS (5.1 Surround Sound CD audiophile) USD $19.95 [1 bids]
4h 42m
FM: The Original 1978 Movie Soundtrack 2 x LP set.Steely Dan,Eagles,Seger,Scaggs USD $10.16 Buy It Now 4h 44m
STEELY DAN Pretzel Logic [Remaster] 1999 CD 70s Rikki Don't Lose That Number USD $10.02 Buy It Now 4h 57m
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5h 19m
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5h 32m
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* STEELY DAN - Pretzel Logic USD $3.50 Buy It Now 5h 39m
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STEELY DAN "Do It Again" / "Fire In The Hole" GOLDIES RECORDS NEW 45 USD $9.99 Buy It Now 6h 6m
STEELY DAN Home At Last / Deacon Blues abc RECORDS used 45 USD $9.99 Buy It Now 6h 6m
STEELY DAN " Josie " / "Black Cow " abc RECORDS used 45 USD $9.99 Buy It Now 6h 17m
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6h 47m
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Steely Dan Gaucho MCA Original SEALED USD $24.95 Buy It Now 7h 30m
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STEELY DAN/ 8 gold hits SOFT POP ROCK new cassette tape USD $4.45 [0 bids]
7h 42m
STEELY DAN/countdown to ecstasy SOFT POP ROCK new cassette tape USD $4.45 [0 bids]
7h 42m
The Definitive Collection by Steely Dan (CD, Aug-2006, Geffen) USD $9.99 Buy It Now 7h 43m
STEELY DAN -(DOUBLE LP)- GREATEST HITS - INCLUDES "DO IT AGAIN" - ABC-1107- 1978 USD $13.95 Buy It Now 7h 48m
Countdown to Ecstasy [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, Nov-1998, MCA (USA)) USD $4.95 Buy It Now 7h 48m
Pretzel Logic [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, May-1999, MCA BMG (U USD $4.95 Buy It Now 7h 52m
Walter Becker Donald Fagen STEELY DAN Two Against nature TST PRESS PROMO DJ CD USD $24.99 Buy It Now 7h 54m
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7h 56m
STEELY DAN---CAN'T BUY A THRILL USD $5.00 [0 bids]
7h 57m
The Royal Scam [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, Nov-1999, MCA BMG (USA)) USD $4.95 Buy It Now 7h 59m
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Steely Dan - Greatest Hits - Cassette - (Oct-1981, MCA (USA)) USD $9.99 Buy It Now 8h 32m
Steely Dan Gaucho Robert Ludwig RL Masterdisk US First Press VG++ USD $11.99 [0 bids]
8h 37m
* STEELY DAN - Two Against Nature USD $1.75 Buy It Now 9h
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Steely Dan LP Pretzel Logic GERMAN USD $16.00 Buy It Now 9h 14m
STEELY DAN - GREATEST HITS - ABC AK-1107/2 - VG+ USD $19.95 Buy It Now 9h 26m
Gaucho - Steely Dan (2013, CD New) USD $34.67 Buy It Now 9h 29m
1977 CLASSIC JAZZ ROCK Steely Dan / Aja LP @ USD $1.29 [0 bids]
9h 32m
Katy Lied - Steely Dan (1999, CD New) USD $6.25 Buy It Now 9h 33m
Steely Dan The Royal Scam LP NM- ABCL5161 1976 UK USD $29.99 Buy It Now 9h 36m
Gold by Steely Dan (CD, Oct-1991, MCA (USA)) USD $3.49 Buy It Now 9h 36m
A Decade of Steely Dan by Steely Dan (CD, May-1985, MCA (USA)) USD $4.99 [0 bids]
9h 43m
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9h 45m
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Going Mobile [Analog] Steely Dan LP Record USD $65.95 Buy It Now 10h 3m
Pretzel Logic [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, May-1999, MCA (USA)) USD $5.99 Buy It Now 10h 7m
Steely Dan-Aja Original Master Recording lp Japanese IMP MFSL1-033 1979 MINT USD $144.44 Buy It Now 10h 15m
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10h 51m
STEELY DAN AJA ABC JAZZ SOUL LP USD $6.00 [0 bids]
10h 54m
