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Steely Dan - Katy Lied

If Pretzel Logic was squeezing jazz out of the pop monster, then Katy Lied is squeezing pop out of the jazz monster. Where Pretzel Logic was like trying to breath air that's too cold and too distant to get into your lungs, this one was like lapping overproof treacle in a rainforest - the sensation drilled your heart.

Katy Lied was not as integrated as the later "session albums" that were like living anthracite carved from deep in the tunnels where the minotaur screams, nor was it as raw or as tragically sunny as the bright slices or weirdness on the early records that spilled from the demo reels like clusters of nasty diamonds.

A transitional record. Aren't they all. Well no. From the Royal Scam on, but especially AJA, the "whole record" thing was much more evident.

Black Friday shuffles out feet first, with plenty of opportunity for razor sharp solos to peel off one after the other. Wish I had the ear to tell whose solos are whose. Elliott spells his name with two tees, by the way, or at least he does now.

Bad Sneakers, had to play it about a hundred times in a row when it first came out. It seemed effortless. Everything perfect. Now of course I can hear Michael McDonald creating that texture in the backing vocals - back then all I could hear was the twisted sunlight.

More than any other I guess the lyrics on Katy Lied were opaque to the point of irrelevance. Rose Darling seemed to me some sort of sliding rockabilly lovesong, I skipped this one and moved straight to the sublime Daddy don't ... one of the most deceptively convoluted little grooves you could hear -- every phrase a hook. Then the pay off -- the lilting Doctor Wu, the title track and the heart of the record. The impeccable sax solo that had me out looking for Phil Woods recordings. It seems such a sustained song it's hard to believe it's only 3.54.

Everyone's gone to the movies - those disjointed rhythms always made me thing of the large, raw-boned, ungainly clowns in Steven King movies. I saw the chord chart somewhere for Chain Lightning, it doesn't tell the story. As a session it must have been heaven to play. A moment where gifted and unbelievably competent players just let it happen. As far as the song is concerned -- I always imagined a bunch of guys in leather jackets and darkness in an alley passing around something illegal. Now I've heard it's a fascist rally.

Your Gold Teeth with its title hearkens back to the age of Steely Dan's early records where the terrain was being created, and also puts up huge planks leading into the future where music lives forever, self perpetuating, in the depths of AJA. Any World etc ... dates from the early years before Can't Buy A Thrill. It still has that much too revealing streak of pleading misanthropy -- but in this case instead of that clunking nakedness, there's a snarling synthesis of the successful alien abductee. The off beat novelty song that finishes it off seemed right for the first few times round the turntable,but the imagery of plump fish and gadflies never quite resolved.

Together the collection is low key, without any hits, with a kind of haphazard song selection. It has the feel of some songs being resuscitated from the back catalogue, and also a feeling of good times in the studio where perhaps the leadership is not so apparent as elsewhere and where the arrangements derived from enjoyment rather than inspiration and rigour. You only have to hear the way Throw Back the Little Ones leads to Kid Charlemagne on the box set to sense that that fierce and penetrating intellect was back. There's a feel to this record, though, especially on Bad Sneakers, Dr Wu, Daddy... and Chain Lightning that wasn't ever captured as completely elsewhere. It's a rare feeling. A kind of lazy, graceful tenderness.

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