Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Steely Dan - Countdown To Ecstasy (1973)

If you're still in a fuss over what albums to bring to a desert isle, this beauty from our favorite steam-powered dildo is certain to confound all rational thought processes. Why? Because pound-for-pound, Countdown To Ecstasy may not be Steely Dan's most solid or consistent album, but it is certainly the most essential, and I would argue more essential than The Royal Scam or Pretzel Logic, despite my undeniable love for them as well. Truth be told, you do yourself a grave and mortal disservice by excluding this album just on merits of fluidity or consistency. The fact is that "Bodhisattva," "My Old School" and "King Of The World" are the band's three greatest songs, from any of their albums, and to have them packed neatly in congruence with each other is more than blissful coincidence. The licks on those three songs alone are so indelibly riveting that the term SUPER FUCKING TASTY must have been created just to describe them. In fact, I personally have to listen to one of the three every few days lest I get musical scurvy, scab and spot over and need topical medicinal remedies to alleviate such an otherwise avoidable misfortune.

I imagine everyone's heard "My Old School" with its brass incantations and punctuating guitar solos à la Denny and Skunkmeister about Mssrs. Becker and Fagen's shitty college travails in upstate New York -- but, need I say more? You've heard it, you love it, you'd kill before you let anyone take it away from you. So let's move on because "Bodhisattva" and "King Of The World" don't receive nearly as much attention as they deserve. "Bodhisattva" is not only a guitar player's sine qua non, but musically it should be everyone's. Hell, that song would sound great on a kazoo. Seriously. Not one, but two otherworldly guitar solos, each unique in tone and execution; and when Skunk lays down that funk, I just want to bounce. In fact, during that last minute, begat by Becker's bravura of a boom thump, I wish I were temporally suspended in a kind of repeat, ooh-ing and aah-ing towards my own bodhisattva. Yes, I'm serious. Go fuck yourself.

The album closes with "King Of The World," a ferociously understated beauty with monstrous lyrical undertones of a post-apocalyptic nature in typical Dan fashion. But forget the lyrics, Denny is the man! A plodding little wah, a slicing solo from nowhere -- is there anything he can't do? It's absolute perfection.

As for the rest of the album: "Showbiz Kids" and "Boston Rag" are damned fantastic; get a Steely Dan T-shirt already. "Your Gold Teeth" is good, too, but isn't as focused because of the off-kilter noodling -- which isn't unwelcome considering the Dan's otherwise taut musical inclinations. "Pearl Of The Quarter" is decent as well, but nothing spectacular or immensely memorable. "Razor Boy" is the only track I truly dislike, and mainly for its light soft jazz marimba feel. No thanks.

Oh, the grade. Uh, duh. It's the Steely Dan, and whatever. A

Go Jerome Aniton!

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