uReview: Steely Dan “Can’t Buy A Thrill”

Can't Buy A Thrill

12345678910 (33 votes, average: 8.18 out of 10)

“The perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.” –Rolling Stone

“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…” –Robert Christgau

“Steely Dan gargles my balls.” – Seth Rogen’s character in “Knocked Up

Q: What’s your take on Steely Dan’s 1972 debut?

8-) Spotify link | listen ]

A1 Do It Again
A2 Dirty Work
A3 Kings
A4 Midnight Cruiser
A5 Only a Fool Would Say That

B1 Reelin’ in the Years
B2 Fire in the Hole
B3 Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)
B4 Change of the Guard
B5 Turn That Heartbeat Over Again

Steely Dan – Reelin In The Years (early 70s)

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  • philspector

    Steely Dan never make it for me except for two things

    -their name
    “A dildo in the William Burroughs novel ‘Naked Lunch’. According to Burroughs, the first Steely Dan was a metal dildo that an evil German bulldyke prostitute crushed using her nether regions, and the second Steely Dan is still in use. ”

    -and “Countdown To Ecstasy” Lp

  • taxiology

    This record took risks and set the tone for Album Oriented Rock. It’s also Steely Dan at their folksiest. “Do it Again,” “Brooklyn,” and B-side “Dallas” all have varying levels of this element.

    Musically you’ve got guitar work by Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias throughout, and the famous “Reelin’ in the Years” solo by Elliot Randall, The piano work on “Fire in the Hole” is this ridiculous rag-time stomp kinda thing with Cuban overtones.

    And look at the bizarre array of subject matter. On this one record alone you’ve got a violent loser being churned through the justice system (“Do It Again”), a heist gone wrong (“Turn that Heartbeat Over Again”), suburban sleaze in the vein of John Updike (“Dirty Work”), “gentleman losers”(“Midnight Cruiser”), historical drama (“Kings”), and a vindictive ex-girlfriend number (“Reelin in the Years”).

    So yea, basically, five stars.

  • Can’t say I’m too familiar with this entire album. Reeling in the Years is a great radio song, and I may have even own the album back in the day, so it has some pure nostalgic appeal, but can’t say it’s one of my all-time favorite records.

  • Bronson

    An excellent debut record. Sometimes SD are a little too jaded in their approach for me. But their music really swings! And the production is always great. Lots of good songs, here. I like cover artwork, also.

  • Deiter

    For me, all from Countdown to Aja is classic period. I believe there was a little something of them lost when the “band” Steely Dan dissolved and gave the sound over to studio hands for hire. Mind you, the guys on their role were brilliant. (In fact, many of the guitar solos you hear on the records were but one take drawn from many often performed by a few different players. Just being Larry Carlton didn’t necessarily mean you’d make the cut.) Any fan of guitar could probably find a few of their “best guitar moments of all time” on a Steely Dan record. I suppose you could argue that Can’t Buy a Thrill only pales because what followed it was so stellar. Both the lyrics and the tunes are on the front of the Dan trajectory curve–plus, having Fagen step back as a player and concentrate more on his other duties probably gave the sound a bump as well. Still, having said all of that, there are still some great songs here.

  • I’m in general agreement — a stellar debut, and most songs are just f-ing amazing, but maybe a few songs aren’t as strong as the others; they get credit for coming strong out of the gate, but if we treat is as “just” a SD album, the overall success comes in perhaps a hair under the overall quality/quantity line as applied to Countdown or Aja In context, then, I give it 4.5 stars, if only because what was to come was so, so solid and consistent by comparison.

  • Skip

    This record is great and I wasn’t even born when then made it. (b. 1980) “Dirty Work” = fuckin’ classic

  • dk

    Quite simply one of the best debuts ever produced. This one stands out in their catalog because Donald Fagen wasn’t totally comfortable with his voice yet, so the group enlisted blue-eyed soul singer David Palmer on a handful of tracks. Crazy to me, because Fagan’s vocals are one of the best things about the group. But that said, this is an excellent album – soulful, offbeat, and showing just a hint of the dark places that their music would go. It’s also more organic rock & roll with little of the constructed-in-the-studio sound that dominates their later albums…

    Five thumbs up!!!!!

  • cody

    Do It again, and Only a Fool Would Say that are tremendous songs. Here’s a question posed by fellow blog Aquarium Drunkard, “Who is the Steely Dan of the ’00s?”

  • philspector

    I think that the Steely Dan of the 00s are FIELDMUSIC and their spin-off projects SCHOOL OF LANGUAGE and THE WEEK THAT WAS

  • Dave

    Great songs by really fine musicians. A friend of mine back in college (early 80s) summed ’em up best: “Great cocaine-sniffing music.”

  • mark

    The Dan…
    I believe that there needs to be a clear understanding here: this is a different sort of band… following the experimentation in the 60’s with the studio as a quintessential environment for the sculpting of music, the Dan, I believe, took this a step further. Fagan and Becker perceived the studio as if it were a musical instrument itself. They were, in part, composers or directors. It may be a mistake to consider the studio musicians as a dilution of “their” music… rather, I suggest, consider the studio musicians as well as the technology as an extension of their musicianship, their craft. Although the lyrics on this album are almost as thin as paper, the music, the sound, is rich, layered, textured… almost a tapestry of sorts. The Dan continues their experimentation, rife with artistic tension and its accompanied difficulties, through their album Aja… or almost through this remarkable album… with numerous high points throughout. This is the springboard for an approach to music that removed it from the public performance and placed it firmly in the studio; however, unlike many groups in the 70’s, the Dan perceived the studio differently – not as a means of filling up the sound or achieving some sort of homogeneous pop sound, but as a process that was inherently artistic (provided it remain under their (Becker and Fagan) control).

    I rater this album 8 out of 10.

    You may not appreciate the Dan, but it is exploring new territory here. Listen to all of the crap on the pop charts today and then return to Cant Buy a Thrill. No comparison.

    (ciao! from Italy)

  • W. Stacy

    I agree with what Marco posted. Steely Dan was more like a collaboration than a band. Maybe you could compare them to Zappa in the way that he also employed highly skilled musicians to play his music just as he heard it in his head.

    I don’t know who the Steely Dan of the 00s would be. I don’t like to think in those terms but hopefully if there is someone out there writing and recording music with the same level of originality, cleverness, depth, virtuosity, etc that they would sound like something completely different from anything heard before. It’s like when I heard someone say the High Llamas were the new Beach Boys—they sounded just like them (listen to the instrumentals by the Llamas and PS era Beach Boys).

    Whether or not you find it enjoyable (and it’s #3 in my SD catalog), when put into context of the year it was released (1972) you will definitely conclude that it was ahead of it’s time.


  • Ignatius J. Reilly

    Steely Dan is punk as fuck.

    Even now…

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