Steely Dan-Katy Lied JAPAN MINI LP SHM CD OBI UICY-93518 RARE USD $49.52 [0 bids]
10h 58m
STEELY DAN The Royal Scam +inner sleeve MCA 1976 UK press USD $14.84 Buy It Now 10h 59m
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11h 19m
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11h 21m
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11h 32m
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Pretzel Logic Steely Dan CD USD $3.99 [0 bids]
11h 41m
Steely Dan "Greatest hits" 1976 AK-1107/2 Vinyl Record LP 12" RS9 USD $10.00 Buy It Now 12h 6m
Steely Dan - Time Out Of Mind/Bodhisattva - LIVE - 1980 USA 7" USD $4.99 [0 bids]
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12h 11m
STEELY DAN GAUCHO JAPAN MADE SHM MINI LP CD NEW OUT OF PRINT UICY-93521 USD $31.99 Buy It Now 12h 11m
Alive in America by Steely Dan (CD, Oct-1995, Giant (USA)) USD $3.00 [0 bids]
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12h 17m
Steely Dan Aja 2008 Universal/Japan SHM CD FIRST PRESS UICY90764 Slip Case OOP USD $39.99 [0 bids]
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12h 20m
THE HOOPS McCANN BAND Plays The Music of Steely Dan ORIGINAL LP NEAR MINT USD $9.99 [0 bids]
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12h 38m
STEELY DAN Greatest Hits Original DOUBLE LP Vinyl Record Rock MCA RECORDS USD $9.99 Buy It Now 12h 53m
STEELY DAN Alive In America 1995 USA CD on Giant records USD $6.64 Buy It Now 12h 59m
11 Tracks of Whack by Walter Becker (CD,1994, Giant) Steely Dan USD $10.00 [0 bids]
13h 5m
Steely Dan Greatest Hits (1972-1978) 1978 MCA Records 2 Lp Set AK-1107/2 USD $9.99 Buy It Now 13h 10m
A Decade of Steely Dan [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, Nov-1996, UMC (Universal... USD $4.95 Buy It Now 13h 17m
Steely Dan COUSIN DUPREE (+2 unreleased tracks live) 2000 CD single CD-4265 rare USD $200.00 Buy It Now 13h 18m
Steely Dan Royal Scam MCA Label 1976 MCA-37044 Vinyl LP Record VG/VG USD $1.99 [0 bids]
13h 23m
STEELY DAN...." AJA " USD $5.99 Buy It Now 13h 29m
Steely Dan Pretzel Logic MCA Label 1974 MCA-37042 Vinyl LP Record VG/VG USD $1.99 [0 bids]
13h 30m
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K-Tel's Music Magic 8-track tape ORANGE 1978 FOREIGNER Steely Dan COMMODORES USD $15.00 Buy It Now 14h 2m
STEELY DAN-GAUCHO-JAPAN MINI LP PLATINUM SHM-CD I50 USD $35.99 Buy It Now 14h 14m
Steely Dan ?- Can't Buy A Thrill Record LP Quadraphonic CQD 40009 USD $24.99 Buy It Now 14h 46m
STEELY DAN CAN'T BUY A THRILL MINI LP SUPER RARE WITH OBI JAPAN USD $32.00 [0 bids]
USD $48.00 Buy It Now
14h 52m
STEELY DAN Aja (1977) Vinyl LP ABC AB-1006 USD $2.99 [1 bids]
15h
DONALD FAGEN - THE NIGHTFLY RARE HTF WEST GERMANY PRESSING TARGET CD STEELY DAN USD $9.99 [0 bids]
15h 2m
Steely Dan - Alive in America CD USD $3.99 Buy It Now 15h 10m
STEELY DAN**KATY LIED (RM) (W/ORIG ART)**CD USD $6.28 Buy It Now 15h 13m
Steely Dan/Bread/Herman's Hermits album Lot ( 3 albums ) One promotional LP USD $6.00 [0 bids]
15h 17m
STEELY DAN - EVERYTHING MUST GO USD $3.95 [0 bids]
15h 45m
Steely Dan " Greatest Hits" 1972-78 Double Record USD $3.50 [0 bids]
16h
Can't Buy a Thrill [Remaster] by Steely Dan (CD, Nov-1998, MCA (USA)) USD $5.60 [0 bids]
16h 6m
MCA RECORDS Steely Dan: Citizen 1972-1980 4-CD Box Set With Booklet USD $19.13 [0 bids]
USD $25.50 Buy It Now
16h 8m
STEELY DAN - SHOWBIZ KIDS: STEELY DAN STORY NEW CD USD $22.83 Buy It Now 16h 14m
STEELY DAN KATY LIED MFSL 1-007 JAPAN PRESSING AUDIOPHILE HALF SPEED RECORD 1975 USD $24.99 [0 bids]
USD $32.50 Buy It Now
16h 46m


