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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American Album,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)It is indeed a fantastic record, taking the brilliant blueprint which was Can't Buy A Thrill, tightening it up and adding ingredient X - Donald Fagen's vocals - unconventional but right on the money for these songs. At this stage the Dan were still mining a rich seam of great tunes - the well would dry up around Katy Lied and for me they would come to rely overmuch on increasingly dry and sophisticated musicianship. Here the musical brilliance and the songs are in perfect balance. So too is the trademark cynical wit and the often-overlooked heart and soul - acid a-plenty in songs like Show Biz Kids, but Pearl of the Quarter (to name but one) is a beautiful song.
First heard this album when I was fourteen, 30 years ago. It still comes up as fresh now as the day I first heard it. If anything, it gets richer. No collection should be without one.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Their best album,
By A Customer
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)This album has a very raw energetic feel to it and even manages to surpass the (very high) standards set by Can't Buy a Thrill. You get the impression they enjoyed recording this one - just listen to the guitar-work on Bodhisatva, Boston Rag, My Old School and King of The World - this is musicianship of the highest order, not forgetting session man Rick Derringer's outstanding slide guitar performance on Show Biz Kids. Fagen produces his most flambuoyant keyboard playing on any Steely Dan album on Bodhisatva and Your Gold Teeth - check out Becker's bass-line on the same track too and Jim Hodder's drumming is excellent throughout. Its perhaps a shame Fagen and Becker broke up this line-up after Pretzel Logic. As with any Dan album, Countdown to Ecstasy has their trademark cynical lyrics, especially on tracks like Showbiz Kids and Razor Boy, whilst the obscure references in Your Gold Teeth keep you intrigued. This is an essential album for all Steely Dan fans, and a good introduction to the band's work for those yet to discover the Dan.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecstasy indeed!,
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This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)Later Dan has its advocates - Ian MacDonald, for one, argues strongly for the merits of `Gaucho' in his very fine `The People's Music' - but I belong to the `first 3 albums are the best' fraternity. Unlike `Katy Lied', which, for me, marks the beginning of the Dan's decline, there's not one ounce of filler on this record. A much more cohesive affair than `Thrill', the Dan's second album benefits from having a singular vocalist and, unlike the slick, session-man concoctions of the later years, is greatly enhanced by being the product of a working band (+ illustrious guests). The record is packed with musical incident and variety: the vibes on `Razor Boy', the Rhodes workout on `Your Gold Teeth', slide guitar on `Show Biz Kids', synth on `King of the World', etc. The Dan make a virtue out of combining mordant lyrics with a jaunty `beat', the superb `Razor Boy' being a case in point. But top honours go to `King of the World'. Easily passed over at the back end of the album, this is surely one of the Dan's finest creations. Written from the point of view of a post-nuclear survivor, the lyrics are bleak, yet not without the customary wit - `Watch the sun go brown/Smoking cobalt cigarettes' - and the upbeat arrangement, oddly enough, works with rather than against the `story'. I find it all rather moving in an unsentimental kind of way.
Anyone thoroughly cheesed off with the Kaiser Chiefs/Arctic Monkeys/Scouting for Girls hegemony and U2/Coldplay-style corporate rock would do well to give this a spin. Not all 70's stuff involved sticking knives into Hammond organs or writing `meaningful' lyrics about goblins and the like.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three two one ecstasy,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)'Countdown To Ecstasy' may rank as the second and last of Steely Dan's best albums, but it seems to me to be the link between the rock of 'Can't Buy A Thrill' and the more diverse approach of later albums. The songs and the music suggest a greater level of ambition. There are no hits of the stature of 'Reelin' In The Years' and I slightly prefer the first album, but there are moments of peerless magnificence here: the aching suspense of 'Boston Rag,' and the fluidity of the ode to Eastern philosophy, 'Bodhisattva,' for instance. The move toward jazz, funk and Latin influences is marked by 'Your Gold Teeth.' Yet it is 'Show Biz Kids' and 'My Old School' that characterise their gifts, the former a biting, starkly original recording, featuring an unnervingly insistent chant, the latter an infectious, melodic, Latin brass-backed extravaganza. 'Pearl Of The Quarter' suffers a little for following these tracks, but in truth there are no makeweights on 'Countdown To Ecstasy,' and of course the musicianship is superb.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My all time favourite album,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)I have benn passionate about rock/pop music since the age of 5, right from the Beatles, Stones, Purple,Zeppelin, Hoople, Little Feat, Punk, Talking Heads, Grunge etc. and in all that time nothing has surpassed the lasting brilliance of Steely Dan's second album.A friend played it to me soon after it was released and I thought it hard work compared to other stuff around at the time, but I stuck with it. Every track slowly reveals itself to be a masterpiece of melody ,atmosphere and great playing, especially if you love the sound of guitars.Tracks to take to your grave include Showbiz Kids and My Old School,but like all the truly great albums,this has no duff tracks and sounds as fantastic now as it did 30 years ago.Do yourself a favour and add it to your collaction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the drug.....,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)I must confess to begin that this is one of my all time top ten albums but I will try and be objective....yeh right! It's hard to be objective when you love something so let me explain WHY it's great. I originally bought this RECORD/LP about 25 years ago so have known it a long time. It was my first SD record and subsequent purchases confirmed to me that I got their best album first. It's great because they were at their experimental best. Other SD albums like Gaucho and Aja are more tight arsed, less laid back. On this one they seem like they enjoyed themselves and worried more about making brilliant songs than getting the technicalities right. That's not to say the songs are anything but tight and beautifully played. There is a funkiness and soul (in the loosest sense) to the music, as if they got together because they wanted to, not because they HAD to make another record. If you've heard one song by SD and liked it, I am sure you'll like this album. They (as in NOBODY) just don't make them like this any more. Enjoy!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly essential,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)This, the second Steely Dan album, is utterly essential - about as good as rock music gets. More than 35 years old, and still box fresh. Melodic but with a complexity and edge that see off any accusation that this is middle of the road soft rock. For this recording Becker and Fagen took complete control, through the writing and with Fagen taking over as the group's lead vocalist. Finally all the elements of the classic Dan sound are in place. The songs are carefully crafted with sophisticated jazz influenced arrangements, but at this stage in their career, Steely Dan are still first and foremost a rock'n'roll band. Fagen and Becker's obsessive perfectionism had not yet ironed out the soul, and right from the get go, on Boddhisatva, with its twin lead guitar breaks, the band rocks out. Although critically lauded, the album was only modestly successful on release, peaking at no. 35 in the US, with Rolling Stone citing Steely Dan as the US answer to Slade! Go figure.
