Monday, 4 July 2016

"Katy Lied" by STEELY DAN (1999 MCA 'Walter Becker and Donald Fagen' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...It's Chain Lighting...And It Feels So Good..." 

I suppose its fitting to be reviewing this most American of Rock Bands on 'Independence Day' the 4th of July - a mere 41 years and 3 months after the LP's release. But then any excuse for me to rave about STEELY DAN is fair game.

The 1972 debut album "Can't Buy A Thrill" and 1977's glorious "Aja" are always cited as high points in their extraordinary career - but what about those 'overlooked' nuggets like 1973's masterful "Countdown To Ecstasy" and this -1975's "Katy Lied". 

Re-listening to it in July 2016 and you're struck by the sheer class of every song (and not just a few) - let alone just how beautiful the Remastered CD has turned out. No 'Bad Sneakers' here. Let's get to the chain lightning and the daddy who doesn’t live in New York City anymore...

UK released 28 June 1999 (11 May 1999 in the USA) - "Katy Lied" by STEELY DAN on MCA 111 916-2 (Barcode 008811191627) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 10-track 1975 ABC Records LP and plays out as follows (35:25 minutes):

1. Black Friday
2. Bad Sneakers
3. Rose Darling
4. Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More
5. Doctor Wu
6. Everyone's Gone To The Movies [Side 2]
7. Your Gold Teeth II
8. Chain Lightning
9. Any World (That I'm Welcome To)
10. Throw Back The Little Ones
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 4th studio album "Katy Lied" - released April 1975 in the USA on ABC Records ABCD-846 and in the UK on ABC Records ABCL 5094. Produced by GARY KATZ, Engineered by ROGER NICHOLS with all songs written by DONALD FAGEN and WALTER BECKER - it peaked at No. 13 in both the US and UK LP charts.

DONALD FAGEN - Lead and Backing Vocals and Various Keyboards
DAVID PAICH (of Toto) and MICHAEL OMARTIAN - Keyboards
PHIL WOODS - Alto Saxophone Solo on "Doctor Wu"
JEFF PORCARO (of Toto) - Drums and Dorophone
HAL BLAINE - Drums on "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)”
VICTOR FELDMAN - Percussion and Vibes
MICHAEL McDONALD - Backing Vocals on "Bad Sneakers" and "Everyone's Gone To The Movies"
JIMMIE HASKELL – Arranged the Horns on "Throw Back The Little Ones"

The 12-page foldout inlay (with the Dorothy White 'Preying Mantis' photo artwork) provides the recording info that was on the back cover of the original vinyl album along with the lyrics that graced the inner sleeve. But the real hoot is the very, very funny liner notes by Becker and Fagan that reminisce in their own sarcastic but articulate way about the making of the album, the "Pretzel Logic" tour they'd just left (broke and tired) and the dissolution of Steely Dan as a band - now reduced to only Becker, Fagan and Diaz from the group who would then bring in a huge array of top quality sessionmen for the rest of their albums. 

They made smart decisions too. I can remember looking at the black and white photos on the rear sleeve and thinking who are 'Michael McDonald' and 'Jeff Porcaro' - and that's what those Gary Katz (Producer) and "The Immortal" Roger Nichols (Engineer) geezers look like. McDonald hadn’t joined The Doobie Brothers yet to produce their changeover album "Takin' It To The Streets" in 1976 - but how clued-in of Becker and Fagen to know what his vocal brilliance would bring to everything he graced (he's on "The Royal Scam", "Aja" and "Gaucho" too). 

The AUDIO on this Becker/Fagen CD Remaster is fabulous - subtle yet powerful - every track sparkling like a newly discovered diamond. In fact this may be the best of all the 70ts LPs in terms of Audiophile. 

“Katy Lied” opens with the truly fantastic guitar-blitz of "Black Friday" - a vicious little chugger. It doesn't say who is ripping out those angry guitar solos (the liner notes didn't say either) but it sounds like Rick Derringer who tore up the slide on "Show Biz Kids" on 1973's "Countdown To Ecstasy". There's also a keyboard funky break towards the end of the song that I swear I've never heard before. Although the musician credits don't say so - I 'd swear that's Michael McDonald on the 'going insane' backing vocals for the wicked "Bad Sneakers" - and is that Elliot Randall doing the sweet guitar solo. I should mention the remaster on this track - I've the Japan SHM-CD version and this 1999 version - they both absolute rock as regards to audiophile audio. "...I would guess she's in Detroit with lots of money in the bank...although I could be wrong..." Donald Fagen advises us on the shockingly upbeat piano-bop of "Rose Darling" - and once again here in glorious audio. The last two contrasting tracks on Side 1 only confirm the album's brilliance - the slick Guitar-Funk of "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" and the beautifully constructed yet melodious "Doctor Wu" - those beautiful keyboards changes as he sings "...Katy tried...I was halfway crucified...I was on the other side of no tomorrow..."

For such pervy subject matter (Mr. LaPage in his film den with his projection machine) - "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" is a happy vibe with that great catchy-as-a-cold chorus. As a song title "Your Gold Teeth" first turned up two albums back on 1973's "Countdown To Ecstasy" - here we get "Your Gold Teeth II" which opens with Crusaders-type keyboard Jazz-Funk before settling into that cool piano riff. It's properly gorgeous stuff - so accomplished as a song and again the audio makes it glisten. "...Don't question the little part of the neighbourhood...yes it's chain feels so good..." - the voices croon on the Funky "Chain Lightning" - a song that convinces many Dance Kids that Steely Dan the Rock Band had Soul in their grooves. "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" is the quiet one on the record - Fagan's impassioned lead, a brilliant melody, hurting yet real lyrics, guitar solos and the warmth of Michael McDonald's backing vocals - all of it combine to create that effortless classiness they had. Their 4th LP ends on "Throw Back The Little Ones" - another song that takes many listens - but once it's in your noggin - it counts as another audio winner.

How many of us fans devoured the liner notes on the back cover - going on about '36-input this' and '24-channel that'. And then wondered what in God's name Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were rabbiting on about with techno gobbledygook like "...for best results observe the R.I.A.A. curve..." Why sure thing boys (you deadpan perfectionist nutjobs). 
I suppose this is what you get when you name your band after a steam-powered dildo in a William Rice Burroughs book – out there, steaming ahead and always up for it.

They would 'get along to Kid Charlemagne' for the next LP (1976's "The Royal Scam"). 
But my heart has always been with this 'Rose Darling' of an LP. 

"Katy Lied" is absolute freaking genius and then some...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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