ABCX-779 Countdown To Ecstasy
Produced by Gary Katz
Released on July 1973
US CHART POSITION #35
Find it at GEMM
ABCX-779 cover  

Steely Dan re-tooled the band on Countdown To Ecstasy: Donald Fagen was now the de facto singer, and the music was immersed in jazz references. The song-based approach taken on their first album remains in tracks like “My Old School” (sort of a followup to “Reelin’ in the Years”), “Pearl of the Quarter” (an ethnic entry along the lines of “Only A Fool Would Say That”), and “The Boston Rag” (see “Fire in the Hole”), but they now share time with more sophisticated, jazz-based arrangements. The opening “Bodhisattva” sets the tone from the start, with its superlative musicianship and rock hooks hung on a jazz peg. Steely Dan is quick to show off their softer side too, led by Victor Feldman’s vibes and Jeff Baxter’s pedal steel guitar in the lush “Razor Boy.” Though lyrical darkness was creeping in on cuts like “Showbiz Kids” and “Razor Boy,” Countdown To Ecstasy does feel lighter than later albums. “Pearl of the Quarter” is nearly an innocent love song, something the band wouldn’t attempt again until “Peg.” Fans generally give Countdown high marks. Every one of its eight tracks are well thought out and well executed, making the high-minded hybrid of jazz and studio rock go down remarkably smooth. Compared to Pretzel Logic, which featured shorter songs, listeners can luxuriate in longer arrangements like “Your Gold Teeth” (one of the band’s best mixtures of rock and jazz). The smartaleckiness is also softer here than subsequent efforts; only the cranky “Showbiz Kids” is genuinely nasty. This might be Steely Dan’s gentlest album, or so it seems compared to a work like The Royal Scam. Along with Katy Lied and Aja, this is a cut above the other Dan albums, to these ears anyway.

ABCX-779 back cover
ABCX-779 back cover

TRACK LISTING

  1. BODHISATTVA
  2. RAZOR BOY
  3. THE BOSTON RAG
  4. YOUR GOLD TEETH
  5. SHOW BIZ KIDS
  6. MY OLD SCHOOL
  7. PEARL OF THE QUARTER
  8. KING OF THE WORLD

    All songs written by Walter Becker/Donald Fagen

CREDITS

JEFF "SKUNK" BAXTER -- guitar, pedal steel guitar
WALTER BECKER -- electric bass guitar, harmonica and vocals
DENNY DIAS -- guitar, stereo mixmaster general
DONALD FAGEN -- piano, electric piano, synthesizer and mainly vocals
JIM HODDER -- drums, percussion and vocals
Ben Benay -- acoustic guitar
Ray Brown -- string bass (2)
Rick Derringer -- slide guitar (5)
Victor Feldman -- vibes, marimba and percussion
Michael Fenelly -- background vocals
Patricia Hall -- background vocals
Jimmie Haskell -- sax arrangement (6)
Royce Jones -- background vocals
Myrna Matthews -- background vocals
Sherlie Matthews -- background vocals
Lanny Morgan -- sax (6)
David Palmer -- background vocals
Bill Perkins -- sax (6)
James Rolleston -- background vocals
John Rotella -- sax (6)
Ernie Watts -- sax (6)
Roger (The Immortal) Nichols -- engineer
Dotty of Hollywood -- album design
Ed Caraeff -- photograph

return to STEELY DAN discography

REGION RELEASE DATE LABEL MEDIA ID NUMBER FEATURES
US July 1973 ABC LP/CS 779  
UK July 1973 Probe LP/CS    
  1974 Command LPQ QD-40010 quadrophonic stereo
  February 1982 MCA LP/CS MCA/MCAC-1592  
W.GER   ABC LP ABCX-779  
UK July 1983 MCA LP/CS    
UK September 1984 MCA 2CS   repackaged w. PRETZEL LOGIC
  June 1988 MCA CD MCAD-31156  
    MCA CS 6906 repackaged w. CAN'T BUY A THRILL
  2000 MCA Int'l CD 10073  

 

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