Countdown to Ecstasy — Steely Dan — W.A.C.#3

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Countdown to Ecstasy

My thoughts

What an odd choice! This one required a few listens.

Cards on the table, it’s a decent album. Actually it’s quite forward thinking for when it was produced, I would not have put it as early is this on a listen. In fact I will go a little further, this album really has a kind of timeless quality to it. It doesn’t date, and some of those chord sequences… well if someone comes up with a word that represents the European kiss of the air with the hand gesture, tell me. In fact I would be really interested if anyone had heard anything like this in ’73, it sort of has a bit of an ELO vibe to it. But! It’s unfair to judge basically just as a product of the times so lets break things down a bit.

The opening track Bodhistattva is a great representation. Honestly on firstly listen the chord sequence sounds like a generic 12-bar blues riff, and actually it does not go this way at all, it’s pretty captivating. Further to this, look at Your Gold Teeth, this is rock crossed with old fashioned jazz ideas, descending odd chord sequences and it’s pretty successful. It’s this, over all, that gives it the timeless feel and I will 100% say I am happy to be given this album if just to through the mellow experimentation that happens.

The album isn’t void of a bit of zeitgeist; Show Biz Kids sounds like a simple number of its time, by no means bad but stunted by what the rest of the albums moments have to offer. Am I nitpicking there? No not really; it’s a sort of give with one hand and take with the other scenario, that is some tracks are really, really forgettable and others are quite brilliant. This is why the album doesn’t fully work; I’ll come back to that.

King of the World is another good track, actually, the layered vocals here are not a million miles away from Queen and, phonically, it’s so rich that it begs a bit of attention. Also the closing instrumental of this track is about 10 years ahead of its time and really good; it’s not just a technology thing, it’s a writing thing. The album really opens and closes well but it’s a bit of a toast sandwich.

At its highest points, this is a solid album; at it’s low points, very forgettable. Personally, I am really sorry to have no knowledge of the group before now and I’ll do some sniffing. No doubt I’ll dig up some gems, I just hope there isn’t too much dirt.

Is this album for you?

I have to recommend it to any rock fan; it’s really quite good if not a bit restricted. I want to know what people think about the timelessness of it. Personally I think the best is well crafted and the worst is phoned in.

Scores

  • Writing: 8/10
  • Performance: 7/10
  • Style: 7/10
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