Steely Dan
Can't Buy A Thrill


4.0
excellent

Review

by thesheltercrew USER (3 Reviews)
July 13th, 2007 | 83 replies | 9,216 views


Release Date: 1972 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Steely Dan have arguably released better, more diverse stuff since, but to see they started so well, with a rock classic, is very impressive.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

Before Donald Fagen and Walter Becker took over the reigns of Steely Dan in the mid-70s, the group was very band oriented. The band's first album, 'Can't Buy A Thrill', featured only 9 musicians over the entire piece (by comparison, 2000's 'Two Against Nature' had 28), which meant that the album felt coherent. This is in spite of the abundance of jazz, latin and rock influences that might've cluttered the album with styles.

The album is predominantly feelgood, toe-tapping jazz rock. "Do It Again" kicks off the album, giving a 6 minute taster for the rest of the album. Understated yet intricate, there are lots of instruments and sounds to hear, which mould into a well rounded listening experience, aided by superb production that sounds clearer than most modern albums, which would lose the different layers into the mix.

"Reelin' In The Years" kicks off with a 30 second guitar solo that echoes Jimmy Page, another icon of the early '70s. Not content with starting the song with a now-legendary solo, the rest of the vocals give way to Elliot Randall's guitar twice more. Little wonder the song is #40 in Guitar World's Greatest Solos of All Time. Is there too much showy guitar playing? Probably. It's annoying when artists try and crowbar unnecessary solos into songs, but here they fit much better than, for example, "Jump" by 'Van Halen which is a terrible example of knowing what's required.

Rock music has been missing piano playing for far too long, and this album is strong evidence for having the instrument as an integral part of the setup. If there's one track that should encourage would-be bands to hire a pianist, it's 'Fire In The Hole'. From the intro to the oh-so-impressive solo, Fagen hits the keys with no restraint, knowing exactly what the track deserves.

Still fairly young, the band show wisdom and appreciation for different styles beyond their years, a byproduct of being extensively trained musicians. "Only A Fool Could Say That" is a latin-influenced pop number with added jazzy guitar licks that accompany the vocals sweetly. "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" bounces from style to style with a popping bassline, sustaining the listener's interest with a fun funk/soul groove.

"Fire In The Hole"'s outro guitar solo feels underwhelming, as though the track deserves more than to fade to silence. Such is the case for many of the other songs. It's a small gripe, but songs this good deserve a conclusion. Most tracks have the same feel; quick, inoffensive and catchy but as a whole it falls just short of being totally satisfying. Diversity isn't something bands often think about on a first album, and this is no different.

Lyrically, the album is as strong as anything else the band has released since. Fagen possesses a great ability to roll off sarcastic and often cynical lines that provide the listener with a greater belief in the characters described, such as the gambling addict from "Do It Again", "Now you swear and kick and beg us, that you're not a gamblin' man, Then you find you're back in Vegas, with a handle in your hand". It's not personal to the writers, but it's a good story regardless.

The band achieved pop hits with the tracks "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years" and although it was 35 years ago, it's plain to see why. The songs are accessible and poppy, and that seems part of the key as to why Steely Dan are a favourite of so many; they appeal to the mainstream because they play bouncy, cheerful tunes, and to the musos because they are so technically and creatively gifted.

'Can't Buy A Thrill' is a must for fans of classic rock, though, one suspects, they've probably already got it. Way back, before rock was a minefield of genres and labels, albums like this were what music fans listened to. And it's timeless, still fresh from 1972.


user ratings (156)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Fort23
July 13th 2007



2474 Comments


Good review, though Ive never been to big on Steely Dan. I've never tried that much but I will now.

ktstein
July 13th 2007



438 Comments


Steely Dan are amazing. My personnal faves are Can't Buy a Thrill, Pretzel Logic, and Aja.

Bfhurricane
July 13th 2007



6194 Comments


Nice review, Steely Dan ARE amazing. I saw them at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City last August with Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers), what a show that was. I don't have this album, but I own Aja and it's an automatic classic for me. I should probably pick this up, as well as the rest of their albums...

Danger Bird
July 13th 2007



54 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Not too shabbyThis Message Edited On 07.14.08

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2010



14983 Comments


dirty work is great

Mordecai.
August 15th 2010



8270 Comments


wicked band

MO
April 29th 2011



18191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Listening to this on vinyl right now, so good

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
October 4th 2011



6319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ARE YOU REELIN IN THE YEAAAAAAAARS

Digging: Sully - Blue

robin
Emeritus
October 28th 2011



4241 Comments


ugh this album

BigHans
October 28th 2011



26455 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

YOUVE BEEN TELLING ME YOU WERE A GENIUS SINCE YOU WERE 17

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
December 11th 2011



6319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'M A FOOL TO DO YOUR DIRTY WORK

jefflebowski
December 27th 2011



7340 Comments


I decline
to walk the line
they tell me that i'm lazy
worldly wise, I realize
that's everybody's crazy

Digging: The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour

MO
January 28th 2012



18191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

kickin' this so bad, rules

jefflebowski
January 29th 2012



7340 Comments


so much goodness on this record

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
January 29th 2012



6319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So much goodness on all their 70's albums

jefflebowski
January 29th 2012



7340 Comments


true, but this is probably my favorite of theirs

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
January 29th 2012



6319 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nah, Aja ftw.
This is a strong second, though...

Collis
July 17th 2012



445 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

dirty work and midnight cruiser are so good.

MO
July 17th 2012



18191 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

oh man those rule, but dude kings (that solo!) and fire in the hole ohhhhh shit too good

Collis
July 17th 2012



445 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

so much great stuff, there aren't many bands that can hold up to steely dan's consistency. and i've not listened to
countdown to ecstasy yet.



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