There were two bands that my guitar teacher always tried to push on me – Van Halen and Steely Dan. Some of his Van Halen recommendations stuck on me, but I already had a decent idea of their back catalogue at the time. But Steely Dan? Why would I listen to them as a 15 year old obsessed with guitars. Aren’t they a band for old people? Needless to say, I didn’t check out his advice. I really regret that.
Fast forward a decade or so, and I’m in New Zealand on my first trip here. We borrow a car from the In-Laws (to be), and for some reason the radio doesn’t work. We’d soon find out that radios don’t tend to work unless you retract the aerial on the roof (d’oh!), but it didn’t matter – there was a CD in the car. Only one CD mind you, so we’d have to listen to it a lot, on our 3-week trip.
The CD was The Best of Steely Dan – Then And Now – the one with the image of the car graveyard (or I’d guess you’d call it an art installation) on the cover. We must have listened to that album dozens of times, and all of a sudden I was really wishing I could go back in time and take my guitar teacher’s advice.
This is Steely Dan’s first album – and in my eyes it’s probably the least Steely Dan of their albums. Well, their initial run of albums that is. It has a couple of big hits – Do It Again and Reelin’ In The Years – but it doesn’t all fit together as nicely as their later albums. The main point of difference with this debut is that this seems to feel more of a band effort. At this point in their career, it doesn’t appear clear that Steely Dan is Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Only the songwriting credits on the record hint at this. On the reverse of the record, especially in the liner notes, each member of the band playing on the record gets as much mention as anyone else.
The cover of the album deserves a special mention for how awful it is. I love the Steely Dan logo, but the art direction on the album – random images pasted over a shot of a row of housewife-looking hookers is really amateurish, and is easily the worst thing about the album.
Hit: Reelin’ In The Years
Hidden Gem: Change Of The Guard