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STEELY DAN

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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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...
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STEELY DAN discography


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

3.54 | 203 ratings
Can't Buy a Thrill
1972
4.02 | 211 ratings
Countdown to Ecstasy
1973
3.70 | 181 ratings
Pretzel Logic
1974
3.67 | 157 ratings
Katy Lied
1975
3.72 | 180 ratings
The Royal Scam
1976
4.15 | 326 ratings
Aja
1977
3.69 | 168 ratings
Gaucho
1980
3.32 | 92 ratings
Two Against Nature
2000
2.99 | 71 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
3.56 | 12 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
3.69 | 16 ratings
A Decade of Steely Dan
1985
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Best of Steely Dan: Do It Again
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Very Best of Steely Dan: Reelin' In the Years
1987
3.13 | 9 ratings
Gold ( Expanded Edition)
1991
4.00 | 5 ratings
Then And Now - The Best of Steely Dan
1993
3.38 | 20 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
 Pretzel Logic by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.70 | 181 ratings

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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 | 211 ratings

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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
3.54 | 203 ratings

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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
4.15 | 326 ratings

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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

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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 | 211 ratings

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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%.

 Can't Buy a Thrill by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.54 | 203 ratings

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

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

3 stars Steely Dan's debut album, "Can't Buy a Thrill", was released in 1972, and was the least jazzy of what they would sound like by the end of their career. But there was still that jazz edge to it, and it was still infectious. The public welcomed them well as the album ended up with two enduring hits. The lineup was definitely more that just Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, though they were definitely there, but Fagen also wasn't the only lead singer at the time either. Becker stays on bass on this album and the guitars are handled by Jeff Baxter and Denny Dias. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter was also a regular member, but would later go off and be a Doobie Brother. Sure, there is a lot more history to it all than that, but there really is no need to go over all of that since it has been done many times before.

The album opens with the rollicking hit "Do It Again" featuring Fagen on vocals and that definitive guitar and sitar solo. This is one of those tracks that everyone knows intimately. This was followed by another hit, this time much lesser known, "Dirty Work". Though not as catchy, it is still memorable and sung by session musician David Palmer. "Kings" is a return to the catchy track, but missing that guitar hook. Nevertheless, the track is upbeat and has a great jazzy instrumental break with some dissonance thrown in to prove that this was not just another rock band. The track also uses the trademark backing female vocals that you would hear more often in their later music. "Midnight Cruiser" is a bit more mellow, but with a memorable chorus. Jim Hodder sings lead vocals on this one, but his voice has got the vulnerability that Fagen's does, and so it fits in well. You can definitely hear Fagen in the chorus though. The guitar solo is a bit heavier in this one and also features two guitars. "Only a Fool Would Say That" has a lighter jazz touch to it and sounds similar to their later tracks, especially since Fagen sings lead. The spoken Spanish vocal at the end is done by Baxter.

"Reelin' in the Years" another well-known hit opens side 2. Again, there is the excellent guitar solo played by session musician Elliot Randall that most everyone is familiar with, and a leaning to a more standard rock sound, but an excellent song nonetheless. Again, Fagen does the lead. "Fire in the Hole" has a nice piano led intro and instrumental break with a hard stomp sound to it. This is yet another Fagen led vocal and moves back to a jazz sound with a more complex melody. Baxter is doing the pedal steel guitar here and has his own nice solo on the last break. "Brooklyn" also sees Baxter on the pedal steel but is sung by David Palmer again and has a nice chorus. It is a straightforward, almost country rock sound to it, especially with another steel solo. Palmer also sings lead on "Change of the Guard" which also is a teensy bit heavier with a strong backbeat and a nice dual guitar solo. "Turn that Heartbeat Over Again" closes the album and features Walter Becker helping out both Fagen and Palmer on vocals. It also has a more complex sound to it and mixes rock and jazz nicely.

Though it is a bit different from the later albums, it is still an enjoyable album from Steely Dan in their earliest years. It is a great debut album and shows hints of where the music would eventually lead to. Because it is an enjoyable album, it is tempting to rate it higher than it should be, but I honestly think that it is better than a 3 star album because it is done quite well and showcases the bands talent. Personally, I would give it at least a 4 star rating, but for the purposes of this site, I must consider it 3 stars because it isn't that progressive. So that is the reason for the low rating. But don't let that deter you from obtaining this album.

 Two Against Nature by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.32 | 92 ratings

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Two Against Nature
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

4 stars After 20 years, Steely Dan finally released their 8th album. After the release of 'Gaucho' in 1980, the SD frontmen, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, released several solo albums and participated in many other projects, and finally got back together, much to the delight of fans everywhere, to 'Do It Again'.

This time around, they kept the band down to just themselves, and played most of the instruments by themselves, but they also had many, many guests helping them out. For the most part, the album followed right where they left off, playing a smooth, jazz fusion with funky and rock sensibilities. Becker played all of the regular guitars, including bass, while Fagen took care of keyboards, vocals and many other instruments.

The style is very much like they had in 'Aja' and 'Gaucho', both successful albums, and they weren't about to change a good thing. And they didn't have to. This was their signature sound, and it is what people expected, that cool, hep jazz sound, with a lot of good guitar and plenty of brass, sax and clarinet.

This predictability in their sound does work to its detriment however. That is not saying this is a bad album, because you get that same clean sound as before, with emphasis on perfection in sound. But, you know exactly what you are getting, and I tend to miss some of the odd surprises that the band used to pull on their listeners, causing them to stretch a little.

