Steely Dan
Katy Lied


4.0
excellent

Review

by CynicalComplex USER (3 Reviews)
June 30th, 2013 | 10 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Steely Dan's "jack of all trades" album, Katy has a little something to please everyone, even if she is a horrible liar. A great place to start if you're a Dan newbie without access to a greatest hits album.

Jettisoning many members of the original Steely Dan lineup and any pretensions that they were still a rock band in any traditional sense of the term, songwriting duo Donald Fagen and Walter Becker returned to the studio in the winter of 1974-5 along with a huge cadre of top-tier studio musicians. Although some previous members of the band like Denny Dias continued to contribute to instrumentation and soloing on Katy and subsequent albums, Steely Dan was firmly a Fagen/Becker project in the second era of their history.

Along with Pretzel Logic, Katy is an album of transition, and perhaps the most impressive thing about both albums is the degree of refinement that both albums display. Production is top-notch on Katy in spite of the misgivings of the notoriously obsessive Fagen, and songwriting is as solid as anything on Can't Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy, or Pretzel (trademark smarmy lyrics included at no additional charge). Unlike the former three albums, however, is Katy's increasing emphasis on texture and jazz. While SD is commonly referred to as jazz-rock, the first three albums and The Royal Scam are jazz-rock as opposed to Aja and Gaucho's jazz-rock. Katy lies somewhere between these two groups, if trending a bit more towards the rock side. This is both the album's strength and weakness--it simultaneously provides plenty of nods to both Steely Dan albums yet to come and Steely Dan albums already released.

On the extreme jazz-rock side of the equation, we have "Black Friday", the album's most well-known track, "Chain Lightning," a bluesy number similar to "Pretzel Logic" on the album of the same name, and "Throw Out the Little Ones," a call-forward to the biting lyrics and guitar of The Royal Scam. In the other corner, we have "Rose Darling" and "Doctor Wu," the closest track to Aja that you won't find on Aja. Where Katy really shines, however, is when she manages to perfectly balance old and new. Michael McDonald, best known as one of the lead vocalists for The Doobie Brothers, makes his Dan debut on "Bad Sneakers" and helps the harmony vocals during the refrain soar. "Your Gold Teeth II", the album's best track, is a perfect storm of Denny Dias's guitar, the precise drum work of 21 year old Jeff Porcaro (Toto), and a driving piano line that channels Vince Guaraldi. Of special note is its seeming lack of the snark-filled lyrical irony of many Dan tracks; it--with surprising honesty--seems to urge the listener towards a philosophy of carpe diem--"If you're feelin' lucky/ You'd best not refuse / It's your game / The rules are your own, win or lose."

And what a way to seize the day. Although Katy does have dips in quality--"Daddy Don't Live in that New York City No More," "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" being the two standout examples--it is an incredibly enjoyable and engaging listen from front to back, and excepting Aja which is a bit of a base-breaker, the last Dan album that can indisputably boast of this quality.

Track picks: "Black Friday," "Bad Sneakers," "Everyone's Gone to the Movies," "Your Gold Teeth II," and "Doctor Wu" (if you're a fan of Aja).

Rating: 4/5 (An album that can be considered good through-and-through. At least 40-50% of tracks should be flawless, and listeners should not have to skip a track more than once, if at all.)


user ratings (89)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
CynicalComplex
June 30th 2013


59 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album soooooo needed a review.

KILL
June 30th 2013


71957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

SteelErectedb4you8er
June 30th 2013


2618 Comments


I love all Steely Dan, way to give this album a review!

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
June 30th 2013


16056 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album.
nice review, pos from me but this bit seems a bit overdone...

"While SD is commonly referred to as jazz-rock, the first three albums and The Royal Scam can be more accurately referred to as jazz-ROCK as opposed to Aja, and Gaucho's JAZZ-rock. Katy lies somewhere between the two groups, if trending a bit more towards the rock side. "

Maybe just say something more simple like "While SD is commonly referred to as jazz-rock Katy tends more towards the rockier end of the spectrum."

just a thought

Digging: Lo-Pan - Colossus

CynicalComplex
June 30th 2013


59 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the tip, M!

I kept the general gist of what I was trying to say, but I cut out the "can be more accurately referred to as" phrase. Kind of wordy without really saying anything.

sonictheplumber
June 30th 2013


4621 Comments


minutemen do a sweet cover of dr wu

voltandvolumecom
July 1st 2013


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album! Their debut album will always be my personal favorite, though.

sonictheplumber
July 1st 2013


4621 Comments


aja bro

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
July 1st 2013


16056 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

think i like pretzel best, aja is cool tho

omnipanzer
July 1st 2013


21618 Comments


Nice review, I need to get this and The Royal Scam. They are the only two I'm missing from my collection. I love SD and you've convinced me to stop ignoring these last two hold-outs on my part.

Digging: We Were Promised Jetpacks - Unravelling



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