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Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (28.11.2001)
Truthfully I am a big fan of Steely Dan as I really appreciate their sophisticated and complex stylings. Many contradicitions in their styles do abound. Only top notch musicians appear on Steely Dan records. Yet in many spots their contributions are a bit minimilistic. I guess less is more. A big emphasis on rythm by these guys. Believe it or not, Donald Fagen was greatly influenced by Traffic's Mr. Fantasy CD. I guess the Danners would look decently pared with Steviw Windwood and CO although Traffic played heavier rhythms. An interesting tidbit you might not be aware of.....Jim Gordon played drums on Traffic's Low Spark Of Hi Heeled Boys and Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic (Hodder was being fazed out of the band then).
As it pertains to song-writing, its not as isolated as Becker was the music guy and Fagen the lyrics guy. Bohtisavah is all Fagen. Becker was responsible for the verses on The Boston Rag and Fagen the chorus. This is based upon Brian Sweet's bio of Steely Dan entitled Reeling In The Years. The Steely Dan Complete Songbook fully amplifies that each song has different degrees of input from Becker and Fagen.
Yes, Steely Dan hated touring but there are some good concert bootleges out there from the early days. On one that I own, Memphis Blues Again, which was released around 1974, Donald Fagen displays a little bit of personality in his banter in between songs. You'd think he was a pro at touring my listening how loose the Danners sound. Oh well....complex contradicitions indeed!
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (28.11.2001)
This title was ellegedly based on lyrics from a Bob Dylan song. Anyway many neat touches with the Plastic Organ and Electric Sitar solos on 'Do It Again'. Guest Elliot Randall plays some mind boggling guitar solos on 'Reeling In The Years' and 'Kings'. Elliot actually turned down an invitation to join Steely Dan on a full-time basis!
As for David Palmer, he was in Steely Dan to sing "most if not all the songs" in concert. Donald Fagen did not like singing in concert. However, a few drinking incidents(one which had side splitting ramifications indeed!) caused Mr. Palmer's dismissal. None the less Palmer sings admireably on 'Brooklyn', 'Dirty Work', and in spots on 'Turn That Heartbeat Over Again'.
Steve Maginnis <MgnnsStv@aol.com> (31.01.2003)
Maybe Steely Dan wasn't fusion in the traditional sense, at least not in the traditional sense as George sees it, but Walter Becker and Donald Fagen did reintroduce the concept of jazz and blues mixing into rock that Blood, Sweat and Tears chose to abandon when they went pop. In that respect Can't Buy a Thrill is important because it picks up where original BS&T leader Al Kooper left off. Can't Buy a Thrill's two hit singles showed just how far rock and roll had come in the past decade in recognizing its roots (there's reelin' in the the years for you!), and the supporting tracks provide a bright sound and a coolly ironic lyricism, the likes of which pop had never seen. It is clearly one of the most important debut albums of the early seventies, offering genuine innovation behind a supposedly respectful and conservative veneer. Ah, irony!
Tony Souza <email@example.com> (20.06.2003)
I've always had a love/hate relationship with these guys, although "hate" is too strong a word. If I'm in the right frame of mind, their music is great,. If not, they come off to me as smarmy and pretentious or worse -- just plain boring. This album, however, is good almost all the way through (I don't like "Brooklyn" or "Turn That Heartbeat Around"). "Do It Again" is still probably the best thing they have ever done, but the lesser songs on here ("Changing of the Guard", "Midnight Cruiser" etc.) are catchy and fun, unlike some of their late '70's- early '80's songs which were stuffy, blue-eyed jazz/funk. At the time of their first release, they were still a real band and not just Becker/Fagan and a bunch of studio musicians as they were to become later.
Bill Slocum <firstname.lastname@example.org> (29.08.2004)
I have to wonder, for all it's undeniable originality, did Can't Buy A Thrill sound like the Dan guys were modelling themselves on Santana when they came out with this album in 1972? They had a mellow jazzy feel going on, one of their two hits on it ("Do It Again") has a decidedly Latin shuffle going on, while the other ("Reelin' In The Years") has some guitar heroics that would have done Carlos proud. There's even some nonsense Spanish in the clever, low-key charmer "Only A Fool Would Say That."
I'm with you, George. This is not Steely Dan's best album (you say Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic are better; I say Aja and Royal Scam) but its a surprisingly mature one from a band making its first commercial record. Like I say, I think there were some outside influences, maybe not Santana but somebody, weighing in rather heavily at this stage, but it's worth noting as hits went, they never had two more top 20 singles in the U.S. off any single album until Aja's "Deacon Blues" and "Peg." "Reelin' In The Years" peaked at #11, too, and if it had made one more notch higher, that would have given the Dan two top ten hits right off the bat (they only had three, "Do It Again," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "Hey Nineteen," in their career).
