4.5 out of 5 Stars!
After its impressive debut from the previous year, Steely Dan followed up with the excellent Countdown to Ecstasy, proving this was no “average band.”
And here, with Steely Dan still being an actual band (instead of the Donald Fagen/Walter Becker songwriting duo that used mostly studio musicians to create its future albums), the sound is wonderfully cohesive and creative, with the sardonic lyrics and lead vocals (now performed exclusively by Donald Fagan, unlike the previous release) as quirky as ever, the musicianship brilliant, and the sound being a seemingly perfect blend of AOR/Hard Rock/Jazz-Rock with highly memorable melodies and riffs.
I especially loved the dual guitars of Denny Dias and Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, who also graced the album with some pedal steel guitar, as well as the impactful inclusion of guest stars such as the acclaimed Victor Feldman playing marimba/vibraphone, Rick Derringer offering up some sleazy slide guitar, and Ernie Watts, Bill Perkins, and Lanny Morgan delivering slick and sassy saxophones, which all added to the band’s sophisticated style.
From “Bodhisattva” to “Your Gold Teeth,” to “My Old School” and “The Boston Rag,” to “Show Biz Kids” and “King of the World,” to “Razor Boy” and “Pearl of the Quarter,” every single track ranks among my favorites within Steely Dan’s entire catalogue—indeed, I adore Countdown to Ecstasy from beginning to end, unlike the band’s subsequent albums—and I’ve never grown tired of hearing it, even forty-five years after snatching it up at the impressionable age of thirteen.
Besides, it was also the first album I owned that had the naughty “F-word” popping up in the lyrics of “Show Biz Kids,” so how could I not have fond memories of this platter, right?