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Steely Dan

  • Can't Buy A Thrill,
  • Countdown To Ecstasy,
  • Pretzel Logic,
  • Katy Lied,
  • The Royal Scam,
  • Aja,
  • Gaucho,

  • Album Reviews |

    Steely Dan

    Can't Buy A Thrill( 1972)
    Do It Again / Dirty Work / Kings / Midnight Cruiser / Only A Fool Would Say That / Reelin' In The Years / Fire In The Hole / Brooklyn / Change Of The Guard / Turn That Heartbeat Over Again

    Named after a steam powered dildo (?!) in the William Burroughs novel 'Naked Lunch' and for this debut set featuring a studio assembled team of musicians that together with songwriters Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, with David Palmer as nominal lead singer, became Steely Dan. And, that's about my knowledge of the groups history over and done with. I've listened to this album five times straight this morning, it's that kind of album with melodies never obvious, always subtle and a sound that comes across as consummately professional, slick and with absolutely no rough edges whatsoever. Well, the lyrical observations could be considered a rough edge if you care to look into them deeper, but it's not a requirement in being able to enjoy this album. It could pass you by altogether on initial listens, it did with me. Repeated listens reveal insidious melodies that you come to appreciate more and more, the sheer rightness of the playing - not a single note taken weakly or out of step. There's a few different musical things going on here, although again, never an in your face obvious 'here you go' serving of jazz based rhythms, for example. Jazz based rhythms are a feature of the opening cut, 'Do It Again', great guitar parts including notable solo's also a feature. Smooth vocals and melodies that eventually reach you, but because they are so understated, reach you more and more each time you listen and never in fact become overdone - you never get tired of them. Well, I say that after having listened to the album five times in a row, quite unexpectedly. This is good stuff! 'Dirty Work' has good vocal melodies, one of the few lead contributions David Palmer would make before exiting before the groups next album. A trumpet solo pops up on 'Dirty Work', and it's not even a little dissonant, everything is supremely smooth, yet there is such strong writing going on here, not ambitious musical writing - Steely Dan aren't trying to invent anything - they just make this music that is so easy to listen to that once you become swept in, you don't want to stop listening. 'Kings' has a strong memorable chorus, 'Midnight Cruiser' just so smooth they should use it to advertise razors, "Steely Dan for that extra smooth feel against your skin."

    'Only A Fool Would Say That' is sunny and happy and just so gorgeous in the groups already distinctive ( especially for a debut ) way with subtle melodies and playing, but both playing and melodies that are accomplished and memorable in their own way, in a good way. A little burst of electric guitar opens 'Reelin In The Years', the rhythm section is solid and the vocal lines as catchy as can be imaginable once repeated listening has sunk it into your heart and soul. 'Fire In The Hole' has wonderful Piano playing, 'Brooklyn' super sweet melodies, yet never sickly melodies, melodies that never overstay their welcome no matter HOW OFTEN you hear the song. The closing two songs, the chunky and rocking 'Change Of The Guard' and the smooth 'Turn That Heartbeat Over Again' are not as enjoyable as the rest of the album, although both try their best. It's a small quibble, as Steely Dan have already kept up a high standard of writing throughout.

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    Readers Comments

    Michael Dallaway michaeldallaway@hotmail.com
    A fantastic jazzy-rock album, and for me equal with Aja as the best thing the band ever did. Some quality grooves here- something for everyone.

    Brad Smith AnalogImage@hotmail.com
    Some people just don't get Steely Dan, and their music is certainly not for everyone. Fagan & Becker are comparable to Prince in that people either really like it or can't stand it. In both cases, you can dislike the music, but you can't say they don't have talent - and lots of it. Personally, as far as originality, sound, the way the music moves me, interesting chord patterns, pristine recordings, soulful vocals, and truly captivating lyrics, I think this band has no equal and they stand in a musical genre all their own. Plus, there's a reason why for so many years SD albums were listened to by engineers the world over - it's the type of recorded music that would make even the crappiest of systems sound great. Even today actually, their DVD-audio disks are among the top ranked disks among self-proclaimed audiophiles and industry people alike. So onto their first album, "Can't buy a Thrill"...

