At last! The STEELY DAN Album-By-Album Thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by ohnothimagen, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly... Thread Starter

    "Hey kids! How y'all doin' tonight?" - Donald Fagen

    By popular demand, here is the Steely Dan album-by-album discussion. Should be a good 'un...before we begin, here's a couple of ground rules:

    1. Let's just stick to the album being discussed. I'll probably give each album (including the solo albums, so you'll wanna stick around for that) three days or so before moving on to the next. We'll see how it goes. But let's try and stay on topic- there's plenty of other Steely Dan threads in which to state "I love Steely Dan!" or ruminate on which pressing/CD of Aja sounds the best...

    2. No threadcrapping. For those of you here familiar with my posts, I can be a little bit prickly at times, especially if I read something that rubs me the wrong way. Now, I'm not a tattletale by inclination but anybody waltzes into this discussion and decides to crap all over it, I will report yer post to whichever Gort happens to be on duty at the time. Let's play nice. If you have nothing positive to contribute to this discussion, go find a Taylor Swift or Monkees thread to troll in, okay?

    Now let's get started...


    From Wiki:
    Can't Buy a Thrill is the debut studio album by the American rock band Steely Dan, released in November 1972 by ABC Records. It was produced by Gary Katz and written by band members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The album was recorded at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles.

    The album was originally released in two-channel stereo and also in a special four-channel quadraphonic mix. There are some significant musical differences between the two mixes, such as extra lead guitar fills in the quad mix of "Reelin' in the Years".

    Two songs recorded during the Can't Buy a Thrill sessions were left off the album and released as a single ("Dallas" and "Sail the Waterway"). This is the only Steely Dan album to include David Palmer as a lead vocalist, having been recruited after Donald Fagen expressed concerns over singing live. Drummer Jim Hodder also chips in lead vocals on one song, as well as singing the "Dallas" single. By the time recording of the next album began, the band and producer Gary Katz had convinced Fagen to assume the full lead vocalist role.

    Music and lyrics
    According to writers Marjorie Galen and Gordon Matthews, Can't Buy a Thrill features an upbeat soft rock style. Music journalist Paul Lester said that it incorporates mambo, swing, jazz, and Latin musical elements. Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted that "there are very few of the jazz flourishes that came to distinguish their [later] albums," but added that the first single from the album, "Do It Again," incorporates a tight Latin jazz beat, while the second single, "Reelin' In the Years," features jazzy guitar solos and harmonies.Robert Christgau described the former song as a toned-down mambo song with "tragic" lyrics about a "compulsive" loser.

    "Fire in the Hole", which features strident piano by Fagen, takes its title from a phrase used by American soldiers in Vietnam, and alludes to how so many students evaded the draft in the late 1960s and early 70s (Becker and Fagen included).

    Cover art
    The album cover features a photomontage by Robert Lockart. It includes an image of a line of prostitutes, standing in a red light area waiting for clients, chosen because of its relevance to the album title. The title of the album is taken in reference to the opening line of the Bob Dylan song "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry". Walter Becker and Donald Fagen themselves commented on the album art in their liner notes to the reissued The Royal Scam, saying that the album possessed "the most hideous album cover of the seventies, bar none (excepting perhaps Can't Buy a Thrill)." The cover was banned in Francisco Franco's Spain and was replaced with a photograph of the band playing in concert.

    Release and reception
    Can't Buy a Thrill was released in the United States by ABC Records in November 1972 and in the United Kingdom by Probe Records in January 1973. The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums,and was reissued on August 22, 1973, by Dunhill Records. On May 31, 1973, it was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of 500,000 copies in the US, then certified platinumby RIAA on September 7, 1993, for shipments of 1,000,000 copies in the US. In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, James Isaacs said Can't Buy a Thrill is "distinguished by three top-level cuts and scattered moments of inspiration," but felt the band occasionally sounded "limp". Christgau deemed it "a good album attached" to a hit single in his review for Creem; he found the lyrics "oblique, even philosophical ... as befit a band named after a dildo in a William S. Burroughs novel."

