Steely Dan--a name derived from a sex toy in William Burroughs's "Naked Lunch"--spent much of the '70s atop the charts with jazzy, smart-ass pop-rock. The brainchild of hipsters Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Steely Dan was less a band than it was a laboratory for the duo's singular musical vision, deftly rendered by a cast of studio heavyweights to rule the airwaves, but (owing to either stagefright or sheer impossibility) rarely trotted out on stage. After almost disappearing for more than a decade, Becker and Fagen had re-emerged by the '90s, throwing fans a few bones before finally taking the plunge into a full-fledged reunion.
Japanese only SHM-CD (Super High Material CD - playable on all CD players) paper sleeve pressing. Universal. 2008.
The only element of sophomore slump in Steely Dan''s second album was the disappointing sales response upon its initial release in 1974. Musically, Countdown to Ecstasy is even stronger than the Dan''s terrific debut, pushing the musical envelope with more complex jazz harmonies and intricate time signatures, and carrying their lyrics into even more shadowy realms peppered with sci-fi imagery and street-level slang. The songs are stunning, from the opening blast of "Boddhisattva," a Zen boogie fueled by Denny Dias''s and Jeff Baxter''s angular, bopping guitars, to the postnuclear apocalypse of "King of the World." In between, they deliver the one-two punch of "Show Biz Kids," with its perfect snapshot of affluent decadence, and "My Old School," in which college daze is remembered through a collision of staccato guitar and blazing horns. --Sam Sutherland
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