Sunday, 5 February 2012

"Can't Buy A Thrill" by STEELY DAN (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014 Japanese SHM-CD Reissues and Variants) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"…Turn That Heartbeat Over Again…" 

Japanese SHM-CD reissues of STEELY DAN's Seventies catalogue is a minefield of myriad versions and reissues. And on their classic 1972 debut album "Can't Buy A Thrill" - there are TWO VERSIONS - and more reissues of those too. This review is by way of sorting out what's what - so you can at least attempt to choose the right issue...

The 'plain' SHM-CD version of Steely Dan’s "Can't Buy A Thrill" was released 22 December 2010 on Geffen/Universal UICY-20122 and comes in a STANDARD JEWEL CASE with the Barcode 4988005639240. The second version first came 25 June 2008 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93515 and has 5" MINI LP ARTWORK. This version was then 'reissued' 29 Dec 2011 (again in Japan only and quite possibly a few times since) with the same catalogue number, the same mini repro LP artwork and the same Barcode 4988005518293. If you copy and paste 'either' barcode above into the search bar on Amazon - you will get the different entries and their varying prices.

Now to some details about the album and the music...

1. Do It Again [Side 1]
2. Dirty Work
3. Kings
4. Midnite Cruiser
5. Only A Fool Would Say That
6. Reelin' In The Years [Side 2]
7. Fire In The Hole
8. Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)
9. Change Of The Guard
10. Turn That Heartbeat Over Again
The original vinyl album for “Can’t Buy A Thrill” by STEELY DAN first appeared in October 1972 in the USA in a hard-card gatefold sleeve on ABC Records ABCX-758 (the UK first pressing had a single matt sleeve, released January 1973 on Probe SPB 1062). The Japanese 5" CD facsimile sleeve variant uses the American gatefold artwork.

Both SHM-CD versions have the foldout inlay that came with the 1998 CD reissues which contain the lyrics, Fagen and Becker's caustic "A Farewell To Flatbush" liner notes and a separate booklet with a Japanese essay and some notes on the SHM-CD format.

SOUND - both versions are the Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and Gary Katz's 1998 remaster - just on a SHM-CD - neither is a new remaster. Some tracks are better than others - "Fire In The Hole" and "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" both feature instrumentation that is suddenly 'there' when most of it seemed buried in the mix before. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter's guitar solo on "Change Of The Guard" is right out there now - David Palmer's Vocals and Jerome Richardson's lovely Sax work on "Dirty Work" are now so clear too - as is the lead in organ and rhythm section. Elliott Randall's blistering guitar work on "Reelin' In The Years" fills your speakers as do the solos on "Do It Again" by Denny Dias (Coral Electric Sitar) and Donald Fagen (Keyboards). The rhythm section on "Midnite Cruiser" is very pronounced - Jim Hodder's soulful vocals the same while "Skunk" puts in another great solo. Perhaps loveliest of all is "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)" - David Palmer's vocals and Baxter on Steel Guitar - so sweet. It's a staggeringly accomplished debut album - and it sounds just peachy here (see also my review for their 1973 follow-up "Countdown To Ecstasy" on the SHM-CD format).

What is a SHM-CD and does it sound better than the standard 1998 issue that's available very cheaply? Some say yes, others say it's a con. It was developed in 2008 by JVC as a brand new form of CD with far better retrieval capabilities. The problem is that they are ONLY available in JAPAN and usually at considerably higher cost. Also one of the biggest arguments put forward 'against' them is that you need a high-end player to get the best out of these CDs. I don't agree. I own about 15 of these beauties and the sound on all is more than impressive - it's in the musicality - it's in the details. I would say however that if the remaster is recent - and its on SHM - and you've a half decent player - then the combo of all 3 will produce wonderful sonic results (see my recent review for James Taylor's "Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon" on Japanese SHM-CD).

To sum up - yes these suckers are pricey - and they really should be domestically available at a much cheaper price - but if you've any love for this stunning Seventies band - then you owe it to yourself to indulge in one.

Problem - you'll probably want the other 6 titles in this series on this format too - and your bank manager will definitely want your guts for garters...

PS: By way of info on Japanese SHM-CDs and their variants - this list is accurate to March 2018...