    Christgau later wrote of the record, "Think of the Dan as the first post-boogie band: the beat swings more than it blasts or blisters, the chord changes defy our primitive subconscious expectations, and the lyrics underline their own difficulty—as well as the difficulty of the reality to which they refer—with arbitrary personal allusions, most of which are ruses." In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Erlewine said the songs "subvert traditional conventions" and are "tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics." However, he critiqued that vocalist David Palmer "oversings the handful of tracks where he takes the lead", which caused Walter Becker and Donald Fagen to temper "their wildest impulses with mainstream pop techniques." Writing for BBC Music, Lester said the album was so "fully-formed ... that you would scarcely believe that it's their debut", and observed "tightly constructed songs with dazzling hooks, clever, cryptic lyrics, and vocals that offer teasing critiques for those that want them." In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Can't Buy a Thrill number 238 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Rob Sheffield was less impressed in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), regarding the record as "mellow folk rock" that was "softened" by Palmer, who "sounds like he's nervous about where his wallet is".

    Track listing
    All songs written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

    Side one
    1. "Do It Again" – 5:56
    2. "Dirty Work" – 3:08
      • Saxophone solo by Jerome Richardson
      • Vocal by David Palmer
    3. "Kings" – 3:45
      • Guitar solo by Elliot Randall
      • Vocal by Donald Fagen
    4. "Midnite Cruiser" – 4:07
      • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
      • Vocal by Jim Hodder
    5. "Only a Fool Would Say That" – 2:57
      • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
      • Vocals by Donald Fagen and David Palmer
    Side two
    1. "Reelin' In the Years" – 4:37
    2. "Fire in the Hole" – 3:28
    3. "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)" – 4:21
      • Steel guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
      • Vocal by David Palmer
    4. "Change of the Guard" – 3:39
      • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
      • Vocals by Donald Fagen and David Palmer
    5. "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" – 4:58
      • Vocals by Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and David Palmer
    Steely Dan
    Session musicians
    • Reissue producers: Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
    • Remastering: Roger Nichols
    • Art direction: Vartan
    • Liner notes: Tristan Fabriani (Walter Becker & Donald Fagen)
    • Reissue design: Red Herring Design, New York City
    • Consultant: Daniel Levitin

    Year Chart Position
    1973 Pop Albums 17

    Year Single Catalogue number Position
    1973 "Do It Again" (3:57 edit) (B-side: "Fire in the Hole") ABC 11338 6
    1973 "Reelin' in the Years" (B-side: "Only a Fool") ABC 11352 11
  2. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly... Thread Starter

    Not gonna lie: Can't Buy A Thrill is probably my least favourite Steely Dan album, mainly due to the fact that Donald Fagen doesn't sing every song. I am not a fan of David Palmer or Jim Hodder's singing- they give it the ol' college try but as far as I'm concerned Fagen is the voice of Steely Dan. Also, like on most debut albums, the band sounds kind of tentative here and there; there's confidence but you can tell they hadn't reached their full potential as a group (have to wait for the next record for that). So, in spite of the fact that most of the songs are very good, I don't play this one as much as I do the rest of their albums (it's the only one of the 'classic seven' I don't own on vinyl).

    Aside from the three 'biggies' on the album, I've always had a soft spot for "Only A Fool Would Say That". That's probably my favourite track here.

    Added as per request on post 3,648 - Alert to OP @ohnothimagen

    Here it is for now - maybe a Gort can add it to the initial post?