What gets me especially about their first album is the one-time featured presence of one David Palmer. There should be a Rock N' Roll Hall Of Fame Pete Best Wing for talents that didn't quite manage to make it with great groups, but left a lasting imprint. There'd be Wayne Perkins for his "Hand Of Fate" guitar work with the Stones, Blondie Chaplin singing "Sail On Sailor" for the Beach Boys, Desire violinist Scarlet Riviera, Roy Wood (for his early ELO work), Norma Jean Wright of Chic, Vince Melouney and Colin Petersen of the Bee Gees, Bob Weston of Fleetwood Mac (who managed to break up Mick Fleetwood's marriage in only one album), Genesis's Anthony Phillips, and David Palmer.
AMG says Palmer "oversings." Yeah, right. I think he does a fine job, as do you. The proof is "Dirty Work," a song he lends fine pathos to in his rendering that would be beyond Donald Fagen, who could play characters but lacked the timbre Palmer shows here. It really sounds like Palmer feels his soul being shred by this rich woman who invites him over for heartless sexcapades while her husband or live-in lover is elsewhere. It's one of the Dan's finest moments, but what sticks out is not the wordplay or the arrangements (Fagen and Becker's specialties) but the singing by Palmer. You just know he's going back again, chewed up as he is about it on the inside (and probably outside as well.)
Palmer's other solo spot, "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)" features a bizarre little lyric as you note, but isn't Palmer in fine form again? He sounds like a down-on-his-luck drifter, returning to Canarsie or Flatbush after some time away, figuring everything is about to change though secretly knowing otherwise. Yeah, he feels out of place on a Steely Dan album, a little like Ingmar Bergman beamed down to direct an episode of "Friends." I really enjoy his presence.
I'm sorry that Palmer didn't last with the band. I'd love to have heard his take on some of Steely Dan's other gentler numbers, like "Any World That I'm Welcome To," "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," and "FM (No Static At All)." I guess it will just have to be imagined.
But even the non-Palmer songs shine, especially "Midnight Cruiser," "Fire In The Hole," and the two hits. Only the hippie anthem "Change Of The Guard" sounds the least bit dated, and this was made in 1972. Remarkable how well it's all aged. They did get better, but they started out strong.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (28.11.2001)
Possible Steely Dan's best recording as it pertains to isntrumetnal definition. There are some awesome and diverse solos. Those keyboards on 'Your Gold Teeth' and 'King Of The World' are just mind blowing. 'Boston Rag' has such a cool guitar solo. I like your analysis on the later. Anyway, there's hardly a weak song in the lot, although its not quite my fave.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (28.11.2001)
I must take you to task on this one. 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' is one awesome song whether it be the bouncy marimba/bass, captivating hooks, touching lyrics, or the awesome guitar solo, not too mention the bridge. Not only is it my favorite Steely Dan song but it surely is one of my favorite songs of ALL TIME!!!
None the less, there are many other excellent songs on this release. 'Parker's Band' is my second fave as I love the duel drum work of Jim Gordon and Jeffrey Pocaro here. Just listen to this song on the headphones and each drummers little and big touches. Just so you know, Jim Hodder's role on this release was limtied to some background vocals.
None the less, the other tunes all add something special. Whether its acoustic gems like 'Barrytown' or 'Any Major Dude' or blues from the title track or funky soul from 'The Monkey In Your Soul', this CD is a keeper!
Jaime Vargas <email@example.com> (24.03.2004)
George, you ask if somebody else recognizes "If I needed someone" in the verses of "Barrytown"...well, no. I recognize "Tell me what you see". The melody starts exactly the same!
Floyd <Midgetman@hotmail.com> (15.11.2005)
Man, I guess you don't know your Beatles or your Dan. Barrytown is totally Tell Me What You See and not If I Needed Someone.
I guess none of youze guys is much of a jazz fan, since nobody mentioned that the opening piano riff to "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" is a direct copy fo the opening piano riff of Horace Silver's "Song For My Father".
Colin Runeckles <firstname.lastname@example.org> (05.05.2006)
"On the contrary, 'Parker's Band' has hardly anything to do with Charlie Parker"
Looking again at the lyrics:-
"Savoy Sides presents a new saxaphone sensation" Savoy = one of his early record labels
"You'll be groovin' high or relaxin' at Camarillo" 2 of Parker's song titles
"Suddenly the music hits you; its a bird in flight that just can't quit you" - Bird = Parker's nickname
"We will spend a dizzy weekend smacked into a trance" - reference to Dizzy Gillespie. Drug reference as well.
"Either way you're bound to function; Fifty-Second Street's the junction" - well-known hangout for bebop musicians in mid 1940's
the final sign-off to the track is a direct lift of a Parrker tune although I just can't remember which one at the moment.