If you don't know this album, there's a treat in store, and currently priced at £2.98, what have you got to lose?
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Close to it,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)The second "proper" Steely Dan album and it is quite different from their debut. Firstly, there are no obvious tracks that are commercial enough for a single. The album is very much a whole. There is a very noticeable jazz tinge to some of the tracks and we see the use of horns , a sound that was soon to become a trademark of The Dan. There are superb guest performances particularly Rick Derringer on Slide Guitar on Showbiz Kids and Jazz man Victor Feldman playing vibes on The Razor Boy. Some of the synthesizer sounds have dated this a little bit but overall the album has aged well and remains a cool enterprise after all these years. Sharp lyrics, superb musicians. Rather wonderful really.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See how they roll,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)From the first exultant, fast-paced track Bodhisattva, with Jeff `Skunk` Baxter excelling himself on guitar - and what a truly great guitarist he was and is - we know this is no "difficult second album" but rather a thing of wonder, and an even more sophisticated set of songs than the Dan`s superb, sunlit debut.
It is a bit of a tough record to review, as it`s quite simply perfect, not one note wasted, great lyrics (as usual) and musically impeccable. Highlights? They`re aren`t any: every track`s a winner. Mind you, I would have to say that about almost all their albums, such has been the Dan`s consistency over the many years they`ve been together.
It`s a relief too to have Donald Fagen settled in as lead singer. David Palmer was fine on Can`t Buy A Thrill, on which he sang lead on some of the tracks, but Fagen`s voice has just the right quality of sardonic knowingness to suit Steely Dan`s jazz-inflected rock approach. That`s another thing, this is one band it`s hard to pigeonhole. They`re a kind of rock band, but with a strong jazz pedigree, some of the most intelligent lyrics of any band (as songwriters, Becker & Fagen are obviously a well-read couple of dudes) and a mixture of West Coast hip and New York cool - or possibly the other way round!
Ok, a highlight: My Old School is uttery brilliant, a track nobody else could have done remotely as well, and one of their finest ever all-round performances. Again, the Skunk plays a blinder. It`s followed by the one slow ballad, the gorgeous Pearl Of The Quarter. Sheer bliss.
CTE was the first Dan album I ever heard - a friend taped it onto a cassette for me (hi, Nige) - so I have a special feeling for it, though after almost forty years I still think it`s one of their best. It benefits enormously from the ever-inventive guitar of Baxter, who was to leave after their next album, the astonishing Pretzel Logic. But that`s another story...
Meantime, these eight songs are one hell of an essential listen.
Do you throw out your gold teeth
Do you see how they roll?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply is THEIR BEST ALBUM,
This review is from: Countdown To Ecstasy (Audio CD)Being an avid listener to Steely Dan for sometime I was quite suprised this one had slipped by me. Little did I know that what began as a long car journey during a winters afternoon soon turned into an amazing trip with the help of this cd. The title certainly lives up to its name..for it really is audible 'Ecstasy' to the highest degree.
Indeed it has been sometime since an album has captivated me like this. Donald Fagens lyrics are poetical and mystical, almost taking on an ethereal hypnotic form and combined with Denny Dias's crisp clean cutting guitar chords and with Fagens laid back but jazzy keys, I wished my trip would never end. I hasten to add that I re-played it back to back 4 times over the course of the entire journey...its simply so wonderful and a joy to the ears.
The track 'Boston Rag' is brimming over with enchanting wonderous tales of lazy smoke hazed days, so rhythmically precise and vocally seductive leaving you begging for more long after its demise.
'My Old School' again...brings poetical lyrics and harmonious pleasures that leave the listener begging for more.
Before Id listened to this favourable outing of musical luxury I was a firm believer that 'Can't Buy A Thrill' was Steely Dan's milestone album and indeed my all time favourite. How things have changed and now this album sits in first place. Taste it and see for yourself how music can indeed be an Ecstasy of the highest order.
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