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STEELY DAN shows & tickets


STEELY DAN has no upcoming shows, according to LAST.FM syndicated events and shows feed

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)

3.48 | 115 ratings
Can't Buy a Thrill
1972
4.00 | 120 ratings
Countdown To Ecstasy
1973
3.64 | 107 ratings
Pretzel Logic
1974
3.57 | 92 ratings
Katy Lied
1975
3.68 | 111 ratings
The Royal Scam
1976
4.08 | 185 ratings
Aja
1977
3.60 | 103 ratings
Gaucho
1980
3.20 | 55 ratings
Two Against Nature
2000
2.93 | 44 ratings
Everything Must Go
2003

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

3.72 | 22 ratings
Alive in America
1993
4.00 | 3 ratings
In Concert
2008
3.00 | 1 ratings
Going Mobile
2013

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

3.20 | 6 ratings
Classic Albums: Aja
2000
3.53 | 11 ratings
Two Against Nature
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Dilectus
2012

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

5.00 | 1 ratings
Steely Dan
1978
3.50 | 11 ratings
Greatest Hits
1979
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Best Of
1979
0.00 | 0 ratings
Steely Dan
1981
3.63 | 15 ratings
A Decade of Steely Dan
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Best of Steely Dan: Reelin' In the Years
1987
3.02 | 6 ratings
Gold ( Expanded Edition)
1991
4.00 | 4 ratings
Then And Now - The Best of Steely Dan
1993
3.31 | 17 ratings
Citizen Steely Dan
1993
4.00 | 6 ratings
Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980
2000
4.00 | 1 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)

2.00 | 1 ratings
Dallas
1972
2.00 | 1 ratings
Reeling In The Years
1972
2.00 | 1 ratings
Dirty Work
1973
2.00 | 1 ratings
Show Biz Kids
1973
2.00 | 1 ratings
Pretzel Logic
1974
2.00 | 1 ratings
Bad Sneakers
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
Haitian Divorce
1976
2.00 | 1 ratings
Kid Charlemagne
1976
2.00 | 1 ratings
Black Friday
1976
2.00 | 1 ratings
Josie
1977
2.50 | 2 ratings
Four Tracks From Steely Dan
1977
2.00 | 1 ratings
FM
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Do It Again
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Do It Again (Hazlo Otra Vez)
1978
2.00 | 1 ratings
Peg
1978
3.90 | 2 ratings
Rikki Don't Loose That Number
1979
2.00 | 1 ratings
Hey Nineteen
1980
2.00 | 1 ratings
Time Out Of Mind
1980
2.00 | 1 ratings
Reelin' In The Years
1982
2.00 | 1 ratings
Remastered: A Sample of Steely Dan
1993
2.00 | 1 ratings
Sampler
2000
2.00 | 1 ratings
Cousin Dupree
2000

STEELY DAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Going Mobile by STEELY DAN album cover Live, 2013
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Going Mobile
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Suedevanshoe

— First review of this album —
3 stars A terrific document of the incarnation that got this crew up and running, with the addition of Michael McDonald's smooth croon and gutbucket piano and Jeff Porcaro on an additional kit. Sound is mehhh but the excitement generated easily envelops the listener. Since live Dan is poorly documented, one wishes there were more songs, but "Boston Rag" "Do It Again" and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" lend themselves well to the live treatment. The last three songs are the highlight for me, with "Mobile Home" being a weird curiosity in the Dan catalog. Going back to the "You Gotta Walk it Like You Talk It" era, sometimes the band extended this 14+ minutes.

