Steely Dan
Katy Lied


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
April 21st, 2021 | 94 replies


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "It's your game; the rules are your own, win or lose."

Part IV: A Farewell to Lineups

Much like Florence and the Machine or post-Spiritual Healing Chuck Schuldiner, Steely Dan’s two founding members eventually decided to ditch the band format altogether and instead use a revolving door of session musicians. 1975’s Katy Lied was the first record to be released in this format, and it really helps it stand out from their previous albums. Ever since Can’t But a Thrill, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had been slowly incorporating more and more jazz elements into their rock sound; around this point in their career, it’s about a 50/50 split of both jazz and rock. And quite impressively, songs as jazzy and progressive as “Your Gold Teeth II” and “Doctor Wu” co-exist with pop rock tunes like “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies” and “Black Friday” more easily than you’d think.

In fact, it might make for the band’s most balanced and consistent recording overall. It still retains that slick, city-like “nightlife” atmosphere that defines most Steely Dan works, primarily influenced by the duo’s time spent in Los Angeles during the recording sessions. Combined with an increasing emphasis on jazz influences and techniques, there’s a really chilled-out vibe to most of Katy Lied. This is especially apparent on the second half, which features such moments as the swingin’ blues rock of “Chain Lightning” and the light jazz swing of “Your Gold Teeth II”, the latter of which sounds like it could have been taken straight out of A Charlie Brown Christmas (especially the verses). Meanwhile, the duo manage to expand the scope of their influences with the light latin feel of “Any World”’s verses and the complex mood swings of the fusion-meets-soft-rock album closer “Throw Back the Little Ones”. And if I had to pick out the best blend of the complex and the poppy, it would have to be fan favorite “Doctor Wu,” mixing progressive piano arrangements with straightforward rhythms to relate a surprisingly dark story of intense drug abuse.

Considering this is the first Steely Dan to feature a whole cast of guest musicians, the list the band compiled is really impressive. The names were pretty much the who’s who of that era of rock music: legendary guitarist Rick Derringer, Denny Dias, The Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald, the late drumming virtuoso Jeff Porcaro, and the list goes on. The fact that Fagen and Becker could find so many great players so early into their career is a testament to how quickly they’d earned respect from their peers, and it isn’t without reason. Even with all the extra talent to lend a hand, it has to be emphasized that the duo themselves are the only writers of the songs found on Katy Lied. There’s a sophistication on this record that you don’t often find in pop rock; even simpler numbers like “Black Friday” and “Rose Darling” have chord changes and mood shifts that, while natural and well-placed, use subtle hints of jazz to add a little more depth and quirkiness to the rockin’ riffs. The former’s chorus is a perfect example, as layered vocal harmonies and strange descending piano chords meet each other for a really cool moment together.

While The Royal Scam and Aja might technically be jazzier and less poppy than Katy Lied, the latter is still the Steely Dan album I come back to the most. Something about the track flow, the near-perfect mix of jazz and pop rock, the atmosphere… it all just works so well. The list of guest musicians is top-notch, and they really help flesh out the vision of the joint songwriters (just check out the incredible guitar work from Denny Dias on “Your Gold Teeth II”). And at only 35 minutes, nothing really feels like filler. If you enjoy laid-back pop rock, jazz fusion, or even progressive rock, I can’t recommend Katy Lied enough.



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4
excellent
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Steely Dan's "jack of all trades" album, Katy has a little something to please everyone, even if she...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Steely Dan are definitely one of the biggest musical goldmines that I should have discovered a long time ago

manosg
Emeritus
April 21st 2021


12707 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Always up for some Steely Dan. Thanks for the review.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


27941 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[2]

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Of course! And I've gotta give a shoutout to Sonic and Hans for getting me into the band :]

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Thanks man! Yeah, this is an incredibly good starting point for getting into the band, since it encompasses pretty much everything the band was known for. It’s got the jazz rock, the soft rock, the proggy stuff, and the pop stuff all rolled into one album

Mort.
April 21st 2021


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeh this is pretty accessible and a good introduction





if you dont vibe with Bad Sneakers youre probably no fun

BaselineOOO
April 21st 2021


2467 Comments


I love this band. Definitely should've discovered them sooner too but I thought their band name was dumb so I avoided them for years.

parksungjoon
April 21st 2021


47230 Comments


it is

Mort.
April 21st 2021


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

its a bad name for sure.







Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

@Baseline: lol yeah, that’s exactly why I avoided them for so long. That, and I always got the impression that they were some shitty dad rock band from the people I’ve talked to personally

DavidYowi
April 21st 2021


3512 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Fantastic review! This and Gaucho are my current favs at the moment. I couldn't think of a more fitting cover art for the album. Everything here sounds so green and organic. To think that Becker and Fagen never listened to the final product due to a mishap with the dbx noise reduction system they were using

BaselineOOO
April 21st 2021


2467 Comments


"I always got the impression that they were some shitty dad rock band from the people I’ve talked to personally"

Same, but I also I expected them to make some kind of badly produced chad proto-punk. It was so surprising to me to find out their music is so refined lol

Mort.
April 21st 2021


25062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'badly produced chad proto-punk.'



negative forehead taste

Koris
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

"Same, but I also I expected them to make some kind of badly produced chad proto-punk. It was so surprising to me to find out their music is so refined lol"



Exactly. I wasn't expecting all the jazz influences in particular, lol



Thanks David! I definitely don't agree with the band about the production; to me it always sounded really clear and, as you said, organic. But maybe that comes down to the amazing performances from the guest musicians... they add so much to this record

DavidYowi
April 21st 2021


3512 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

“ I definitely don't agree with the band about the production; to me it always sounded really clear”



Oh yeah they only hate the production because they’re ultra perfectionists. I want to write a review of Gaucho that touches on this, because that album was the breaking point for their perfectionist tendencies

bloc
April 21st 2021


69881 Comments


Never got into this one much, but I've been meaning to give their discog another spin

Ryus
April 21st 2021


36544 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

prob my least favorite of their first 7

wojodta
April 21st 2021


400 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First half is as good as anything in their discog. 2nd half is just ok.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
April 21st 2021


27941 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hard to beat Pretzel Logic imo, but they did have a damn solid run with their first 7 albums

Yazz_Flute
April 21st 2021


19174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

One of their weaker albums for me - second half kinda tails off in quality after Doctor Wu. Still a great album, though; Steely Dan were consummate professionals.



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