Being a very lon-term Dan fan, I heard this when it first came out and thought it quite briiliant - and still do.
Mike DeFabio <email@example.com> (31.01.2000)
Haven't heard all of this album, but I just had to say... you almost never mentioned 'Dr. Wu'! That's such a great song! Maybe even better than 'Black Friday'! How could you just mention a song like that without even... sorry, I'm overreacting again. Happens every time. I gotta go outside.
I also find 'Bad Sneakers' pretty boring. I really like the "when they gonna send me home" part, but that's it. Maybe someday I'll hear the whole album. As it is, I'm just fine with their Greatest Hits album. Isn't that dumb how there's like a zillion Steely Dan best-of collections and the only that's any good is only available as a 20 dollar import? I dunno, maybe it's more common in Russia. Never shopped for music there, myself.
P.S. Someone slap me please! I skipped right over the 'Dr. Wu' part! Howdidothat? Howdidothat? I got all worked up for nothin! Sheeeeeeeeeeeesh!
Richard C. Dickison <firstname.lastname@example.org> (01.02.2000)
Damn It George, Now you've done it.
I love the fact that you went on a tirade about Elton's lyrics in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road but you pull the teeth on these guy's (and were talking very sharp teeth there) by refusing to get into the very thing that made them so important. Their lyrics. I mean that is the end all, be all for the very exisistence of these dudes. They took lyrics that even Led Zeppelin would have trouble putting over without mass rioting by the Moral Majority and packaged it up in aural frosting equivalent of the Carpenters. Yes the music is sugary sweet and without edge (and sometimes without hooks), it's all in what was being sung about direct to you from your local gutter (ala Valley Of The Dolls). Now it is the most accurately executed derivative MOR you will ever hear, but that was the point. They were setting a much tougher path for themselves, I believe, than anyone running around stage in all that leather and make-up talking about worshiping Satan and drugs at the time. I enjoy these guy's for pulling off some of the roughest song subjects ever put on vinyl and if that means sometimes overlooking some bland music every now and then, so be it, they could be very hit and miss at times. Katy Lied is a transitional album and being so it has definite weak spots, but here is where they really started to structure their sound and style. Hum along with 'Doctor Wu' from this album, impressive.
Ben Greenstein <email@example.com> (03.02.2000)
A lot of people seem to think that this band is really talented, but I don't get it. I don't hear creative arrangements, or "jazz rock," I hear a bunch of bouncy, stupid jingles that get way too much radio play. I certainly don't hear great lyrics either - I guess that since they're writing about controversial subjects, they're poets. Ah well. I listened to Katy Lied, (but didn't buy it! I only wanted to give them a second chance!) and wasn't impressed. "Doctor Wu" sounded kind of cool, but only because the CD I was listening to had a defect which caused the first verse to be in some weird, distorted time signature. The rest of this stuff is boring. It's also obnoxious. And overplayed. In fact, I may even go so far as to say that Steely Dan are one of the few bands I truly cannot stand.
Of course, there's a chance that the way I feel about Steely Dan and Prince is the way other people feel about XTC and Elvis Costello, so I'll just keep my big mouth shut.
Glenn Wiener <Glenn.Wiener@Entex.com> (04.02.2000)
A badly overlooked recording. Not quite the lounge lizzard jazz that would appear on Aja but this seems to explore a few more styles. 'Rose Darling' and 'Black Friday' rock along quite nicely to the fast paced beat. 'Your Gold Teeth' and 'Bad Sneakers' each are nice piano driven ballads. And how bout the mariba effect on 'Everyone's Gone To The Movies'? My favoirte is 'Chain Lightning'. Its just great blues shuffle with some cool instrumental jams. 'Dr. Wu' is great too. You know its about durg dealers in Miami Beach? In general, I find this recording very balanced and it ranks as my second favorite Steely Dan record with Pretzel Logic being #1.
Rich Bunnell <firstname.lastname@example.org> (29.08.2000)
Like most Dan albums that I've heard, this one's really interesting and has a bunch of solidly enjoyable songs, but the mix is pretty bad compared to other albums (apparently, Becker and Fagen hated it so much compared to their original mix that they haven't listened to the album since 1975), though still pretty sleek -- it IS Steely Dan, after all. Plus, the material isn't as captivating for the most part. I personally don't fall into the "First half good/second half bad" camp on this album, I just think that the mediocre songs are sprinkled everywhere around the course of the album. I'm not much into blues, and Steely Dan attempting blues is even less appealing(unless it's "Pretzel Logic"), so I'm not fond of "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More," and "Chain Lightning" and "Throw Back The Little Ones" fail to grab my ears in any way. But "Black Friday" is a riffy, fun stock market crash of an opener, "Doctor Wu" is a real smooth-playin' treat, and both "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" and "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" have great choruses. I don't mind the perverse subject matter of the former or the outright pessimism of the latter at all. The songs I haven't mentioned yet are all pretty good, but overall this doesn't measure up to Countdown, Pretzel or even the new album in my eyes. 7/10
This is - without a doubt - Steely Dan's best album. 'Black Friday' has so much attitude seething from it that it's the closest approximation of the Sex Pistols doing lounge music the world has ever provided. Yes, it's extremely cynical in parts, but that's a big reason why I like it. A 10, easy.