    If I were to recommend a newbie to Steely Dan, hoping to convince th! em that SD was better than chocolate, I probably would NOT choose "Can't buy a Thrill". While there are songs on this album that clearly indicate just how far this band would take their genre, like "Fire in the Hole", or how interestingly they tend to put a spin on an otherwise typical pop song like "Do it again" or even "Only a fool would say that", I find that there are a few weak moments on this album and it's not bulletproof like Aja or The Royal Scam. Particularly, I'm not fond of David Palmer and was glad that DF took the lead role over. "Dirty work" and "Reelin in the Years" are some of the Dan's most popular and recognizable tunes, and to me, like *most* commercial pop songs, have a shelf life. There's a point where certain songs just become non-interesting to listen to. I think they as writers were aware of this pitfall, because later albums can be spun almost indefinitely. I would say that 81/2 might be giving this album too much credit, especially against a! rating of 6 for the Royal Scam (below).

    Ian Gosling Canada
    One of the tightest debut LP's of all time. As far as 1970's music goes, this band blows everyone away. Even the Eagles!

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    Countdown To Ecstasy 7 ( 1973)
    Bodhisattva / Razor Boy / The Boston Rag / Your Gold Teeth / Show Biz Kids / My Old School / Pearl of the Quarter / King of the World

    Steely Dan show chops and great musicianship throughout this album, a few interesting stylistic things going on, albeit fairly subtly. The opening 'Bodhisattva' showcases smooth harmonies, catchy melodies, a little rock n roll as well as a Jazz styled instrumental break. It's cool, groovy addictive listening! No, really, it is. I realise Steely Dan may not be at the front of everybodies minds these days, unless you happen to be an established fan of the group, but perhaps their catalogue deserves investigation. 'Bodhisattva' has such good instrumental breaks, it really is impressive, although the song never becomes a 'wank fest' because of the showcasing of musical accomplishment and talent. 'Razor Boy' has a little Jazz bossa-nova feel about it, more nice harmonies, and is another great track. So far, so good - easily upto the standard of 'Can't Buy A Thrill'. 'The Boston Rag' has distinctive keyboard parts, but bar the vocals and musicianship lacks striking or catchy melodies in the same way the first two songs demonstrate. 'Your Gold Teeth' is such a typical sounding Steely Dan track, that if you are at all familiar with the group or their sound, will be very easy to latch onto. For everybody else, this song features a really good Jazzy mid section instrumental break, that reminds me of The Doors, if only because Steely Dan appear to have been using some of the same Jazz influences. 

    'Show Biz Kids' isn't a favourite of mine, the bluesy electric guitar and Las Vegas styled female backing vocals adding a little ugliness to the usual smooth and easily listenable Steely Dan sound. Well, I realise that's a subjective response. The guitar actually isn't 'ugly' sounding at all, but the way it prowls around the track, added to the female backing vocals annoys after repeated listening. 'My Old School' is a nice evocation of nostalgia. By the way, one thing about this album, it lacks 'single-type' songs. 'Can't Buy A Thrill' contained a couple of obvious stand-out tracks in radio-friendly terms, and this doesn't. None of the singles pulled from this charted particularly highly, certainly not in comparison with the 'Can't Buy A Thrill' singles.  'Countdown To Ecstasy' does contain a couple of songs I'd add to my Steely Dan dream compilation, but doesn't contain enough highs to maintain your avid interest, even though the album only contains eight songs. Good guitar all through 'My Old School', by the way. The closing brace of songs is first an attractive country-rock influenced number with 'Pearl Of The Quarter'. 'Pearl Of The Quarter' also benefits from well put together lyrics and nice sounding vocals. The closing 'King Of The World' incorporates a few funk lines, moves along at pace, but is the material strong? I guess it's okay, but it's not a favourite of mine. 'Countdown To Ecstasy'? Well, it depends how you look at things. It's pretty easy to listen to, but not enough stays around to haunt your brain 3pm in the afternoon when your thoughts need distracting from the mundane existence of work.

