on 2 April 2002
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.
on 26 October 2000
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.
on 1 December 2008
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.
on 1 August 2008
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?
on 26 January 2009
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!
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?
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.
on 3 December 2003
This re-issue from 1998 of the 1973 album by Steely Dan is more like it,gone are the vocal experiments of their disappointing début release.
Now as it should always be Donald Fagen is doing the lead vocals, for me his is the only true voice of a Steely Dan song.
As before the opening song of this Steely Dan album is superb,Bodhasattva is a great start, with it's slightly rocky feeling drums, and jazzy sounding bass, and with the multi-track recorded vocals of Mr Fagen it is a classic beginning to an album.
The next stand-out track for me is the cut Your gold Teeth with the closing lines "use your knack darlin',take one step back darlin', There ain't nothing in Chicago, for a monkey woman to do, Do you throw out your gold teeth, Do you see how they roll", I don't know what they are talking about, but boy does it sound good.
The following track "Show Biz Kids is another classic "Dan" song with the superb chorus, "While the poor people sleepin', with the shade on the light, while the poor sleepin', All the stars come out at night" and the wonderful sounding slide guitar by Rick Derringer in the middle 8 section of the song a real joy to listen too.
All the tracks on this album sound so much better than the original pressing of this album on C.D., this is because of the hard work of Rodger Nichols under the supervision of Becker and Fagen to renovate the overall sound.
This is the real début album...
on 11 January 2002
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.
£2.88 pence. That's precisely what I paid for Countdown To Ecstasy by Steely Dan when I bought it as an import back in 1973. I've still got the old ABC Records vinyl. It sounded great then, and over forty years later, it sounds as fresh, invigorating and innovative as it did Way Back When. The music is beautifully produced, incisively arranged, and there's not a note out of place, without the music sounding sterile. I can't believe that any discerning music fan doesn't have this already. If not, correct that anomaly right now - music of this value has never been able to obtain as cheaply as it is right now. I bought mine for less than I paid for the original import vinyl...