Sound — 9
Where do you begin with a band like Steely Dan? They have done so much during their lengthy career and their perfectionism in terms of studio engineering never ceases to amaze me. Everything has always sounded so perfect. So polished. So- impeccable. I have always looked up to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, and their 5th studio album, The Royal Scam, got me initially crazed on this jazz fusion phenomenon. The music is almost, overgrown, even for Steely Dan. Everything is proportionate and not over pretentious, like most jazz fusion music from this time period. A great bit of the songs are lightly accompanied by piano chording to further accentuate the jazzy song textures. Probably my favorite piece on the album is "The Fez." This track is, for the most part, instrumental. It features a choppy rhythm section, with a lifting synthesizer melody that makes it all that much sweeter. I really enjoy listening to the blues licks in that song. Overall, if you want to get a great feel of what to expect on this one, bare in mind it's in a step in a different direction. The guitar work isn't necessarily sloppy, per se, but the emphasis is clearly on the rhythm section. Very clear, distinct, beautiful, and enjoyable music.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are for the most part typical satirical Steely Dan lyrics. This album's concept is almost fixated on society and by default, it gives us a nice Fagen/Becker social commentary. The lyrics cover the grand scale of lyrics from rapists to drug dealers to immigrants to extramarital affairs. It's Steely Dan at the height of their opinions expressed via lyrics. One of my favorite lyrical offerings is "Don't Take Me Alive." This song speaks of a man's encounter with police brutality. This song is particularly moving to me. Overall, typical awesome Steely Dan lryics.
Overall Impression — 9
This album really doesn't compare to anything else I have heard in my lifetime. It truly stands on its own. If you want an accessible Steely Dan piece, go check into Can't Buy a Thrill or Pretzel Logic. This album isn't for you. This is for a more open-minded proghead, like myself. It features the duo's finest lyrical offerings and is their most collectively diverse album as well. Take some time and devote it to some Steely Dan. You won't understand what musicianship truly is until you see what these guys pull off.