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    Readers Comments

    Al Brooks albrookscentury21@yahoo.com
    I bought 'Countdown to Ecstacy' in 1973, the year it was released. It seemed better than it was because I was 17 and my mind was so open that my brains were falling out. It was like sitting in a restaurant with 100 waiters running up to you and asking you what you wanted. 100 LPs stared at you from the bins, saying "buy me!". What to choose? What to buy? Do I get Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars? Bird Of Fire? What brand name do I choose- what model do I buy into? I sent $1 to a record distributorship and they sent me 10 LPs (yes, a good deal). I only remember 2 of the LPs: one was 'Freak Out' by Zappa; the other was 'Countdown To Ecstacy' . I liked the opening track, 'Bodhisattva', because Buddhism seemed to be a part of '73 (a dreamy year), but listening to Bodhisattva today is embarrassing. The music is mainly a vehicle to 'dig' the Jack Kerouac lyrics. 'Pearl Of The Quarter' is a well-done country-rock song that I found moving-- but then, everything moved me in '73. 'Boston Rag's lyrics, including Lonnie sweeping up the playroom and swallowing all he found, flipped my teenage wig. 'King Of The World' seemed like a good ending, and a powerfully performed song. But, looking back, it seems like the sort of contrived-but-well-performed track that Steely Dan did so well. What with their excellent guitar playing and drumming.

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    Pretzel Logic 8 ( 1974)
    Rikki Don't Lose That Number / Night by Night / Any Major Dude Will Tell You / Barrytown / East St. Louis Toodle-Oo / Parker's Band / Through With Buzz / Pretzel Logic / With a Gun / Charlie Freak / Monkey in Your Soul

    'With A Gun' has interesting lyrical matter for such a jaunty happy sounding song. The lyric sounds a little seedy and covering the darker side of life. Impressive Piano work is a feature of 'Charlie Freak' and the Piano a major instrument all through this 'Pretzel Logic' album. 'Rikii Don't Lose That Number' returned Steely Dan to the singles charts in some style with little Jazzy Piano parts embedded in a fine, easy to listen to winning pop song. 'Night By Night' is funky in a Seventies TV Cop show kind of a way. Well, it reminds me of those shows, the feel of the music. Nice brass parts here incidently, good guitar parts and yeah, gotta love the rhythm. 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' is a rather clumsy song title for such a smooth song, and it is a smooth song. Great keyboard work, and the sound of the vocals interests me. Warm, intimate and natural sounding vocals. Steely Dan usually do have accomplished vocals of course, and I don't know how or even if 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' differs significantly from anything else they've done in this respect. Perhaps it's noticeable because the music here is so laidback, more so than usual. Inoffensive, not at all striking, but nice sounding all the same, and well played. You can pick out a part or two to be impressed with - the guitar parts probably. 'Barrytown' is a guitar and keyboard led, almost folk/rock song. The chorus is strong and 'Barrytown' very charming. At this stage, 'Pretzel Logic' is working very well. Jazz legend Duke Ellington lends a song to the Steely Dan cause when they tackle his 'East St Louis Toodle-Oo' next on the album. Quirky is the word, guitar replicating Mr Ellingtons style and sound. Quite well actually, and the whole performance is very funny, but I don't really know if placing this song in the middle of the album was such a great idea. Might have made for a good album closer, though. To be fair, they treat the song with respect, but it just strikes me as being a little.

    Absolutely cool guitar opens 'Parker's Band' and we're swinging once again. 'Through With Buzz' has nice Piano rhythms and bursts of string instruments - a nice cool vocal. The entire song is so cool and charming, it gets to me, anyway. And, this is another sonic variation on a album that develops as it goes along, feels like an album, feels better sequenced than 'Countdown To Ecstasy', ignoring 'East St Louis Toodle-Oo' for a second! The title song sports those distinctive Steely Dan harmony vocals over a pretty funky musical track akin to 'Night By Night' but without quite as much Seventies TV Cop show on display this time round. Hand-claps are an unlikely feature of the closing 'Monkey In Your Soul', and the album is wrapped up very nicely. I have a soft spot for 'Can't Buy A Thrill', you know.... 'Pretzel Logic' is a pretty solid album and very easy to enjoy - but is it an amazingly exciting album? Was 'Can't Buy A Thrill' an amazingly exciting album? Perhaps not, in the wider grand scheme of things, but it excited me! 'Pretzel Logic' just gives me groovy entertainment, and that's enough really.