Good for the Steely Dan fan, I'd say poor for your average progressive rock fan, I'll go with a middle rating for this site's purposes.

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 Rikki Don't Loose That Number by STEELY DAN album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1979
3.90 | 2 ratings

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Rikki Don't Loose That Number
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars I have enjoyed the music of STEELY DAN since my teenage years (80's) without ever having considered them a prog or fusion band. I'd rather call it intelligent, jazzy pop. This doesn't mean I'd have anything in the world against them being in the Archives, and I know they are usually very highly respected by prog listeners. But there may be a difference in my Steely Dan liking compared to the proggers in general; I'm not so fond of their earliest, edgier albums such as Can't Buy a Thrill (1972) or Countdown to Ecstasy (1973), instead I prefer the poppier and lighter sounding albums that came after Pretzel Logic (1974), e.g. The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho, which many proggers probably find too commercial and easy.

That said, it comes as no surprise that 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' is one of my favourite SD songs. It's very catchy on the chorus and it makes you feel happy, but it's oh so clever and charming. Somehow the certain soft sounds in this song make me think of the Peanuts animation films...?

It's originally the opening track of Pretzel Logic, and from the same album comes also the less catchy and less melodic 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' that's put on the B-side of this single. (I don't know why in 1979 they released five years old material.)

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 Pretzel Logic by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.64 | 107 ratings

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Pretzel Logic
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

4 stars The world of music is a bottomless well. All attempts to get a fair overview will fail. You will always miss important stuff. I have avoided Steely Dan for a while because its name is too close to Steeleye Span's, one of my favourite bands. Steely Dan was established 1972 in Los Angeles and they made seven studio records during the classic rock age. Because I right now am structuring my reviewing around the celebrated year 1974 I picked Steely Dan's third album "Pretzel Logic" which is their fourth highest ranked album here. I like the cover very much where we can se a man selling things you can eat. The album features a lot of instrumentalists, twenty to be precise but only Donald Fagan(keyboards, saxophone, lead vocals), Walter Becker(bass, guitar, vocals), Jeff Baxter(guitar), Denny Bias(guitar) and Jim Hodder(vocals) were listed as the band. But there are a lot of drummers, guitarists and brass people listed as musicians too. Together they created a fine and amazing prog jazz pop record with quality each second.

I wonder if it's possible to listen to this music without smiling. It's so cozy and lovely. Perhaps too cozy for some progers. The little touch of jazz is present all the time and makes the music so intresting. Other influences could be noticed as well such as blues and old-style american brass music. It feels like the music has so many intertexts that it is some American music history in it. Every song except "Moneky in your soul"(6/10) are very good and interesting. "Rikki don't lose that number" and "Any major dude will tell you" do I classify masterpieces. They are both very catchy and intelectual. "Night by night", "East St Louis Toodle Oo" och "Through with buzz"(9/10) are also very unique and very close to perfection. The five other songs are also great and shows just how amazing this musical world of ours is. My average rating ends at 4.23 which becomes four stars! "Pretzel Logic" is highly recommended.

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 Countdown To Ecstasy by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.00 | 120 ratings

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Countdown To Ecstasy
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by thwok

