The all-purpose 2022 Steely Dan thread

I guess I didn't pay much attention to the date, but while checking on the preorder status of some upcoming SACDs, I noticed that Universal released a 50th anniversary reissue of Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy A Thrill.

1668819691146.pngApparently you can buy a thrill as a high-res set of files from Universal, or a vinyl pressing. But given's Universal's propensity to, as the old saying goes, fark up a one-car funeral, I wouldn't touch that vinyl reissue even if it were a freebie. Well OK, maybe. I've always wanted to make one of those old record potato chip bowls.

But anyway...I'm listening to the 24-bit/192kHz version on Qobuz and it's not as sharply defined as the version of the album I have on my server. However, the version I have on CD has been through noise reduction and other digital doctoring, apparently. I have no idea of the provenance of this new version, whether it was a transfer of the original analog tapes, or if it was further doctored in the studio. (I'm on my desktop system at the moment, so, I'll have to wait to spin it on the main system to see what's up.)

50 years. I feel old. Older.

Anyway, I have mixed feelings about an upcoming series of reissues from Analogue Productions.

Chad Kassem worked out a deal where he could release audiophile versions of the first seven Steely Dan albums. The SACDs are already planned and available for preorder, and I will get those without a doubt. None have been released yet, but they will supposedly be released individually over the coming months.

But for pure analog goodness...I may sit it out for a while. The initial vinyl issues of these titles will be on their "UHQR" vinyl which they are now selling for a shocking $130 per title. Deluxe packaging, of course. At least it's two 45-RPM records. But since I've had issues with their records in the past, it's a hard "nope" from me. Chad has hinted that there may be other editions down the road, but even there, the coin for one of their two-LP 45 RPM sets is still not something I'm comfortable shelling out. But, more palatable than the UHQRs. (The real irony is that Mobile Fidelity came up with the UHQR marketing name back in the 80s--maybe it's a little competitive tweak from Kassem to his competitors? 😁)

All the Dan records are essential listening for me and, with other artists I've followed since my teen years or earlier, very important in my own personal catalog of music. So it's a tough call if I buy later vinyl reissues from Analogue Productions (provided I'm still alive by then). Thing is, to find clean copies of these records in preferred early pressings could end up costing me just as much, especially if I have to reject a handful due to groove burn (wear).

I may end up doing a shootout of various versions once I get the SACD reissues in my hands. I suspect Analogue Productions will be the better (best?) sounding of all digital versions. I'm told that they did an excellent job on the two most recent albums (Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go) especially on the former title, where they got rid of the digital harshness and made it a much more pleasant listen. The latter was actually recorded to analog multitrack and has a much smoother sound already.

For whatever reason, I had read that Steely Dan will no longer perform "Do It Again" in concert--can't recall if it was a mutual decision, or if Donald Fagen just didn't want to sing it. Regardless, it's one of the highlights on a solid debut album that included many fine compositions. A little of their jazz influence came through on this album, but would appear more on the follow-up, Countdown to Ecstasy. My own discovery of their catalog began when I read a good review of Fagen's first solo album, The Nightfly. Wanting more, I picked up budget reissues of Gaucho and Aja then worked my way back through the rest of their catalog.

Got any Steely Dan favorites or memories? This thread is the place! (Please take complaints, gripes, "I hates," etc. to a separate thread. 😉)

50 years. Dang it...
 

Harry

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Once upon a time, I had an LP copy of AJA. I think I lent it out and it never returned. So wanting to hear it again, I bought another copy and made a CDR of it.

Meanwhile I own a CD called A DECADE OF STEELY DAN. It's served me over the years when I need a Dan hir record.

Being in radio, I acquired a couple of later CD issues, TWO AGAINST NATURE, and EVERYTHING MUST GO. I can't say I've ever really listened to much of either, though the track called "Cousin Dupree" seems to register in my brain.

I also have an original FM soundtrack album somewhere around here, and probably some 45s.
 

Rudy

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The good original pressings of Aja were apparently the "AB" catalog number, on the original ABC "bullseye" label. My first purchase was the MCA "Platinum Series" reissue and like anything MCA at the time, the vinyl quality left a lot to be desired, and the sound was a bit stuffy. But that didn't stop me from transferring it to cassette and playing it in the car, with Gaucho on the flip side, many dozens of times.

Of the two recent Dan albums, Two Against Nature is my favorite. I liked Everything Must Go at first, but after a while it just seemed too slick and perfect, despite sounding really good. (I only owned that on DVD-Audio.) "Cousin Dupree" was a good track on the former, and I've also liked "Almost Gothic" and "Janie Runaway."

I've always liked Gaucho but so many out there in recent years have lambasted it. Sure it's not as strong as Aja but it still has a lot of good tracks. Sadly the best track on the album got erased by an assistant engineer, and the re-recording lost the magic that the original apparently had--"Second Arrangement" is only available on a bootleg, apparently dubbed from a cassette demo of, presumably, the re-recorded version.