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    Al Brooks albrookscentury21@yahoo.com
    The two songs I really like on this album are 'Any Major Dude' and the title track. 'Any Major Dude' is a great track-- great lyrics and music. It's about demons and how they wont be there in the morning (if you're lucky). 'Pretzel Logic' is a slowly unfolding blues song with humorous lyrics.

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    Katy Lied 7 ( 1975 )
    Black Friday / Bad Sneakers / Rose Darling / Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More / Dr Wu / Everyone's Gone To The Movies / Your Gold Teeth II / Chain Lightning / Any World (That I'm Welcome To) / Throw Back The Little Ones

    Lyrics have always been important to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, although the smoothly enjoyable professional music content can overshadow the lyrics at times. The lyrics are there if you want them, basically. 'Black Friday' for example opens with the following couplet, "When Black Friday comes I'll stand down by the door / And catch the grey men when they dive from the fourteenth floor". 'Rose Darling' as put out on paper reads like Poetry and 'Bad Sneakers' is reportedly the story of a law breaker and downright despicable fellow getting caught. And that's just for starters. Paying attention to a song like 'Black Friday' and following the lyrics as you listen can reveal musical nuances. The slightly 'ugly' guitar parts are almost certainly deliberate. The guitar solo sounds desperate, or am I imagining it all? I don't want to go into this side of things too much, it's just that 'Katy Lied' seems to sway in a lyrical direction to me, as the music isn't really all that striking compared to Steely Dan at their peak. The vocals are accomplished, the music certainly accomplished just not really terribly imaginative. Steely Dan had hired themselves a team of top session men for this album, any pretence of them being a real working band gone altogether. Getting back to 'Bad Sneakers', the music is just, well, dull. It's not bad music, but it doesn't boast too many pieces of catchiness. The lyrics hold your attention however and the vocals and story hold your attention - the song works. 'Rose Darling' probably isn't as sweet as it sounds - I wonder about these guys sometimes. Still, it does sound sweet and the vocals are nice. Is sweet or nice better than smooth? Steely Dan must get pissed off at people describing their music as smooth or mellow. How about courteous? Or unwrinkled?! 'Rose Darling' is a great display of unwrinkled and courteous music.

    'Dr Wu' is a good song with interesting lyrics and pretty Piano parts. 'Everyone's Gone To The Movies' is musically playful and another song that tells a story. The tempo is raised with the welcome arrival of 'Your Gold Teeth II'. An adventurous musical journey incorporating Jazz rhythms with cool keyboard sounds and much else besides. The guitar and Piano boogie grind of 'Chain Lightning' is more than enjoyable and it's lyrical tale concerning "a visit by two guys to a fascist rally" impenetrable, actually, but well constructed all the same. The closing 'Throw Back The Little Ones' includes a catchy lyrical chorus to bring the album to a finish - "Throw back the little ones and pan fry the big ones / Use tact, poise and reason and gently squeeze them."<

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    Al Brooks albrookscentury21@yahoo.com
    I've heard psychologists say we are most influenced by the time in which we were 18 or 19. I was that age when Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied were released, so I happen to like them (I should listen to Can't Buy A Thrill, have heard it's their 'best'). If I had been a teen in the '90s then REM would be the ensemble d' nostalgie. Anyway, I like Katy Lied almost as much as Pretzel Logic. The music isn't as exciting, but the lyrics are Steely Dan-wild, and there's the great guitar playing that makes up for the weakness of the songs. 'Dr. Wu' is another sinuous-melodied track, reminding me of 'Barrytown' from Pretzel Logic. The writer William S. Burroughs had 'Black Friday' played to him once and said it was "very fancy music"; guess he meant the lead guitar playing, which is quite fancy. 'Bad Sneakers' is a whimsical song about a Holden Caulfield type loose in NYC.