Gotta disagree with this one. First, this is Steely's strongest album lyrically. Sure, it's the most bitter, but it's also the most direct and entertaining, in terms of lyrics. Musically, it's not their best album. However, it's far from an 8. More like an 11, or maybe even a 12. I am a huge fan, though. This is not the album for the casual Dan fan....you have to like their sound...hardcore. Numerous classics such as 'Kid Charlemagne', 'Caves', 'Don't Take Me alive', and 'Haitian Divorce'. 'The Fez' is actually a really funny groove about safe sex, I don't know why George despises it so much, it's harmless and funny. 'Green Earring' is the low point...it's one of the band's minor songs. 'Everything you did' is pretty good, with one of the best Dan bridges. I would, however, like to address the two songs leftover. 'The Royal Scam', lyrically, is brilliant, poetic and perfect. I love those lyrics. And 'Sign in Stranger'...George, what album have you been listening to? It's far and away the best song on the album, and one of the three best Steely Dan songs. Just listen to those keyboards...oh man, what a song. The album cover is great too. Overall, if you're into the other albums, Royal Scam does not disappoint. It's just the hardest one to get into. Give it time. It will grow on you.
Glenn Wiener <Glenn.Wiener@Entex.com> (09.02.2000)
Like the previous commentary, I like almost everything that these guys have done. But to be objective, I would rank this only ahead of Gaucho and on a par with some of the other releases. There are many strong songs on here and a few ordinary ones. 'Kid Charlemagne' would probably be my favorite due to the danceability of the beat and the energetic guitar playing both rhythm and lead. Whereas the title track is pretty slow, it has a good haunting riff and some cool drum rolls. 'The Fez' is merely a light hearted mood piece which isn't really a serious composition especially lyric wise. To me, its Steely Dan crossing jazz with disco. 'Green Earings' has some interesting rhythms and between the different musicians so I like it as well. 'Everything That You Did' and 'Sign In Stranger' are probably the weakest in this lot due to the fact that they do not offer much in the way of rhythm or riffs. The other three songs are good but just do not offer the completeness of 'Kid Charlemagne'. None the less, this recording like all Steely Dan recordings is quality stuff.
Hey man, I'm 50% with you here... I think this was actually one of the better Steely Dan albums, way better than Pretzel Logic for example -- but in spite of that, you're the only other person I know of (other than me) who thinks 'The Caves Of Altamira' is the best piece on this album, and who thinks 'The Fez' is one of the worst things that 'Dan ever did. It's weird -- half the time I think you're so far off I wanna throw up my hands, and the other half of the time I think you're right on the money.
Ben Greenstein <email@example.com> (17.08.2000)
Hey.... this one's not bad at all! It starts out with "Kid Charlemange," which is a great song, really fantastic. If Steely Dan could manage an album of songs this great, then I could be PROUD to buy it. Then there's "Caves Of Altamira" and "Don't Take Me Alive," which are just about as cool. Catchy, energetic, great grooves abound. "The Fez" certainlyis really stupid, but I don't mind it much. Message to "TylerDurden900" (NOT his real name, I'll wager) - "Sign In Stranger" could only sound like a great song if it is the ONLY song you've ever heard. It really stinks, in my opinion. Fortunately, it's followed by "Hatian Divorce," with that cool guitar tone, and the classic rocker "Green Earrings." The last few songs drag badly, though - although not so much that I would give this album less than an eight! Surprise!
For the record, though, I'm still not too crazy about the other Dan releases I've heard. Aja seems focus too much on "making the Steely Dan sound" and not enough on "making good music," and Pretzel Logic, despite having "Barrytown" on it, leaves me cold. However, if they, by some chance, made another album as enjoyable as Royal Scam (FIVE great songs! Yay!), then maybe they are worth my money.
Let's get this straight - you're calling The Royal Scam "dance pop"? Well, I don't know if you've been to a club lately, George, but you'd be hard-pressed to hear anything like "The Caves of Altamira", "Kid Charlemagne", "Don't Take Me Alive" or "Haitian Divorce" there. If they did, I'd go to clubs more often. [Hey, it's all right, just put some dumb lyrics along to those rhythms and any club would be happy to take it. That's not the main problem with this album anyway - G. S.] Personally, I find this album to be one of SD's most thoroughly enjoyable. However, you have to already like Steely Dan to get into it, and I get the feeling you're not a big fan. I found them to be somewhat of an acquired taste too, but give 'em a chance and they get in your blood.
