Can't Buy A Thrill
MCA Records, 1972
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/22/2005
Being back at college usually means one thing to a student; you don't have time to do much of anything. For me, that includes the opportunity to really listen to music, although somehow I find the time. Usually, I'm not in the mood of proper frame of mind to check out something experimental (though I am giving jazz a shot this year -- expect a Miles Davis review soon). So when perusing through my library, the first instinct is to pick something accessible. Enter Can't Buy A Thrill.
Lord knows that Steely Dan has been at the top of my list for bands I've tried to like. After giving Aja and Two Against Nature a few spins, things didn't change. Both of those albums were too sterile, too perfect. Luckily, I then heard Thrill, the debut album from Steely Dan.
The sound of Thrill is decidedly different from Dan's later albums. Instead of the smooth, jazz/rock stylings of Fagen and Becker, the listener gets a pop/rock effort. Don't be fooled, though; there is some damn good pop to be found. "Do It Again" features one of the great opening percussion beats of '70s rock; it gets in your head and refuses to leave. "Dirty Work" and "Midnight Cruiser" are the underrated gems of the album. Check out the gorgeous harmonies on the former and the powerful, driving refrain on the latter.
Of course, the other massive hit would be "Reelin' In The Years." This may be blasphemy, but whenever this track comes on, I skip it. Maybe it's the massive amount of overplaying it has received throughout the years, but there is just something about the track that doesn't appeal to me. On some level, it doesn't rock as hard as it should. It has the same problem as The Eagles "Life In The Fast Lane;" one keeps expecting it to just take off, and it doesn't.
Unfortunately, save for "Change of the Guard", the second half of the album fails to capture the magic of the first. There are many retreads to be found among the scattered high points. "Guard" was a song I heard on the radio a long, long time ago. The chorus and its ensuing guitar riff stayed with me for years, so I was overjoyed to rediscover it here. "Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)" sets a easygoing, peaceful mood, and features some wonderfully gentle vocals.
In terms of substance, save the opening track, there isn't much on Can't Buy A Thrill. However, what it provides is the opportunity to just sit back and listen without having to analyze much. Just go along for the ride, you'll enjoy it.