1972, Music

Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972) by Steely Dan

My understanding is that this full-band debut album is not really canon or at least is looked as an immature effort by fans of the band’s later music. But I must say that I think I like it more than their other music.

Some of this comes from familiarity: I know at least three songs here really well, from when I listened to Oldies radio too much as a kid. I’m not sure how much I like these songs, but knowing them as well as I do makes an easier path into the rest of the record, something I haven’t had with their other albums.

Even at this stage, the musicianship is phenomenal. I may not like Steely Dan much but I can never criticize their playing; they are always professional. I would like them to use their talents for good a little more than ill, however. I do hear one piano solo on this record I really like (on “Fire in the Hole”), that makes me think that these guys were capable of making music that I would like but just liked making their music too much.

I almost always find I like their lyrics more than their music and that’s just as true here. Though this album is more accessible to me because I know the hits, I can’t say I like all those hits (I do not like “Dirty Work”) and the other songs are not ones that will stick with me. I can’t say I care whether they are less musically sophisticated than the later music simply because Steely Dan’s idea of musical sophistication is not one I can get behind.

But, this is indeed catchier than their later records and I think that’s a virtue.


PS The guitar solo on “Kings” is pretty good too.

All songs written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

  1. “Do It Again” 5:56
  2. “Dirty Work” 3:08
  3. “Kings” 3:45
  4. “Midnite Cruiser” 4:07
  5. “Only a Fool Would Say That” 2:57
  6. “Reelin’ in the Years” 4:37
  7. “Fire in the Hole” 3:28
  8. “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)” 4:21
  9. “Change of the Guard” 3:39
  10. “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again” 4:58

Steely Dan

  • David Palmer – lead vocals on “Dirty Work” and “Brooklyn,” backing vocals
  • Donald Fagen – acoustic and electric pianos, plastic (YC-30) organ, lead vocals (except on “Dirty Work”, “Midnite Cruiser”, and “Brooklyn”), backing vocals
  • Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – guitar, pedal steel guitar, spoken word on “Only a Fool Would Say That”
  • Denny Dias – guitar, electric sitar
  • Walter Becker – electric bass, backing vocals, dual lead vocal on “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again”, backing vocals
  • Jim Hodder – drums, percussion, lead vocal on “Midnite Cruiser”, backing vocals

Session musicians

  • Elliott Randall – lead guitar on “Kings” and “Reelin in the Years”
  • Jerome Richardson – tenor saxophone
  • Snooky Young – flugelhorn
  • Victor Feldman – percussion
  • Venetta Fields – backing vocals on “Brooklyn” and “Kings”
  • Clydie King – backing vocals on “Brooklyn” and “Kings”
  • Sherlie Matthews – backing vocals on “Brooklyn” and “Kings”

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