4 stars Have you ever avoided listening to a release by one of your favorite bands, for fear that it would not meet up to your expectations? Steely Dan has been one of my favorites for decades, but I've always avoided Countdown to Ecstasy. I think it has to do with the fact that the album is lesser known and the songs are relatively unfamiliar. Might be an interesting forum discussion, if it hasn't been done already. Why would you avoid particular releases, even by a band you like?. I never listened to Countdown to Ecstasy in full until just recently, and I definitely waited too long! This is a 4 star release in my book. This is a major step up from Can't Buy A Thrill. SD's first album has some great songs, and a few that are mediocre. Countdown to Ecstasy shows a lot of progress (isn't that the point?) in songwriting and the combination of elements that makes Steely Dan great. There isn't a bad song here; they're all good to great. I wonder if Becker and Fagen were keeping their brilliance under wraps for their first album, or if they actually progressed so far between Can't Buy a Thrill and the current release. My personal favorites are "Bodhisattva", "My Old School", and "King of the World". "My Old School", in particular, has some of the best guitar soloing ever. I don't know why Becker/Dias/Baxter (since individual solos aren't listed) aren't considered some of the best guitar players in rock music. I think Pretzel Logic/Aja/Katy Lied are Steely Dan's masterpieces. However, I should know that our friends Becker and Fagen would never steer me wrong! Countdown to Ecstasy gets a full four stars from me.

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 Aja by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.08 | 185 ratings

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Aja
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by rogerthat

5 stars Whether or not you like Aja, or just don't like it as much as Steely Dan fans typically do, you can't deny that it is the album that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker tirelessly strove to make, the logical culmination of their style and approach to music. The duo have all but admitted as much and in any event, the lyrics of songs like Deacon Blues bear it out. Perhaps fighting a nagging feeling that they hadn't quite got to where they should have with their talent, Fagen and Becker made a last ditch effort at writing a masterpiece and, BOOM!, they came back with one for the ages. Aja is to Steely Dan as Paranoid is to Black Sabbath or Moving Pictures to Rush. You may argue that there are better albums to showcase these bands' greatness from a hardcore fan's point of view but they are, for better or worse, the albums by which the popular image of these bands has been defined and the ones that will ensure the bands themselves are remembered for a long time by rock listeners.

That being the case, it cannot be said that this was just another Steely Dan album that the press whimsically talked up for the 'gullible' record-buying public to faithfully lap up. While the essential Steely Dan style is very much in evidence here, there are also significant, even drastic, differences on Aja as opposed to their previous work.

Up to this point, Steely Dan tended to play the West Coast doppelgangers of Sparks, i.e, nerdy, playfully misogynist and daring but not emotional in the conventional sense of the word. I say West Coast to emphasise the difference between them and Sparks. Dan stuck to jazz-rock/pop and kept the basic formula safe and appealing, putting all the adventure in the chords while Sparks were outrageous even at a superficial level. Such music does appeal to, well, nerdy left-brained listeners who have grown tired of the myriad cliches reprised by pop to express a very narrow band of emotions (three words in fact: love, love, love). But perhaps there may be listeners who are not necessarily addicted to cookie cutter pop but not so nerdy as to prefer music without the emotions. They may still want to hear some pain, yearning, warmth in the music and both bands shut themselves out of that market with their approach.

I am not sure that Fagen or Becker have ever admitted to wanting to consciously change that with Aja. It may have been an outcome of their sheer confidence in their songwriting skills at the point combined with their desperation to break through. Whatever it was, for the first time (and possibly the last?), Steely Dan dropped their guard and let go on Aja. Gradually, feelings of love, longing and rebellion began to pour out from their music. But hold it, they were still very much the calculating LA cats (New York in point of fact) so they controlled the flow, resulting in subtly beautiful rather than cathartic music.

A case in point is in the title track. If you feel inclined to pass a jaded judgment on its lengthy interludes, just try listening to Aja on a cool, rainy evening. Preferably gentle rain, not a downpour. Chances are you finally make sense of the song or, rather, connect with its emotions. The sounds almost do seem to gently hit the speakers like little raindrops. Nowhere else does this parallel make more sense to me than Steve Gadd's incredible coda. He is playing complex and furious patterns but the sound is very beautiful and...atmospheric. Steely Dan have never been this expansive and contemplative. As they remark on the Classic Albums documentary (a must watch while we are on that), they were feeling really lucky that day and decided to go with the flow and get a bit more ambitious.