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    The Royal Scam 6 ( 1976 )
    Kid Charlemagne / The Caves of Altamira / Don't Take Me Alive / Sign in Stranger / The Fez / Green Earrings / Haitian Divorce / Everything You Did / The Royal Scam

    An album on which Steely Dan sound exactly the same as they did last time out, another set of fairly interesting lyrics but the songs don't seem quite as memorable. The usual Steely Dan level of professional muscianship is here, present and correct. A couple of genuinely good Steely Dan songs are here, but too often on 'The Royal Scam' it sounds like they are coasting, working to formula - "yeah, we'll put that line in that song, that's a great scathing observation, a little controversial..... we'll write a song about some burning issue, make a few social commentaries.....forget to write too many interesting tunes...." - one of the few interestings tunes, a song on which melody meets decent lyrics is the opening 'Kid Charlemagne'. A little funk, a lot of tunefulness, and all is well with the world. 'The Caves Of Altmira' is mellow musically, less mellow lyrically - but it works. The keyboard work is notable here, everything else tends to fade into the overall backing effect. Oh, great vocals, too. An electric guitar solo that's impressive opens 'Don't Take Me Alive' - the rhythm section is solid..... ominous Piano opens 'Sign In Stranger'.... the middle section of the album is a little dull. Critiscm? This is lousy critiscm, I know. A little dull? What kind of critiscm is that?? 'Green Earrings' is almost porn movie music, forgetting the lyrics. Maybe that was the point?

    I enjoy 'Haitian Divorce', enjoy it's lyrical tale. 'Everything You Did' is Steely Dan by numbers in every single respect, the closing title song six minutes of groovy organ and funk, quite enjoyable actually. So, Steely Dan haven't just disappeared up their own backsides after all? Well, no, not really. It's just this album doesn't have enough catchy tunes interspersed throughout to excite your attention whilst listening to the merely 'worthy' tunes. 'The Royal Scam' is a weak offering from a band who rarely stray too far from a certain level of writing and acheivement, but just may have done so here. I opened this review by commenting that Steely Dan had made exactly the same album as 'Katy Lied' and it feels that way to me. In truth, there is probably a little more emphasis on the funk here than previously, but a little more emphasis on funk isn't really musical progress in and by itself. <

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    Simon Brigham slb23@shaw.ca
    There's only one song i listened to more than once, and it's the best song here. It's called "The Fez". God, that's some groovy stuff! 'I won't do it without the Fez on' is a great line. The cover is good too. So basically "the Fez" is the only song that lept out at me. The cover is great, also. Good thing I got it for only a dollar (vinyl).

    Brad Smith AnalogImage@hotmail.com
    I have to say before I go any further that if you find that you truly like other works by Steely Dan yet have somehow managed to skip or miss The Royal Scam, you're in for one hell of a treat. This album, contrary to the reviewer's weak review of the album (an unbelieveable 6???), is without question a classic album in every respect. Equal, if not surpassing their heralded release 'Aja'. My thoughts on this misguided review is that the reviewer is obviously not remotely a fan of this band. Most listeners who actually put a Steely Dan record on just to listen to it for pleasure would say that The Royal Scam is flawless execution and songcrafting by true musical geniuses, and with this album they were at the top of their game. True, they are not a 'one size fits all' outfit, so chances are if you're one of those people that only like their hits like 'Reelin' in the Years' in spite of the fact that the singer's voice kinda sounds 'weird', chances are there will be nothing a! t all for you on this album. HOWEVER, if again, you've somehow recently stumbled across Steely Dan, loved what you heard, but haven't came across The Royal Scam, GET IT!! You'll absolutely love it. Not one weak milisecond on this album.

    Tex Martin Sonoma, CA
    I have to side with Brad here. If one finds only a single song that they like from this album, then I think that are not really into the depth of SD. If fact this must be true since FEZ is one I like the least here. ANyway, I'm going to their concert later in the month.

