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