    Can't Buy A Thrill
    Countdown To Ecstasy
    Pretzel Logic
    Katy Lied
    The Royal Scam
    Two Against Nature
    Everything Must Go

    The Nightfly
    Eleven Tracks Of Whack
    Morph The Cat
    Circus Money
    Sunken Condos
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2018
  3. SixOClockBoos

    SixOClockBoos The Man On The Flaming Pie

    I feel like Can't Buy A Thrill is an excellent album. Shows a band working equally towards a debut album being successful. The lineup seen on "Midnight Special" is the first line up I saw of this group and it contains "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years", two of their very best singles.
    Gumboo, MoonPool and ohnothimagen like this.
  4. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Countdown to ecstasy begins here.
    The thread that is.
    And about time to!!!
    WilliamWes, deany76 and ohnothimagen like this.
  5. marc with a c

    marc with a c Forum Resident

    Orlando, FL
    Very exciting! I love every song on Can't Buy A Thrill nearly equally, but I don't pull it off of the shelf that often. Always felt like there was a tighter sequence to be stumbled upon.

    If anyone has any ideas, in all ears!
    ohnothimagen and Fullbug like this.
  6. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Must admit I prefer the demo version of Brooklyn with Donald singing.
    marc with a c likes this.
  7. Fullbug

    Fullbug Forum Resident

    Dallas would have been a good replacement for Only A Fool . . . Other than that, a virtually flawless record.
  8. Colonelhall

    Colonelhall New Member

    Somerset UK
    Can't Buy A Thrill remains my favourite Steely Dan album. Looking at the reviews that accompanied its release, I cannot believe the extent to which professional reviewers did not get it. To my mind, it is the greatest debut album ever, with its lyrical mastery and subversive welding of jazz sensibilities with out and out rock music. There is far more to this album than the two hit singles and their superb B sides. Every track is stunning and even if you go to my tenth favourite you have Brooklyn, sung by Dvid Palmer, which is still a great track. I saw them back in '74 and they blew every other band I had seen away.I am playing the album now and listening to Fire In The Hole, which still amazes me with its piano and steel guitar interplay. Over 40 years old and still delighting me.
    Gumboo, Mansley, brunofaetten and 7 others like this.
  9. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Really like the photomontage album cover, reflects the Dylan inspired album title.
    McLover likes this.
  10. Colonelhall

    Colonelhall New Member

    Somerset UK
    Only A Fool - one of my all-time favourite Dan tracks!
  11. fozl1986

    fozl1986 Forum Resident

    Stuttgart, Germany
    Is the non Album Single "Dallas" and the B-side "Sail the waterway" available on a expanded CD- Version of the Album?
  12. katywu

    katywu Forum Resident

    It's a fantastic debut album IMO, one that allowed the group to evolve and mature to what we eventually hear in Aja, lots of other great stuff along the way. Plus in 1972 this had a freshness and great upbeat tempo that was really welcome, it certainly got a lot of play time back then. I'm also a fan of "Only A Fool Would Say That", it's usually the first track I play from the album followed by Reelin' In The Years then Do It Again. It's also the album I own most copies of probably due to how much it was played.
    MoonPool, Gregster and ohnothimagen like this.
  13. PretzelLogic

    PretzelLogic Machine wrapped in butter.

    London, England
    Nope. Neither of those songs has ever made it to CD.

    I like Hodder's vocal approach (Palmer slightly less so, though he has great material to work with). I don't think anyone ever asked him about his time with the band, which is a loss as he probably had some good tales.

    Love the album. Can't not like it. It's so fully formed, most bands would kill to have it even as their third or fourth. Am also glad they got the formula right at the start in terms of who was in charge, composition-wise. I don't know if the others tried to submit songs, but it would've been weird to have just one or two non-Becker/Fagen tunes in the canon after the split. I guess even at the start, Don and Walt knew that they weren't going to be saddled with these guys forever.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
    lightbulb, Gardo, Doug_B and 5 others like this.
  14. tmwlng