A few cliched ideas seep in on Deacon Blues but Donald Fagen sings it with a lot of heart. He is not meant to sound so melodic but he tries really hard anyhow and with a little help from their army of sessions musicians, pulls it off. The duo reveal on the documentary that it is almost an autobiographical song. Steely Dan plead that they would just like to be famous losers if they cannot make it. In the event, that was fortunately not required but the song reveals a mix of despair and defiance ("Sue me if I play too long").

Just in case you thought they really ought to be sued for playing too long, Steely Dan make it short and sweet again, but with their newfound depth of feeling, on Home At Last. It is often said to be their best song and it is hard to disagree. Beautiful guitar leads and horns bring up the jazz element, but it's all underpinned by a very bluesy riff. If Aja is the culmination of Steely Dan's musical philosophy, Home At Last in itself is the culmination of Aja. It maintains the unhurried, relaxed feeling that envelopes the album but with nary a note too many.

The other tracks are excellent but fall a bit short of the unusual introspection and awareness that the above three possess. Let's just say the smart cats hedged their bets anyway and put in some of the stuff that is bound to work for Steely Dan loyalists. Peg, Josie and I Got The News all have great guitar leads and Black Cow has some exquisite piano. Crucially, they balance the return to snide lyrics by maintaining the relaxed, atmospheric flavour of the album (especially Black Cow).

As an overall experience, Aja is sumptuously consistent and leaves you with the distinct feeling of having had a wonderful, memorable time and longing for some more. As alluded to earlier, Steely Dan achieved this with not a little bit of support from their fantastic session musicians. I repeat myself but do check out that documentary to get an insight into what they brought to the table; they weren't just robots blindly obeying the instructions of the masters, far from it.

At the time, it perhaps seemed like a new beginning. Having battled to earn their own place in the crowd of arena-oriented rock with fret-strutting guitar Gods, Steely Dan had finally triumphed with Aja. It could have heralded a new wave of popularity for studio cats working with brilliant sessions musicians. Instead, Steely Dan themselves ushered in the computer age with Gaucho (never mind that they utilised many sessions musicians for that one too) and musicians could put together the music they wanted on the computer without even having to depend on sessions musicians.

In hindsight, Aja wound up as a strange corporate rock swan song for prog and all that it stood for. It brought curtains down on an era of expensive recordings involving the best musicians and technicians (consider that some prog rock bands utilised an orchestra for some of their recordings). The age of obsessive perfectionism and excess in rock was over and there hasn't really been a revival. Maybe because an album like Aja is so hard to top. Five stars.

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 Can't Buy a Thrill by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.48 | 115 ratings

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

Review by thwok

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 fine songwriters Becker and Fagen already were at this point. Becker was born in February of 1950, which would make him 22 at this point. "Dirty Work" is one of my favorite songs, by any musical group, ever. "Do It Again" takes the image of the Old West and turns it into a lyrically brilliant song. Later albums would become jazzier and more diverse; Aja is a perfect example. However, I believe few "bands" had a clearer concept of what they wanted to sound like from the beginning than Steely Dan. "Reelin In The Years" includes the first of many astounding guitar solos from Steely Dan.

There are reasons that Can't Buy A Thrill doesn't get the final star from me. As I stated, later albums fuse Steely Dan's jazz, R & B, and rock influences better than this one. I think "Only A Fool Would Say That" and, especially "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again", are weak songs. "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" is so slick you could skate on it. I have to assume that Fagen's being ironic here - I know, not much of a stretch. If that's the case, I'm not getting the joke. However, the other eight songs on Can't Buy A Thrill are good - to - great. This four star album was to be followed by masterpieces in short order.

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 Aja by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.08 | 185 ratings

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Aja
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by thwok

5 stars We should use 5 star ratings very sparingly in our reviews. A masterpiece should be a rare thing, otherwise the term begins to lose its meaning and effectiveness. There are perhaps a dozen bands/artists listed on Progarchives which are deserving of a 5 star rating. The fact that I give two Steely Dan albums the highest honor demonstrates the high regard in which SD should be held. This introduction brings us to Aja. Aja, along with Pretzel Logic, represents the pinnacle of the Steely Dan mountain. They both get 5 stars.