SHM-CD (Jewel Case AND Mini Repro LP Artwork Versions):
1. "Can't Buy A Thrill" (1972)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-20122 (Barcode 4988005639240) – 1999 Remaster
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93515 (Barcode 4988005518293) – 1999 Remaster

2. "Countdown To Ecstasy" (1973)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25036 (Barcode 4988005677754) – 1999 Remaster
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93516 (Barcode 4988005518309) – 1999 Remaster
(iii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD re-released 30 July 2014 on Geffen/Universal UICY-76427 (Barcode 4988005831552) - features 2014 DSD Remastering from original US analogue master tapes and HR Cutting on the Disc

3. "Pretzel Logic" (1974)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25037 (Barcode 4988005677761) – 1999 Remaster
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93517 (Barcode 4988005518316) – 1999 Remaster
(iii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD re-released 24 September 2014 on Geffen/Universal UICY-76524 (Barcode 4988005838209) - features 2014 DSD Remastering from original US analogue master tapes and HR Cutting on the Disc

4. "Katy Lied" (1975)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25038 (Barcode 4988005677778) – 1999 Remaster
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93518 (Barcode 4988005518323) – 1999 Remaster

5. "The Royal Scam" (1976)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25039 (Barcode 4988005677785)
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93519 (Barcode 4988005518330)
Version (ii) was originally issued 25 June 2008 with the same artwork, catalogue number and barcode. The 29 Dec 2011 version is technically a reissue

6. "Aja" (1977)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 23 January 2008 on Geffen/Universal UICY-90764 (Barcode 4988005502070)
(ii) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 24 June 2009 on Geffen/Universal UICY-91430 (Barcode 4988005560810)
(iii) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD re-released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25040 (Barcode 4988005677792)
(iv) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD re-released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93520 (Barcode 4988005518347)
(v) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD re-released 25 September 2013 on Geffen/Universal UICY-75768 (Barcode 4988005782274) – HR Cutting
(vi) Non SHM CD Issue (standard CD) in a Standard Jewel Case re-released 17 May 2017 on Geffen/Universal UICY-78312 (Barcode 4988031220726)

7. "Gaucho" (1980)
(i) Standard Jewel Case SHM-CD released 12 October 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-25041 (Barcode 4988005677808)
(ii) Mini LP Repro Artwork SHM-CD released 29 December 2011 on Geffen/Universal UICY-93521 (Barcode 4988005518354)

PLATINUM SHM-CD (Mini LP Repro Artwork inside a White Bordered Box):
"Can't Buy A Thrill", "Katy Lied" and "The Royal Scam" – not issued on this format as of March 2018

1. "Countdown To Ecstasy" (1973)
(i) Released 30 July 2014 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9566 (Barcode 4988005831590) - features 2014 DSD Remastering from original US analogue master tapes
(ii) Re-released 24 August 2016 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-15005 (Barcode 4988031161814) – features 2014 DSD Remastering from original US analogue master tapes

2. "Pretzel Logic" (1974)
(i) Released 24 September 2014 on Geffen/Universal UICY-40085 (Barcode 4988005838155)

3. "Aja" (1977)
(i) Released 25 September 2013 on Geffen/Universal UICY-40007 (Barcode 4988005782175)

SHM-SACD:
These Japanese SHM-SACD releases require a CD player that has SUPER AUDIO playback facilities - they will NOT PLAY IN A STANDARD PLAYER. There are two variants of Remasters - 2010 DSD versions done exclusively in Japan and based on Japanese original analogue tapes – and 2014 variants based on US analogue tapes with HR Disc Cutting. The 2014 variants come in white-bordered boxes like the Platinum SHM-CD issues.
"Can't Buy A Thrill", "Countdown To Ecstasy" and "Katy Lied" – not issued on this format as of March 2018

1. "Pretzel Logic" (1974)
(i) Released 24 September 2014 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9568 (Barcode 4988005838223) - features 2014 DSD Remastering from original US analogue master tapes and HR Cutting on the Disc

2. "The Royal Scam" (1976)
(i) Released 28 September 2011 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9501 (Barcode 4988005653628) – Withdrawn

3. "Aja" (1977)
(i) Released 30 June 2010 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9026 (Barcode 498800 5614384) – features 2010 DSD Remastering
(ii) Re-released 26 November 2014 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9591 (Barcode 4988005857439) –features 2010 DSD Remastering

4. "Gaucho" (1980)
(i) Released 24 October 2010 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9039 (Barcode 4988005633330) in oversized Card Repro Artwork
(ii) Released 26 November 2014 on Geffen/Universal UIGY-9592 (Barcode 4988005857446) in SACD Jewel Case

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