Rich Bunnell <firstname.lastname@example.org> (04.02.2001)
I know that I "tend to agree with you!!" but I seriously have to say that the only situation in which I'd disagree more with you than in this one is if you were to review Skylarking and give it a 2. Thanks to this review, I held off on buying this particular Dan album for the longest time, assuming that it was full of boring, loungey crap, like a mix of the worst tracks on Katy Lied and Aja. Then I heard "Don't Take Me Alive" on the radio, and it instantly became my new favorite Steely Dan song (still is), and I just HAD to buy this album. So I did (through BMG, so I didn't really pay much), and I realized that I'd once again been fooled by anti-American propaganda by the former Soviet Union. This album is WONDERFUL. Harsh, cynical, twisted - everything I love about Becker and Fagen encapsulated into one disc. It's true that they rely more on "dance" styled rhythms than they usually do, but since it ends up resulting in great songs like "Kid Charlemagne"(my new second-favorite Steely Dan song, infectious as hell) and "Green Earrings"(killer groove) I'm not liable to be lodging any complaints.
"Caves Of Altimara" is great too, a typical, solid Dan track, but definitely not the only truly great song on the album (I know I already mentioned it before, but "Don't Take Me Alive" merely GOOD??? Did Donald Fagen run over your dog or something, George?). "Sign In Stranger" is kind of awkward (weird for the normally-smooth Dan), but in a good, biting way, and the repetitive, smoothly-majestic title track just bowls me over. And yes, George, I think "The Fez" is a great song. Sort of. It's certainly stupid, but if you're going to bash the living crap out of a song mostly because it contains one lyric (which isn't even repeated in a noticeable way) I'd hate to see what you think of "Show Biz Kids" when you finally review Countdown. I'm done griping, though. I love this album, and all suspicions of the Dan being a somewhat mediocre band have been extinguished by it. It singlehandedly raised my Overall Band Rating for the band from a 2 to a 3. Needless to say, 10/10.
James Bandi <email@example.com> (04.03.2003)
Hi, i'm Jim Bandi from Switzerland, i'm 57 yes only thing I would like to tell you and maybe others reading this is:
Steely Dan - the Royal Scam = below average !!! you must have damaged copy, pse buy a new one, or stop listening to cd's and go back to vinyl.
Tony Souza <firstname.lastname@example.org> (20.06.2003)
Sorry -- I'm in agreement with most of the other comments posted here. This is actually my favorite SD record. The guitar solo on "Kid Charlemagne" is almost worth the price alone. As for the rest of it, well I like almost everything on here -- especially "Caves of Altamira".
Bill Slocum <email@example.com> (18.04.2004)
The problem with your review, George, is [cue music] YOU NEVER SHUDDA WROTE IT WITHOUT YOUR FEZ ON!
Really, like Rich Bunnell I avoided this album largely on account of the slam you gave it. So then I go ahead and buy it after a couple of years, expecting some less practiced jazz excursions on the order of a weaker Aja. Instead, it turns out to be the Dan's most groove-oriented album, with two killer cuts to rival "My Old School," "Dirty Work," and "Deacon Blues," them being "Haitian Divorce" and (yes) "The Fez," your most hated offering ever from a respectable band. And no, I don't like "Revolution #9" in case you are wondering.
Okay, so "The Fez" is not profound, but it's not trying to be. Just that opening smooth progression of keyboard scales circling like hawks until the drums and bass kick in, with some sumptuous celestes and synch violins in the background. It's just gorgeous, and that dirty guitar riff that cuts in from time to time sends me. I know I'm not alone. And to be fair, there are two main lyrics "I'm never gonna do it without my fez on" being one and "You never gonna make me do it without my fez on" being the other. Your failure to note this vital point proves you totally missed the deeper meaning of this song.
Good music like that makes me pay more attention to the lyrics after five or six listens, and now I've come to see this one as a concept album, of a 20-something urban professional couple on some tropical vacation in the mid-1970s. "Sign In Stranger" - They show up at a seedy resort, the sort of place Club Med would be if the staff passed out love drugs and Stud. "The Caves Of Altamira" - They visit a popular local tourist attraction with sexual overtones. "Everything You Did" - The wife steps out a little too much, and gets caught when hubby's in a bad mood. "Haitian Divorce" - It all ends in tears, with the firm of Kidd & Charlemagne taking hubby to the cleaners. "Don't Take Me Alive" - Now a fugitive from his alimony requirements, hubby vows not to give in without a fight.