I think Aja is Steely Dan at their jazziest and most progressive. There is more time dedicated to instrumentals than on just about any other SD record. This is especially true of "Aja" and "Deacon Blues", which are also the longest songs that SD ever recorded. The evidence is there in the drumming on "Aja" and the saxophone solos on "Deacon Blues".

If you forced me at gunpoint to pick a song I like less than the others, I would have to pick "I Got the News". It just doesn't strike me as much as the others do. But that's splitting extremely hairs. "Peg" and "Josie", on the other hand, are as catchy as anything Becker and Fagen have written. Pretzel Logic and Aja are essential albums, for their own reasons. Under the extremely broad progressive rock banner, it doesn't get any better than Aja.

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 The Royal Scam by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.68 | 111 ratings

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The Royal Scam
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by rogerthat

5 stars There is a marked change in Steely Dan's music for the album The Royal Scam. As some reviews written at that time also noted, Steely Dan move away from the generally laidback, cool attitude that their music conveys a bit and rock out. Aja should have been the logical next step after Katy Lied as songs like Doctor Wu already hinted at the direction they would take on that album. Instead, Steely Dan put together what they took to be a blend of rock and funk and which instead ended up sounding like - at least to my ears - jazz rock/fusion with vocals.

This aspect is particularly noticeable on Green Earrings. The intro sounds like it would build up to some funk but once their trademark guitar chords kick in, we are clearly in fusion territory. The song has two guitar solos back to back in the middle and another in the coda. Did they really expect to succeed with this? Apparently, they did.

As Finnforest mentions in his review, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, the twin kingpins of Steely Dan, felt that they desperately needed to get their act together or they would get relegated forever to the 'second division' of the music business. This urgency is brought out in their sleeve notes (do read it, by the way, it has a hilarious account of Fagen and Becker sharing the same nightmare). Some of this urgency seems to have to rubbed off on their music.

The somewhat meandering nature of Katy Lied is gone and in its place is a very tight, driving execution of the Steely Dan formula. The elements remain fundamentally the same: a blend of jazz, funk, rock and blues with Fagen's sly style of singing on top, performed and produced to perfection. But slow burners like Caves of Altamira are now interludes that provide breathing space in the midst of racy music rather than the norm (as in Katy Lied). There is further a hint of tension that balances out their usually complacent irony so that, at least until you get to the somewhat repetitive title track, the album seems to fly past in a hurry. Clocking at 41 minutes, it is, like most Steely Dan albums, indeed not too taxing on your time.

The music also complements the lyrical themes used in this album (or, the other way round, if you like). Don't Take Me Alive or Kid Charlemagne focus on criminal activity while Everything You Did focuses on infidelity. The common feature is somebody has done some wrong and it's either him trying to run or the hunter in hot pursuit. The escapades are laced with trademark Steely Dan humour (for instance, "I jumped out of my easy chair/It was not my own"). You've really got to listen to that and the album as such with Fagen's wry delivery; it adds to the fun.

So is there a problem? Apparently not, if you ask Fagen and Becker. To quote from the sleeve notes: "we find ourselves rocking out to the soul stirring sounds of some fiercely funkadelic and deeply righteous Bernard Purdie grooves, Chuck Rainey bass lines, Paul Griffin piano riffs, and the like. Here comes a guitar solo - Larry Carlton, no problem there." As these words attest, there is indeed some amazing musicianship on this album. You will be simply spoilt by the abundance of great guitar leads (check out THAT tone on Don't Take Me Alive or Everything You Did for that matter) and there is also a wonderful saxophone solo on Caves of Altamira. As I mentioned earlier, the title track stretches on for a bit but otherwise, the album is mostly a very engaging affair.

But it did not ultimately deliver what they were looking for in terms of success. The difference between previous Steely Dan albums and Royal Scam is subtle rather than stark. By 1976, they weren't exactly alone in the corporate rock game either and it may have been felt that they didn't really have a new sound to offer with this album. As a result, it was reasonably successful but not the blockbuster they wanted.

