Steely Dan

Countdown to Ecstasy - 1973
Devoid of the sheen of perfection that encased their string of classic LPs, Countdown to Ecstasy is an album unlike any other in the Steely Dan canon. Recorded during a brief break from the road - back in the days before the Dan gave up touring for a couple of decades - Countdown utilizes the touring ensemble and much of the same "live" mentality of stretching out the outros, filling plenty of space with instrumental breaks and, in a highly uncharacteristic move, leaving in a few stray notes and production flubs in the name of spontaneity. In the album's liner notes, Walter Becker and Donald Fagan attribute the extended instrumental passages to the fact that none of the songs contained lyrics when they were written, so plenty of space was left for wherever they'd eventually fall into place. Whatever the reason, the elastic quality of the tunes is the perfect vehicle to casually show off the chops of the assembled crew and a pleasant alternative to the attempt at squeezing as much virtuosity per bar as possible that weighed down the band's LPs past this point. There's still plenty of technical wizardry to be found here, most notably in the four bar tape loop that forms the basis of "Show Biz Kids", but it comes off more like a band experimenting with the studio, rather than obsessing over it. Countdown is all the better for it.


Anonymous said...

you rule. one of my top five albums. my vinyl copy is shot. my fave steely dan record!

Anonymous said...

Mmm, this takes me to a very long ago place -- and it still sounds great.
Always was my favorite of the Dan, back in real time.
Nice one, JR!

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to say thanks for your blog. I've been lurking for a few months and have found several new things I like quite a bit. Happy new year!

mike-floyd said...

The first three Steely Dan albums all are great in my opinion. Thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

really great stuff