Now, there are still reasons to get this album, and those reasons are tracks like 'Two Against Nature' which has a lovely sax solo. The song that follows, 'Janie Runaway' has the great funky and complex attitude found on Fagen's 'The Nightfly' title track. The opening track 'Gaslighting Abbie' is also excellent and gets you all excited for what could have been an excellent album. I even like the closer 'West of Hollywood' mostly for the instrumental sections. But, the best tracks are on the first half of the album, and even then, a few of them are a little less memorable. And nothing really stood out on the 2nd half, just more of the same, a great sound, but lacking anything new. The album starts to sound more like some great outtakes from their glory days instead of new songs, because the sound is really not much different.

Even with the strong tracks though, by the time its all done, it feels like you have heard this before. The band's quest for perfection tends to shine out all of the rough edges that used to make them so appealing. There are also no surprises here. It would have been nice to hear some more progressive sounds, like in the track 'Aja', or some blues-inflected tracks like 'Black Friday' or 'Chain Lightening'. Or even a more guitar driven track like 'Bodhistava' or rendition of a standard, like the instrumental 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo'. Variety could have gone a long ways here, but they keep things safe with the jazz style they are most comfortable with. But, at the same time, it could have been a lot worse, and at least they ended up with a decent album, just a step above 'Gaucho', but not as great as 'Aja' or 'Katy Lied'. Anyway, it's a great album, definitely not a throwaway, just not as good as it could have been. Still, it gets 4 stars for its clarity and musicianship, but it could have been a 5 with some variety or more progressiveness.

 Aja by STEELY DAN album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.15 | 326 ratings

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Aja
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

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

5 stars By now, most everyone has probably heard this album, either partially or completely. To review this album again is almost like repeating everything everyone else has already said about it. It is a gem, the perfect pinnacle for Steely Dan's career as a group and a homage to two great jazz rock greats, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. They did have some great material before this album and even after, but nothing matches the perfection of this album. And the amazing thing is, you listen to it and it all seems so effortless. That could have been part of the trouble prior to this album, in that not every album was consistently as good as this one turned out to be, that maybe they were trying too hard.

The jazz is smooth, mostly, and the music is very catchy. The tunes stay in your head, even the instrumental parts. You can search Steely Dan's discography, and yes you will find some great music, but the closest thing you will come to that compares to this album is Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly". This album set the bar for me as far as jazz rock is concerned, and the title track "Aja" set the standard for individual jazz/rock songs. What a perfect song, plenty of smoothness and progressiveness, a perfect blend of both. Trying to describe the title track is impossible, it must be heard and re-heard to appreciate it.

There are other great songs here including "Deacon Blues" with it's amazing sax-led instrumental sections, the somewhat funky "Black Cow" and "Josie", the lilting piano hook of "Home at Last", it's all good. There is quite a line up of jazz musicians contributing to this album also, and even with this many players, everything sounds so cohesive. Even Michael McDonald's supporting and background vocals sound perfect here, and I'm not a McDonald fan at all.

So anyway, for such a masterpiece, this is a short review. But the music here really speaks for itself. You can talk about jazz chord progressions and techniques all you want, and you can analyze the music to death, the best way to experience it is to listen to it, but not just once, several times. Every jazz/rock fusion fan should be familiar with this album.

 In Concert by STEELY DAN album cover DVD/Video, 2008
2.14 | 2 ratings

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In Concert
Steely Dan Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The American band Steely Dan released seven albums between 1972 and 1980, but quite soon they quitted touring, concentrating on the polished and sophisticated studio albums. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker reactivated the group in 1994 and released "Alive in America" next year. It was only in 2000 that a new studio album "Two Against Nature" saw the light of day. And on that same year they performed in New York, resulting in this 75-minute live album/DVD. My own relationship to SD is not a very strong one. I prefer a bunch of [relatively melodic] songs from their mid-to-late 70's albums and from "Gaucho", 1980. The comeback album I have never bothered to listen to.

The package has left musicians unnamed. Also the essence of the DVD itself is quite ripped-down: the concert just starts without any introductions, cameras concentrate on close-ups of the musicians, mostly on Donald Fagen since he's the vocalist. It goes on like this for a long time, no overviews of the band, the audience totally absent. It feels more like watching unoriginal, early music videos featuring just band playing. The picture quality is deliberately slightly unsharp.

Also, especially a couple of first songs, or actually each one (as many as 5) on the concert unfamiliar to me before, sound frankly quite boring. All based on a steady funk-ish beat. I'm not surprised to learn afterwards that they are from the then-new album. Amidst them are 70's songs, such as 'Bad Sneakers', 'Josie' and 'FM'. The performances are faultless and very faithful to the studio originals. Guitarist Walter Becker looks dead serious and joyless, and the large group, buried in anonymity as it seems at first, doesn't actually set the stage on fire either. Am I impressed? Surely not. I'd probably have better time with my self-compiled Steely Dan CD, reading a book simultaneously.

I felt a mild turn for the better in my reception, when Becker heartily introduces the group in the halfway. The song set (pretty average as a whole) at least features 'Babylon Sisters' and 'Kid Charlemagne', both on my SD fave list. And the three female backing vocalists are good looking. But this is one of those modest live DVD's that it's OK to see once but nothing more. I'm glad I only borrowed it from library.

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

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