BTW, I learned more about the provenance of Can't Buy A Thrill. The Analogue Productions is a straight "AAA" analog cut from the original master tapes. The Universal is being cut from a digital copy. 🙄 Remember what I said about one-car funerals...
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
My 2 favorite Steely Dan alhums are "AJA" and "Gaucho" and the mix of Rock Jazz and Blues to me was and is still fabulous. Standouts for me are Deacon Blues. Josie. Home at Last. Aja. Time out of mind. Hey Nineteen and the very long but fabulous Glamour Profession. Just to name a few
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
I used to have "Aja" a number of years ago but I ended up trading it out at a used record store.
I am not enough of a fan to buy it on cd. I am content hearing it on the radio.
 

GDBY2LV

Well-Known Member
My first Steely Dan purchase was Pretzel Logic. Not my favorite album of theirs though. I bought Katy Lied next, I liked it better. Their sound was very unique for the time, and finally caught on with the public when Aja was released. Then the whole catalogue really started to sell. All I have now are the box set, Citizen Steely Dan, 2 disc set Showbiz Kids, and the cd-dvd collection Everything Must Go. They were amazing to see live too, when they toured, which wasn’t very often.
 

Rudy

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I bought the Citizen box back when it came out, and it contains the first seven albums plus four bonus tracks. The only slip-up was that they swapped the order of "Your Gold Teeth II" and "Chain Lightning," and that error persisted on the separate album CD releases that followed a year or two later.
 

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
The "Citizen Steely Dan" 1993 CD box set does NOT have the beginning of the 1974 song "Rikki Don't Lose That Number". The 1978 song "FM (No Static At All)" takes off part of the song & Donald Fagen says "uh huh" on the "FM" reprise.
 

Jack A.

New Member
Think Michael McDonald was considered an official member of Steely Dan at one point. He sings backing vocals on the Steely Dan songs "Peg" and "Kid Charlemagne." There may have been others but those were the two that I know of off the top of my head.

I'm not sure why Steely Dan is still considered a band when Donald Fagen is the only member still left. He's basically touring as a solo artist performing Steely Dan songs now.

(p.s. just looked it up, apparently Jeff Porcaro from Toto was also a band member)
 

Rudy

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After they broke up their touring band in 1974 (following the album Pretzel Logic), Steely Dan essentially became Walter, Donald, and a revolving door of studio musicians and vocalists for the remaining albums. The duo did not want to tour, while the remaining original band members (Denny Dias, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Jim Hodder) wanted to tour, and were also frustrated at their diminished roles on the albums, causing tension that essentially caused the duo to break the group up. Dias did stick around through Gaucho, while Baxter and session singer Michael McDonald would join the Doobie Brothers.

Even prior to the breakup, session musicians sat in on albums like Pretzel Logic while not being band members per se (McDonald, Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, Jim Gordon, Dean Parks, Rick Derringer, etc.). It wasn't until they reconvened for touring in 1993 that they once again billed the group as a band.

A list of all the session musicians on all of their albums through Gaucho would stretch into the dozens, and reads like a who's who of the music scene in the mid to late 70s.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Years ago over on the Hoffman boards, Dan recording quality was done to death...I recall the "findings" were that the original MCA CD flat transfers (two versions of of which Steve H managed) were regarded as the best issued. All subsequent issues were tinkered with resulting in adverse sonic impact. There was one caveat (for lack of a better word): Countdown and Pretzel underwent a unique SHM reissue in Japan in the 2000s resulting in a "different" sound...which, surprisingly, many contributors to that board enjoyed (I have them both and they are my go-to versions).

For me, Dan along with Stevie Wonder are the only '70s artists that capture my fancy for the entirety of that decade. Dan's first LP is really unlike anything happening at the time and they had David Palmer, a fine singer, contributing leads as well. Countdown To Ecstasy is where the jazz chops start to shine. The LP is nearly perfect on all fronts and doesn't seem to heed any commercial concerns, which is notable. Razor Boy and King Of The World is about as good as pop can get. Pretzel Logic is more like how the Beatles did their LPs -- lots of different kinds of music. Here, Dan gives us pseudo country (With A Gun), pre-WWII jazz (East St. Louis Toodle-oo), Riffin off of Horace (Rikki), infectious pop (Barrytown) and, of course, the utterly delightfully weird, Through With Buzz. As a pop LP, Logic is stellar. Katy Lied is a bit of a let down after Logic, but no less an A to my ears (and then there's Michael McDonald's penetrating voice as well!). Royal Scam, which, all things considered, is probably their best given it is both a musical amalgam of their first four LP and a signpost of Aja with its slide into smooooth jazzisms. Aja is the first Dan LP that just didn't work for me. It's tooooo dang smooooth. It seemed on Aja that some order of "perfection" was the overlord at the expense of good old fashioned salt-of-the-earth emotional essence. I didn't bother with Gaucho. One thing about Dan: There are no throwaways and no filler. The words -- which, like Laura Nyro's, can at times be so East coast I have no idea what in the Sam Hill they're even singing about -- are surely paramount and given as much weight as the melody, arrangement and production.

Go ahead...and sign in, stranger.
 
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