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Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were remarkable craftsmen from the start, as Steely Dan's debut, Can't Buy a Thrill, illustrates. Each song is tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics. All of these are hallmarks of Steely Dan's signature sound, but what is most remarkable about the record is the way it differs from their later albums. Of course, one of the most notable differences is the presence of vocalist David Palmer, a professional blue-eyed soul vocalist who oversings the handful of tracks where he takes the lead. Palmer's very presence signals the one major flaw with the album -- in an attempt to appeal to a wide audience, Becker and Fagen tempered their wildest impulses with mainstream pop techniques. Consequently, there are very few of the jazz flourishes that came to distinguish their albums -- the breakthrough single, "Do It Again," does work an impressively tight Latin jazz beat, and "Reelin' in the Years" has jazzy guitar solos and harmonies -- and the production is overly polished, conforming to all the conventions of early-'70s radio. Of course, that gives these decidedly twisted songs a subversive edge, but compositionally, these aren't as innovative as their later work. Even so, the best moments ("Dirty Work," "Kings," "Midnight Cruiser," "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again") are wonderful pop songs that subvert traditional conventions and more than foreshadow the paths Steely Dan would later take.
Performance CreditsSteely Dan Primary Artist
Donald Fagen Organ,Piano,Keyboards,Electric Piano,Vocals,Soloist
Victor Feldman Percussion,Keyboards
Jerome Richardson Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Clydie King Vocals,Background Vocals
Elliott Randall Guitar,Soloist
Walter Becker Bass,Guitar,Electric Bass,Bass Guitar,Vocals
Jeff Baxter Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar,spanish guitar,Soloist
Venetta Fields Vocals,Background Vocals
Jim Hodder Percussion,Drums,Vocals,Background Vocals
Shirley Matthews Background Vocals
David Paich Keyboards
David Palmer Keyboards,Vocals
Snooky Young Flugelhorn,Horn
Denny Dias Guitar,Sitar,Electric Sitar,Soloist
Sherlie Matthews Vocals,Background Vocals
Technical CreditsDonald Fagen Composer,Liner Notes,Reissue Producer
Walter Becker Composer,Liner Notes,Reissue Producer
Gary Katz Producer,Audio Production
Roger Nichols Engineer
Tristan Fabriani Liner Notes
Vartan Art Direction
Robert Lockart Cover Design
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
THIS IS THE BEST STEELY DAN ALBUM.Forget what the critics say, this one's got it all from Denny Dias's electric sitar solo on DO IT AGAIN, to David Palmer's vocal on DIRTY WORK, to the introspective lyrics of ONLY A FOOL WOULD SAY THAT, to the guitar solos of REELIN' IN THE YEARS and CHANGE OF THE GUARD.The entire album flows, and yet each song is unique.Also, check out Donald Fagen's piano work on FIRE IN THE HOLE.Don't judge this album by its cover, go out and get it.
Most will be familiar with the two Dan hits on this album, Do It Again, and Reelin' in the years. The other songs on this work, in comparison, are as good, or better. If I were to be stranded on a desert island, with just one CD, this would be the one I'd like to have. You won't tire of this one, trust me!