It’s fitting that their debut should begin with “Do It Again” matches its snaky riff to mildly Latin percussion, with one of the more extended uses of a Coral electric sitar on record. “Dirty Work” is the one that doesn’t sound like Steely Dan because of the smooth-voiced singer, but once the chorus comes in it becomes more obvious (and it’s still a fun one to sing at a job you hate). “Kings” is an excellent track about the Magna Carta, Nixon or neither, and another tasty guitar solo. A third vocalist (the drummer this time) takes over “Midnite Cruiser” (with another terrific solo section) but “Only A Fool Would Say That” ends side one kinda lame. At least it’s a shortish song.
Things turn around right away with the sizzling “Reelin’ In The Years”, another radio favorite, although our ears still think they’re “reeling in the yeast”. “Fire In The Hole” stumbles along to showcase the piano, becoming a setup for Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s pedal steel solo through the fade. The guy who sang “Drity Work” returns to take the lead on “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)”, a not-so-distant cousin of Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”. There’s a little Traffic influence in “Change Of The Guard”, and something very infectious about the “na-na-na” interludes between each verse. The side ends with the rather intricate “Turn That Heartbeat Over Again”, which is just plain confusing.
So again, it’s a pretty solid album, and consistent within itself despite the “casting” that was the band’s trademark. The lyrics are oblique to this day, but the catchiness and accessibility of the music makes it a mainstream pleaser. Which can’t be said for everything.
Steely Dan Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)—3½