Steely Dan raised their game on Royal Scam but the public weren't really listening. That would be the next album, Aja. But circa 2013, Royal Scam has much to offer for fans of jazz rock/fusion, as long as you don't mind it being fitted into a mainstream pop/rock format. 5 stars.

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 Katy Lied by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.57 | 92 ratings

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Katy Lied
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by rogerthat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Pretzel Logic by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.64 | 107 ratings

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Pretzel Logic
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by rogerthat

4 stars The chorus of the title track of this album goes, "Those days are gone forever/Over a long time ago". These words could well be applied to this album as such. Steely Dan made a clean break with the concept of a 'real band'. Touring on the back of Countdown to Ecstasy ostensibly destroyed their enthusiasm for it and they placed their trust firmly in the hands of sessions musicians.

It is a decision that may have appeared bizarre at the time and perhaps bold circa 2013. In 1974, rock was very much about filling large arenas. The box office stars were bands that were renowned for their live act, like Led Zeppelin, The Who or Emerson Lake & Palmer. In such an environment, bucking the trend and sticking to 'boring' studio musicians would have been a strange choice to make. It was something R&B artists like Stevie Wonder did, not a RAWK band!

But time has made Donald Fagen and Walter Becker look very much the sly cats they have always been. Metal gradually unseated rock as the music of the arena in the 80s. With the gradual fading away or slowing down of the big metal bands like Iron Maiden or Metallica, the earlier fascination for the arena has probably ebbed, notwithstanding bands like Muse.

Thus, Steely Dan didn't do so badly for emulating the example of The Beatles and focusing their energy on utilising the magic of the studio. For that reason, Pretzel Logic is perhaps the most influential Steely Dan album. It was the model they would follow all the way to Gaucho, when they hung up their boots. The basic formula - heavily jazz leaning rock - was also laid down in Pretzel Logic. While I personally enjoyed the more hard rocking/'proggy' moments in Countdown to Ecstasy, the duo seemed to desire more focus to create a more cohesive musical experience.

Not surprisingly, many compositional trademarks of Steely Dan can also be traced back to Pretzel Logic. I do not have the wherewithal to pin it down in this review but my gut feeling tells me that three songs - Rikki Don't Lose That Number/Night By Night/Pretzel Logic - lay down the magic formula for much of Steely Dan's work. Compare Night by Night with Home At Last for instance or the chords of Rikki with the title track of Aja. Of course, Steely Dan were far too inventive to simply plagiarise themselves and recycle ideas from this album for subsequent ones. But the approach to constructing a good Steely Dan number was laid down at least as early as Pretzel Logic.

So why does Pretzel Logic still sound so different from Aja? The answer probably lies in their mastery of arrangements. To return to Night by Night, it is one hell of a rocking number with a bias towards rock and funk. Whereas Home At Last leans much more towards smooth jazz and is restrained and subtle in its treatment. Another difference is Donald Fagen's singing is also much more 'open' and full throatedt, again more like rock, on this album. The trademark wryness and irony that we identify with in Fagen's singing is very much intact, both on Pretzel Logic and Aja and also everything else in between.

With roughly the same basic approach, Steely Dan are able to cover a wide variety of moods and that, combined with their quirky chords, is what makes them a compelling experience for a jazz loving prog rocker. The band do require one to be a little tolerant of pop structure and in fact a good amount of pop flavour. They don't resemble pop outright but they do have a slightly commercial element somewhere that you may not enjoy if you are fussy about classic rock aesthetics and such.

Another point more specific to this album is some of the tracks are REALLY short. Just two and half a minutes or so. It may have made for brevity but it also stops the band from developing the tracks a little more which they could have and did on subsequent albums. That is perhaps the main distinction between Pretzel Logic and Aja. The songs on the latter are drawn out and better etched to fully realise their potential what with Fagen telling (ostensibly) the critics that they can sue him if he plays too long.

Pretzel Logic lives up a bit too much to Robert Fripp's vision of the band as small, smart, self sustaining, mobile unit. It could have done with a little more heart. Still, even the really short tracks are heaps of fun to listen to, so four stars for a solid album and a jazz rock classic.

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