It's odd because back in the 1970s, rock music catered to the youth culture. It was not common to have songs featuring married couple problems, like we have here on "Haitian Divorce" and "Everything You Did." The couple on the later song even "turn up the Eagles" on the speakers so the neighbors won't hear their argument. Even in the 1970s, my sense is there were few people much out of their mid-20s listening to the Eagles, but now, of course, the Eagles are like suburban Muzak. Were the Dan anticipating the zeitgeist, or leading it?
I love the lyrics for "Haitian Divorce," delivered in classic cynical Donald Fagen style. "Babs and Clean Willie were in love they said/So in love the preacher's face turned red/Soon everybody knew the thing was dead." That's one cool triplet, and also cool is that "He-yah" thing he does at the end of every verse, which is sort of like a vocal shrug at the whole mess of human relations.
I'm not wild about "Everything You Did" or "Sign In Stranger" as music, but I like each song on this album for what it brings to the whole. The Royal Scam is a beach album that you can listen to without shame.
Jason Saenz <firstname.lastname@example.org> (27.07.2004)
Hey c'mon George, your rating here is way too harsh, this is one of SD best albums man!!!
Eugene Callahan <email@example.com> (09.12.2005)
'Kid Charlemagne' -- it's about Owsley, LSD manufacturer and Grateful Dead soundman. (AKA 'Bear.') 'Caves of Altamira' -- not "childish fantasy" -- a kid really did discover the caves of Altamira. 'Royal Scam' -- drug dealers? Puerto Rican immigrants!
Glenn Wiener <Glenn.Wiener@Entex.com> (04.02.2000)
Your description is quite accurate. I respect this music as a good reprsentation for its style. Smooth easy going jazz/rock with some good saxaphone soloing by Wayne Shorter. I may appreciate the songs a bit mroe than you do but the record is best suited for background music. By the way, 'Josie' is about an ex-con returning to the negihborhood after doing his time. Josie is merely a mask for the many who went astray. Truthfully its my personal favorite song on the record although I like many elements of the others.
Richard C. Dickison <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.02.2000)
Drink your Big Black Cow and get out of here.
Aja is the slickest recording this side of Dark Side of The Moon.
It also suffers in my ears because of that, but I would never ever throw the accusation of being sappy at these guys. That Phil Collins number you go on about is actually a sneered love song to a porno star. Only these guys made you think it was trite little love song. Phil could not kiss these guys butts, see George, they really are that good.
The only reason this album did not seem their pinnacle to me, as other critics like to say it is, is because I really felt they were holding back on the reason I like them, their dirty little lyrics. They made this album almost squeaky clean by obscuring what they were really saying. The real beauty is the complexity of the music the Jazz just slinks it's way into your mind. When you first hear it, it sounds blah, but hold on, it'll get you.
Really from beginning to end there is not a really bad tune on this little greased up gem.
A very solid gold star for these dudes, even if I find it disappointing, you can't always get what you want.
Ben Greenstein <email@example.com> (10.04.2000)
I own this record. So sue me - I can't stand the group and I bought one of their albums. I just HAD to own the CD that has "Josie" on it. That's a great song, isn't it? See, these Steely guys really aren't bad, they just happen to only have about four songs worth listening to - "Josie," "FM," "Hey Nineteen" (which I always thought was saying "Norwegians dance together" - funny!), and, I don't know, maybe "Peg." This album, owning two of those songs, manages to be "okay" rather than "unlistenable." "Black Cow" is okay, too, but I can't stand "Deacon Blues" and don't get how anyone can call it anything other than a catchy soft rock number. A well-written one, but not any less obnoxious than Phil Collins or the like. I give the record a five - not a bad score for a group who I despise with all of my existence.
P.S. The liner notes are pretty funny. Maybe Becker and Fagan should have been standup comics instead. It would at least spare me the pain of hearing Fagan's atrocious singing voice!
Rich Bunnell <firstname.lastname@example.org> (24.07.2000)
I can't see why Ben despises this band so heavily, especially considering that the much-mentioned-by-him XTC are now following the same two-songwriter no-touring studio-perfectionist rules that the Dansters did in their heyday. Sure, the two bands have wildly different styles, but both of them get unjustly slammed for the same reasons.
There is one adjective to describe this album, and that is "smoooooooooooth." The extra O's are necessary, trust me. Almost every song on the album glides along on a slick backing typical of soft rock, but luckily the writing and playing is quite a bit better than, say, the Alan Parsons Project (though it may not seem so on first listen). The first three tracks are probably the most challenging, since they're the most loungeish and smooth of them all, but every one possesses a great chorus, tasteful female backing vocals, and a rich, full sound, all of which justify the extended running times perfectly. "Deacon Blues" is the most "adult-pop" of the three, but I still can't deny that awesome chorus.
