Can't Buy a Thrill

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Can't Buy a Thrill
Studio album by Steely Dan
Released November 1972
Recorded The Village Recorder, Los Angeles
Genre Soft rock,[1] folk rock,[2] pop[3]
Length 40:39
Label ABC
Producer Gary Katz
Steely Dan chronology
Can't Buy a Thrill
(1972)
Countdown to Ecstasy
(1973)
Singles from Can't Buy a Thrill
  1. "Do It Again"
    Released: November 1972
  2. "Reelin' In the Years"
    Released: March 1973

Can't Buy a Thrill is the debut album by American rock band Steely Dan, released in November 1972 by ABC Records. It was produced by Gary Katz and written by band members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. The album was recorded at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles.[4]

Background[edit]

The album was originally released in two-channel stereo and also in a special four-channel quadrophonic mix. There are some significant musical differences between the two mixes, such as extra lead guitar fills in the quad mix of "Reelin' in the Years".

The album cover features a line of prostitutes standing in a red light area waiting for clients, an image which was chosen because of its relevance to the album title.[5] The cover was banned in Francisco Franco's Spain and was replaced with a photograph of the band playing in concert. The title of the album is taken in reference to the Bob Dylan song "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.[6] Walter Becker and Donald Fagen themselves commented on the album art in their liner notes to the reissued The Royal Scam, saying that album possessed "the most hideous album cover of the seventies, bar none (excepting perhaps Can't Buy a Thrill)."

Two songs recorded during the Can't Buy a Thrill sessions were left off the album and released as a single ("Dallas" and "Sail the Waterway"). This is the only Steely Dan album to include David Palmer as a lead vocalist, having been recruited after Donald Fagen expressed concerns over singing live. Drummer Jim Hodder also chips in lead vocals on one song, as well as singing the "Dallas" single. By the time recording of the next album began, the band and producer Gary Katz had convinced Fagen to assume the full lead vocalist role.

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to writers Marjorie Galen and Gordon Matthews, Can't Buy a Thrill features an upbeat soft rock style.[1] Music journalist Paul Lester said that it incorporates mambo, swing, jazz, and Latin musical elements.[7] Music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine observed that pop songs such as "Dirty Work", "Kings", "Midnight Cruiser", and "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" feature Palmer singing lead and lack the jazz flourishes that distinguished the band's subsequent albums. According to him, "Do It Again" incorporates a tight Latin jazz beat, while "Reelin' in the Years" features jazzy guitar solos and harmonies.[3] Robert Christgau described the former song as a toned-down mambo song with "tragic" lyrics about a "compulsive" loser.[8]

Commercial performance[edit]

Can't Buy a Thrill was released in the United States by ABC Records in November 1972 and in the United Kingdom by Probe Records in January 1973.[9] The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums,[10] and was reissued on August 22, 1973, by Dunhill Records.[11] On September 7, 1993, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of 500,000 copies in the US.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

In a contemporary review, James Isaacs of Rolling Stone found the album to be "distinguished by three top-level cuts and scattered moments of inspiration," but felt that the band was occasionally "limp".[12] Christgau, writing for Creem magazine, gave it a "B+" and called it "a good album attached" to a hit single. He called the lyrics "oblique, even philosophical ... as befit a band named after a dildo in a William Burroughs novel."[13] In a 1981 review, Christgau gave the album an "A" and stated, "Think of the Dan as the first post-boogie band: the beat swings more than it blasts or blisters, the chord changes defy our primitive subconscious expectations, and the lyrics underline their own difficulty—as well as the difficulty of the reality to which they refer—with arbitrary personal allusions, most of which are ruses."[8]

In a retrospective review for Allmusic, Erlewine gave the album four-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote that the songs "subvert traditional conventions" and are "tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics." However, he critiqued that vocalist David Palmer "oversings the handful of tracks where he takes the lead", which caused Walter Becker and Donald Fagen to temper "their wildest impulses with mainstream pop techniques."[3] Rob Sheffield, writing in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, gave it four out of five stars and complimented its "mellow folk rock", but felt that it is "softened" by Palmer, who "sounds like he's nervous about where his wallet is."[2] In his review for BBC Music, Lester said that it is so "fully-formed ... that you would scarcely believe that it's their debut", and observed "tightly constructed songs with dazzling hooks, clever, cryptic lyrics, and vocals that offer teasing critiques for those that want them."[7] In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Can't Buy a Thrill number 238 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[14]

"Dirty Work" was played during the opening credits of the 2013 film American Hustle.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Do It Again" – 5:56
    • Electric sitar solo by Denny Dias
    • Plastic organ solo by Donald Fagen
  2. "Dirty Work" – 3:08
    • Saxophone solo by Jerome Richardson
  3. "Kings" – 3:45
    • Guitar solo by Elliot Randall
  4. "Midnite Cruiser" – 4:08
    • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
  5. "Only a Fool Would Say That" – 2:57
    • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter

Side two[edit]

  1. "Reelin' in the Years" – 4:37
    • Guitar solos by Elliot Randall
  2. "Fire in the Hole" – 3:28
  3. "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)" – 4:21
    • Steel guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
  4. "Change of the Guard" – 3:39
    • Guitar solo by Jeff Baxter
  5. "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" – 4:58

Personnel[edit]

Musicians[edit]

Steely Dan
Session musicians

Production[edit]

Reissue
  • Reissue producers: Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
  • Remastering: Roger Nichols
  • Art direction: Vartan
  • Liner notes: Walter Becker, Tristan Fabriani, Donald Fagen
  • Reissue design: Red Herring Design, New York City
  • Consultant: Daniel Levitin

Charts[edit]

Album[10]

Year Chart Position
1973 Pop Albums 17

Pop Singles[16]

Year Single Catalogue number Position
1973 "Do It Again" (3:57 edit) (B-side: "Fire in the Hole") ABC 11338 6
1973 "Reelin' In The Years" (B-side: "Only A Fool") ABC 11352 11

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Galen & Matthews 2007, p. 120.
  2. ^ a b Sheffield et al. 2004, p. 778–89.
  3. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Can't Buy a Thrill - Steely Dan : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Can't Buy A Thrill CD". Rakuten.com. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Steely Dan Reviews on Yahoo! Music". Music.Yahoo.com. 2006-09-11. Archived from the original on 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  6. ^ Andy Gill (1998). Don't Think Twice It's Alright. p. 85. ISBN 1-56025-185-9. 
  7. ^ a b Lester, Paul (February 19, 2012). "Review of Steely Dan - Can’t Buy a Thrill". BBC Music. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Christgau 1981, p. 370.
  9. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (2004). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate U.S. p. 1449. ISBN 1841956155. Retrieved September 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Can't Buy a Thrill - Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Album at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.
  11. ^ a b "American album certifications – Steely Dan". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ Isaacs, James (November 23, 1977). "Can't Buy a Thrill". Rolling Stone (New York). Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (April 1973). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  14. ^ Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "238 | Can't Buy a Thrill - Steely Dan". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Archived from the original on May 7, 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2006. 
  15. ^ American Hustle Retrieved 21 January 2013
  16. ^ Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]