    Michael USA
    The Royal Scam sounds like nothing Steely Dan ever recorded, especially Katy Lied. What exactly are you hearing? Katy Lied does not have reggae inflections, funk grooves, multiple brass sections, blistering guitars, etc. But yet it is every bit as brilliant and quite possibly the best album Steely Dan ever recorded. Please reevaluate your score before posting some nonsense review like that.

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    Aja 8 ( 1977 )
    Black Cow / Aja / Deacon Blues / Peg / Home at Last / I Got the News / Josie

    Seven songs, two of them ( 'Aja' and 'Deacon Blues' ) topping seven minutes in length each, and an album recorded in several studios and endlessly mixed and re-mixed prior to release. They evidently paid great attention to sonic detail this time out, in fact, a whole lot more effort seems to have been put into the making of 'Aja' than was apparent with 'The Royal Scam', and this is a good thing. The jazz is still here, the funk and groove is still here. In fact, one song 'Peg' is so damn catchy and funky, Hip Hop act De La Soul sampled a huge chunk of it for one of their songs! Forgotten Scottish 'popsters' Deacon Blue even named themselves after one of these songs. Yes, that's right, they named themselves after the opening 'Black Cow'! It's obvious really, isn't it? I'd like to name a band 'Black Cow', actually. Still, we're driting off the point here. The point is that 'Aja' is a crafted and impressive work, right up there with the best of Steely Dan's output. The opening 'Black Cow' is lyrically intriguing but on the face of it, no more melodically clever or exciting than much of 'The Royal Scam', although it certainly sounds better. The use of female singers to provide harmonies is a nice touch and enriches the piece no end. It's a relaxing and smooth piece of professional 'album rock', if you want to call it such. The title song most obviously reveals Steely Dan's beloved Jazz influences, cool Piano runs are especially a delightful feature. The vocals are nicely done, the lyrics evocative - everything works, really. 'Deacon Blues' is maybe one mid-tempo song too many to open the album, maybe swap 'Peg' and 'Deacon Blues' around, and you'd have a better sequence? Anyways, 'Peg' is great! 'Peg' was the single, reached number 11 on Billboard. Didn't chart in the UK at all, although Steely Dan certainly sold albums in the UK. Album Rock? Sounds like a put-down, doesn't it, but it's not meant to. Steely Dan began their career with a couple of great catchy singles, but that area wasn't a priority for them by this stage.

    'Home At Last' theatens initially to explode away from its Piano lines and brass funk parts, but never does. I wanted it to explode in nose and ROCK EXCITEMENT! But I guess, that wouldn't really be very Steely Dan, would it? It's still a fine song, anyway - the vocal melodies carrying the song and making it work. 'I Got The News' features Jazzy Piano and a up-tempo pace and is pretty cool stuff, joining 'Peg' in being a funky faster paced highlight of the set. Guitar opens the closing 'Josie', about the only really noticeable guitar on the entire record. Well, funk guitar is EVERYWHERE, but that's not what I meant. Maybe the only noticeable Rock guitar. 'Aja' isn't really a Rock album at all. What it actually is, I don't know. Steely Dan don't do anything new here, not exactly, but they do sound very focused on the matter at hand, and as such, 'Aja' works as a very enjoyable listen from beginning to end.

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    Al Brooks albrookscentury21@yahoo.com
    This album reminds me of the fall of '77. Almost every time I turned on the radio that fall, I heard Josie, Black Cow, Deacon Blues, and Peg. Especially Josie. As usual, the guitar playing was top-notch, making up for the weakness of the songs. The other musicians really knew how to play, as well. Good horn playing and very atmospheric compositions, obviously designed to be commercial hits.

    Simon Brigham slb23@shaw.ca
    I saw the "Classic Albums" hour-long special on this album on MuchMoreMusic on TV. It looked pretty cool, so I picked it up. i listened to it when I got home, and I realized it wasn't that good. Wasn't that good AT ALL. The only good thing about it is drumming. It was pretty good.

    Diane swankyken@hotmail.com
    'Peg' is one of those rare beasts, a song of which a cover has been made that is superior to the original (though you probably won't believe that). Look up the song by Wibijazz'n, an a cappella group from York University in Canada--I was always lukewarm on the original but this won me over.