The album gets bouncier from that point on, and I personally just see "Peg" as a lighthearted, fun pop song. Yeah, the horns are a bit cheesy, but I don't think that the Phil Collins comparison was entirely fair, since the song is a LOT more melodic and well-written than, say, "Sussudio," "Against All Odds" or "Easy Lover." "Josie" is really cool too, and seems to be the only song on the album which sticks to the band's earlier Pretzel Logic style. The other two songs aren't as stunning, but they're still okay. Overall, this is a fine, well-crafted album by one of the more underrated bands of the pre-new wave era (or so I'm led to believe considering how much other web reviewers seem to hate them).
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (07.09.2000)
I just have never gotten this album. I remember when it was first released, all my friends told me how great and how fantastic it was and how I just had to hear it. And I find it..deathly dull. It sounds like nothing more than bland imitation cocktail jazz to me. Not that I have anything against jazz, but I'll put on Time Out if I want that. It's clear that Becker and Fagen picked studio cats with great chops, but there is NONE of the passion of the great masters here. And with this slick, nondescript musical background, Fagen's whitebread voice sounds totally generic without an interesting musical setting to counterbalance it. And intriguing lyrics, which are what can almost redeem a boring Steely Dan song, are nowhere to be found here. "Peg" is the worst offender here -- a major radio annoyance.
Incredibly overrated, and easily Steely Dan's worst album. The next album, Gaucho, continues further into Music To Take A Nap By, but at least it has one fantastic uptempo tune in "Time Out of Mind." Can't Buy a Thrill is a thousand times better than this stuff. That's the real classic SD album, as far as I'm concerned, when they were a REAL rock band influenced by jazz and Latin music and whatever. But listening to the records in sequence, it's easy to chart the course from that to this tepid studio stuff.
Rich Bunnell <email@example.com> (10.09.2000)
I think that you guys are being a little hard on "Peg." It's probably because of that cheesy soft-rock brass, which most people have been conditioned to hate no matter in what context it's placed. Look past the corny instrumentation, though, and you have a fun, demented little pop song that also serves as a quick picker-upper after the really, really sleek opening trio.
Also, specifically regarding Bob's comment, I agree that Can't Buy A Thrill is superior to this album, but aside from the two hit singles, that album isn't really the example of "when the Dan was a TRUE rock band" that everyone claims it is. If anything, Countdown is that album, and that whole rock elitist attitude that most people use against the Dansters really irritates me. If every band did nothing but write short, concise rock songs to please all of the purists out there, we would live in a really one-dimensional musical world where every band would sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company. I mean, sure, Becker and Fagen could write some really boring, bland songs once they started smoothing out the textures in their songwriting, but it's still more interesting than what would've happened if they had stayed a "working band" past their second album.
Joel Larsson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (14.09.2000)
This record is great. This is the real jazz-pop (if you ask me): Smooth, harmonic, good lyrics and songs, it is worth all 11 overall points.
Jonathan D Hutzley <email@example.com> (15.12.2000)
I must say that I think Aja is the closest Steely Dan ever got to making an album without any filler. I mean, out of the seven songs on this album, only two even come close. Those would be "Close to Home" and "I Got the News". The other five are all extremely memorable. Particularly "Deacon Blues". I don't know why, but that may be my favorite Steely Dan song. I mean, it sounds like the type of song I would despise, but the way the music interplays with the sad, almost remorseful, lyrics, is truly masterful. It may just be my latent love for jazz that really makes this album special for me. The bass line on "Black Cow" is great too. Plus, any album that ends with "Josie" automatically gets my respect. (Note that this the only album where Steely Dan end with a really strong song as opposed to a really weak song. The only possible exception to that would be "Monkey in Your Soul" from Pretzel Logic)
Kevin Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org> (16.03.2001)
I never once thought a year ago that I'd like Steely Dan. My first experience with them was with the title track of this jazz pop masterpiece, and I thought it was b o r i n g in the utmost. A few months later, I heard 'Reelin' In The Years' on the radio and fell in love with the song. That prompted me to try listening to a little more Steely Dan, and then some more and then some more. And now I'm a fan, especially of this album. The music on here is just so....relaxing. Peaceful, contemplative, and refreshingly smooth. The title track is my personal favorite. Fagen said it was "about a peaceful relationship with a beautiful woman," and I'd buy that. It feels like it. 'Josie' is another favorite of mine, with it's ominous sound and cool jazz sound. Cool jazz sound would really describe the album as a whole. And that's fine by me. I'd give it a 12 overall meself. I'd also graduate Steely Dan, too. Hint hint hint.
Jason Saenz <email@example.com> (26.08.2004)
You are right about this record being for a long drive through the mountains, thats how I started really getting into AJA. I think that your rating is a little harsh, I do agree with you on 'I GOT THE NEWS' it is really just filler, it sounds like something you would hear in the middle of a baseball game, when everybody goes to get hot dogs and popcorn. The rest is just great George! It just takes me back to that long car drive through the mountains everytime I listen to it.