    tmwlng Forum Resident

    Stunning debut album. Obviously fit in well with the early 1970's American ideal of having a band with various lead singers, and various instrumentalists. But the songwriting, lyrically and in terms of chords, even then seemed to come from someplace else rather than just rock and roll. But it is definitely a rock album. I love all the songs. Jamming and rocking out to Reelin' in the Years and Kings... Crying to Midnite Cruiser... Grooving to Do It Again and Change of the Guard. I dig all the songs. Not too keen on Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me) but I can live with it. Many good experiences with this album. First heard it as a teen and finally got it on CD when I was 16-17 years old and have had it ever since.
    lightbulb and ohnothimagen like this.
  15. uffeolby

    uffeolby Forum Resident

    Västerås, Sweden
    A very good record with no fillers, and I really like the songs that Donald is not singing on also.

    Only A Fool Wouls Say That is my favorite and a stone cold classic in my book. If there is a song on the album that I can live without, it is Reelin' In The Years.
    Bananas&blow and ohnothimagen like this.
  16. James Glennon

    James Glennon Forum Resident

    Dublin, Ireland
    Strange world this, I absolutely love Can Buy A Thrill for the very reasons you don't. For me it is 'the template' for everything that came later.

    Hall Cat, btomarra, Mansley and 4 others like this.
  17. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly... Thread Starter

    Seriously, would it really have killed Becker and Fagen to swallow their pride and tack "Dallas" and "Sail The Waterway" on to the CD as bonus tracks or something? They're not bad songs by any means, and probably at least on par with a couple of the tunes that did make the album.
    Again, it's not that I don't like Can't Buy A Thrill...but it's the only one of the classic seven Danalbums where I pretty much have to skip a song or two, probably part of the reason I haven't bit the bullet and bought the thing on LP yet:laugh:
    steelydanguy and ParloFax like this.
  18. Svetonio

    Svetonio Forum Resident

    What a great debut!
    junk, EddieMann, BrentB and 1 other person like this.
  19. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Best vinyl and CD versions ?
    Can't Buy A Thrill, but I'd like to?
    D.B. likes this.
  20. MicSmith

    MicSmith Forum Resident

    It's a sterling debut album - not full of 5* songs but there's enough here to whet the appetite. My favourites are Kings, Only a Fool Would Say That and Reelin' in the Years. I don't mind Palmer singing but prefer Fagen and I'm glad this approach was abandoned by the time of the second album.

    I too like Dallas and Sail the Waterway. It makes no sense that these tracks haven't been reissued as bonus cuts.
    ohnothimagen likes this.
  21. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly... Thread Starter

    Like I said in the introductory post, I'd like to avoid discussion of "which is the best version" of the albums here, plenty of other discussions where that info can be found:righton: But, having said that, I now feel sorta compelled to scarf Thrill up on LP. I plan on hitting my local record store in the morning before I pick my kid up from school, maybe I'll find a copy there...
    BurtThomasWard and alexpop like this.
  22. David-Shea

    David-Shea Toastmaster General

    Suffern, NY
    I love the record, I think it's quite underrated myself...also Dirty Work might just be my 3rd favorite song ever in general.
    alduchaney and Buggyhair like this.
  23. katywu

    katywu Forum Resident

    Just digging out some "facts" from Brian Sweets book and he mentioned that the original idea for a cover concept featured a young girl looking in a porn shop window while the owner leered at her from inside. A photo shoot with Gary Katz's daughter actually took place but the band thought better of it. Becker and Fagen wrote the sleeve notes themselves under a pseudonym. Fagen was later to term most of the album as "juvenilia"!
  24. Goggen

    Goggen Forum Resident

    One of my favourite Steely Dan's albums. Brilliant songs that kind of hints toward coming explorations. It's not as polished or rationally delivered, but that just adds to it's charm. I can't stop tapping my feet, it just grabs me.
    ohnothimagen likes this.
  25. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Thought it would be a neat n tidy to have all the info on one thread. Hardy when your record shopping. Btw I picked up Can't Buy A Thrill early USA gatefold last week.
    Gardo likes this.

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