One review of the Royal Scam at the time described it as a "cynical masterpiece." Well, the Dan are never cynical. They present human nature in all its glory through a widescreen lens, which happens to include its failings, but the results aren't derogatory, simply bittersweet.
We feel enormous sympathy for the Puerto-Rican immigrants in a scam that is after all, "royal". Donald and Walter's commentary on the cultural zeitgeist has never been more apposite than on this album, with its shotgun divorces from Haiti, hoods who'd rather be dead than taken alive and so on. It ain't a pretty picture, but at least it's real.
And yet, these snapshots of how life really is are delivered so tastefully by the Dan that we can be forgiven for always wanting more. Donald's yearning vocals, the stunning guitar contributions from Larry Carlton, Denny Dias, Walter Becker and Rick Derringer, the horns on the title track, the Caves of Altamira and elsewhere, the fantastic syncopation, was all simply in preparation for their true masterpiece just around the corner - the wonderful Aja.
The Royal Scam is still, by most people's standards, inspired, incisive and pretty incredible...