    Dan Wright dan.wright@itn.co.uk
    I used to think that Steely Dan was the worst kind of chin-stroking beardie album rock, adored only by sacked Radio 1 disc jockeys like DLT -- "The Hairy Cornflake". Until I heard two tracks. Firstly "Peg", which if you play it to a toddler, makes them dance uncontrolably despite themselves. Secondly "I Got The News", which plays in my head whenever im travelling, commuting, walking the street and there is nothing I can do about it. Spread the news -- Jazz Rock is back.

    Larry Shaffer Larryachts@gmail.com
    I think the reviewer missed something here. Aja is a master piece,one of the best records of all time up there with Sgt. Pepper. Ask any real musician, the abstract beauty of the sub-melodies and hooks on every song are amazing and it stands the test of time in a large way. As a song composer, I am inspired by Aja. The guitar work and keyboards is amazing, its understated but perfect. I think if this album isn't a 10 then what is?

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    Gaucho( 1980 )
    Babylon Sisters / Hey Nineteen / Glamour Profession / Gaucho / Time Out of Mind / My Rival / Third World Man

    Steely Dan take three years to follow up the acclaimed 'Aja' yet rather uneasily enter the nineteen eighties. This would be the last Steely Dan album until a reunion in the late nineties. The lyrics here are the usual Steely Dan lyrics, the music on the opening 'Babylon Sisters' so smoothly relaxing you'll be tempted to turn down the lights, maybe have a lava-lamp going on in the background. A ginger tom cat on your knee, the fire on full - late at night. This is a nice feeling. The music, jazzy and relaxed fits the mood. The female harmonies sound nice and everything swims in front of you. The room turns around - you have to be in the mood, obviously. This is a mood piece, much like Steely Dan's entire career actually, but get in that mood and you'll be happy. This album is pretty undemanding musically. Doesn't mean its bad, though. True, there is nothing at all striking here, everyone sounds so calm and relaxed that you begin to wonder what secret they have that makes them that way. Still, 'Hey Nineteen' is gorgeous with it's harmonies and all. The bouncy, almost disco groove of 'Glamour Profession' doesn't warm me at all however. We can forget this song quite happily. It's bloody seven and a half minutes long as well! I ask you!!

    Sweet beautiful trumpet opens the title song, the interestingly titled 'Time Out Of Mind' ( hiya bob! ) is a little more funky than much of what else is here on the record. Still smooth though. Still unwrinkled and courteous.... Polite funk grooves permeate through 'My Rival' and the closing 'Third World Man' is worth hearing lyrically and musically, well. It's so quiet and easy listening you'll drift off to sleep very happily with your lava-lamp still flowing, the ginger tom well and truly asleep on your lap and a smile on your face. Bearing in mind though, if you are anything other than stupidly happy and smiling in your relaxed frame of mind, you'll hate this album. There really isn't much here, but i'm happy today. I've been listening to 'Gaucho' by Steely Dan. Hey, of course i'm happy! Er...... Well, all in all, a 7½ seems fair.

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    Galen Clavio thermocaster@yahoo.com
    The 7.5 sounds about right...it's not earth-shattering by any means. But man, this album tends to just depress me to the core - it's chock full of sleaze, aging, and psychoses. Songs about crazed neighbors, homosexual social climbers, growing old disgracefully, the early 80's L.A. cocaine scene...goodness. Depressing as hell, but a good listen!

    porcupine cupidandpsyche85@hotmail.com
    This is a really cool album. The first side is flawless: I really like 'Glamour Profession'! 'Babylon Sisters' is probably my fave Steely Dan tune, and 'Hey Nineteen' is really catchy, one of their best singles. The second side is good stuff too, especially the chorus to 'Gaucho'. The best of the later tracks is 'My Rival', some very nice guitar on that track. A great summer album, and one that mixes sunny, sleek production with clever, sometimes melancholic, sometimes bleak lyrics. Very good overall.

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    this page last updated 20/02/11

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