Thursday, 26 September 2019

Steely Dan - Katy Lied (1975)

Bad sneakers and a piƱa colada my friend....

  

Released March 1975

Running time 35.25

Pretzel Logic, this album's predecessor, had been a jazz rock-ish creation featuring several shorter tracks. This one, for me, was a fuller, more cohesive and solid offering, although it was the first not to feature the obvious talents of guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. The sound, though, was the usual impeccably delivered, inventive and easy rock music, which backed the also by now familiar oblique, beguiling, enigmatic lyrics. There is always something a bit cool and detached about a Steely Dan album - they always sound very intelligent and musically perfect, but that often leaves them open to the accusation of lacking soul or real feeling. I guess you could say that about this album, but when I listen to it I always get that feeling that is it something rather special. A Steely Dan album is sort of like a priceless antique. One listen and you recognise its quality.

Sonically, however, despite Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's legendary perfectionism, there were apparently mix-ups with the original recordings, tapes, mixings and so on, the technicalities of which I don't really understand, other than there is a sharp, trebly tinniness to parts of the overall sound. Subsequent remasterings have been unable to rectify it. It is the clearest, "shiniest" Dan album, audio-wise, but it suffers just a little because of it. It is difficult to put you finger (or ear) on it, but you know when you listen to it. If you are playing a Steely Dan "random" playlist, you will instantly recognise the songs from this album by their sound.

TRACK LISTING

1. Black Friday
2. Bad Sneakers
3. Rose Darling
4. Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More
5. Doctor Wu
6. Everyone's Gone To The Movies
7. Your Gold Teeth II
8. Chain Lightning
9. Any World (That I'm Welcome To)
10. Throw Back The Little Ones                                   
                                          
Black Friday kicks things off with a solid, chugger of a track. It retains that typical Steely Dan vocal style but it is as strong and grindingly rock-ish a song as the group had put out for a while, featuring some excellent guitar swirling all around it.

Bad Sneakers is an attractive, melodious slow-pace number with another of those addictive Steely Dan choruses. Becker and Fagen had a real knack for finding a hook. The group's jazz-rock hybrid nature is really obvious on this one. Lovely bass on there too. Rose Darling ups the tempo again with a radio friendly, breezy harmonious song. Once more it features some impressive guitar, played for the first time on a Steely Dan album by Becker. The vocal is ever so slightly Dylanesque in small places. Just a cadence here and there.

Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More is a bluesy, shuffling rocker with echoes of the Pretzel Logic material. I really like this track. It also highlights their liking for a great song title. Doctor Wu enters Steely Dan classic territory. The album's title is derived from the line "Katy lies, you can see it in her eyes...". Quite who Doctor Wu was is unclear. One never knew just what most of their songs were about, just hints here or there, but never the full meaning, if indeed there ever was one. The song has a killer saxophone solo in it too.

Everyone's Gone To The Movies suffers from a bit of a throwaway chorus, but it has a superb, big, rumbling bass line running all through it and an infectious rhythm.

Your Gold Teeth II has some excellent jazzy bits in it and a delicious feel to it throughout. There is some sumptuous piano, guitar and syncopated drums. The jazz parts remind me of Abdullah Ibrahim and Dave Brubeck.

Chain Lightning has a deep, insistent bluesy thump of a rhythm and some excellent guitar from guest guitarist Rick Derringer. Another appetising bass underpins it.

Apparently, Any World (That I'm Welcome To) was a resurrected out-take of a track from their 1969-1971 early days. Listening to it, you can tell. It sounds far more like something off Can't Buy A Thrill and sounds slightly inferior to the material around it. Not by much, but it is noticeable.

Throw Back The Little Ones is a quirky, perplexing song both lyrically and musically, driven by a jazzy piano and enhanced by more great guitar and a brass-ish break in the middle.

Despite some slight reservations about the sound (and they really are nit-picking ones) this, for me, is a really good Steely Dan album and one that is often overlooked, a little bit unfairly.

B

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