Joel Larsson <firstname.lastname@example.org> (22.01.2001)
George likes this one? Well, I don't. The opening 'Babyon sisters' is that kind of song you like the first time you hear it, then it becomes more and more boring each other time you listen to it. If I say 'Misty mountain hop', do you know what I mean? Well, we have 'Hey nineteen' then, and that's much better. After 'Hey nineteen', there are some more or less anonymous songs; 'Glamour proffession' doen't interest me a bit, 'My ritual' is another "classic" Steely Dan-song, 'Time out of mind' makes me listen just because of one little sentence: Tonight when I chase the dragon really gets me, but the song isn't very good at all. But at last there are 'Gaucho' with a real nice vocal-harmony sung by some falsetto ladies, and 'Third world man', which probably is the best song on Gaucho together with 'Hey nineteen'.
My record rating, if anyone asks, is a 7. The overall rating isn't very important, while George persists in adding the "band rating" together with the record rating.
Jeff Melchior <Jeffmoncheri@aol.com> (22.01.2001)
I must admit I went into a mild panic (nothing major, of course - I'm not that big of a loser) when I found out George had suddenly reviewed Gaucho. "Ah crap," I thought. "It's too soon for the guy to hear this easy-listening tranquilizer without at least listening to Can't Buy A Thrill first" (this, of course, is merely assuming you haven't yet). So I was pleasantly surprised that you kind of liked my guilty pleasure. Gaucho, unfortunately, is the SD album its fans are most apologetic for, especially in collections like mine in which it's sandwiched somewhere Soundgarden and Superchunk. But really, it's not that bad. It seems inexcusably MOR at first but eventually some moments grow on you, such as the saxophone line in 'Gaucho', But that's the unfortunate part - there's a lot of good moments but not a lot of good songs - only 'Gaucho' and 'Hey Nineteen' even come close. 'Third World Man' does nothing for me, 'Babylon Sisters' has some sexy-sounding backup singers singing the chorus but otherwise it bores the hell out of me. Still, I heard that this album was kind of a toss-off by Becker and Fagen, who wanted to make Aja their swan song but were pressured by the record company to produce a follow-up. So, for a toss-off, it's not bad at all.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (29.01.2001)
I see that you have developed a similar opinion to me on listening to Steely Dan especially the later period recordings. The song structures are very complex and are hard to get into on the first couple of listens. However, the atmospheric background becomes enjoyable over time. The solos are low key but still executed with a nice flair. 'Babylon Sisters' rates as my fave with 'Glamour Profession' most likely number two. It may rate as Steely Dan's weakest effort but other lesser bands strongest would not match the quality of this one.
Rich Bunnell <firstname.lastname@example.org> (25.05.2000)
Well, I personally can see a huge difference between this album and Gaucho - the songwriting is considerably more open-sounding and "jazzy" (I guess), and thanks to the twenty-year gap the production is much more clear and, to tell the truth, a bit sterile. It's a nice listen, but despite the presence of a lot of -good- songs, the only one that really impresses me is "West Of Hollywood," and mainly because of the chorus. I also agree that "Cousin Dupree" is pretty unspectacular musically, but it's pretty funny that in typical Dan "Show Biz Kids" spirit they threw out a song with really blatant lyrics about incest as the album's first single. It's pretty hard to remember how the rest of the album even sounds; I know I like "Jack Of Speed" and "Gaslighting Abbie," but god knows I can't remember why. I could give the album a 7/10. It didn't deserve to win the Album Of The Year Grammy, of course. WASP STAR DID!!!!!!!! Actually, probably not, but I'm sure that many better albums were released in 2000.
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (11.06.2001)
Like your points here. But sometimes sticking with a winning formula works. It did get them a Grammy. 'Cousin Dupree' and 'Two Against Nature' come closest to the rock n roll days of this band but none the less all the tracks are consistent if not overly spectacular.
Richard C. Dickison <Randomkill@earthlink.net> (14.07.2001)
It's Against Nature alright and a true waste of my money and time. Yuck, where's the "real" biting lyrics and all the dripping sarcasm that I loved before?
They have disintegrated into something they used to pretend to be as a joke "a lounge act".
What is next a Vegas Review on stage with Cirque du Soleil?!
Bah! Buy that box set with everything, and I mean everything! they ever made in the "real" years when they cared enough to try and be SLIMY and NASTY and talented as hell and at times hard to love and leave this wreck on the shelf.
I still respect these guys for what they were, but not for what they want you to believe they are now which I guess means "wholesome and clean and classy" ick.
I at least could see some interesting tunes left in the solo albums but this just killed any hope I had left that they would maintain their "genuine" talent.
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