Can't Buy A Thrill

Steely Dan

MCA Records, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


There are certain songs which define one's life. Songs which bring back memories of childhood, or being in a particular place at a particular time. Songs which can bring a smile to your face or tears to your eyes. Songs which will never leave your collective unconscious until the day you shuffle off of this planet.

That kind of wraps up a good portion of Can't Buy A Thrill, the debut release from Steely Dan -- a.k.a. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, along with a revolving-door cast of musicians throughout their career. Listening to this album is like putting on an old, comfortable pair of sneakers to me. Sure, there is a hole or two poking its way into notice, but for the most part, I wouldn't trade those shoes -- or this album -- for something newer, with more polish.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Can't Buy A Thrill will forever be known for two hits, "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years," tracks which still are enjoyable to listen to, even 32 years after their original release. The Latin rhythm of "Do It Again," combined with the extremely tasty instrumentation, seals the deal before Fagen can even sing a single note. The groove this song locks you into is infectious, and you almost never want it to end. Likewise, "Reelin' In The Years" is a frantic guitar-filled rocker which keeps the energy soaring throughout the entire song.

Yet some of the moments on this disc which are just as good are tracks which haven't gotten the same notice over the years. "Midnight Cruiser" is just as enjoyable, creating a vibe which makes you feel like you've been listening to this song your entire life. It also is a little reminiscent of "Do You Know What I Mean," though a lot more enjoyable.

In fact, a good portion of Can't Buy A Thrill has this sort of feel to it, from minor radio hits such as "Dirty Work" to hidden gems like "Brooklyn," "Kings" and "Change Of The Guard." It is the rare slip-up like "Only A Fool Would Say That" and "Turn That Heartbeat Over Again" which dares to ruin the groove, but these moments are few and far between.

But this album is only a small slice of what Steely Dan would become. In time they would hone their edge to create more of a jazz-rock vibe; here, they dare to walk the edge of pop-rock at times, doing so quite well. The jazzy feel is there from time to time, but it's slightly spotty in terms of success.

You could settle for any of the best-of collections, and I'm sure you'd enjoy them just as much. But Can't Buy A Thrill is a reminder that the best music sometimes isn't what is constantly plastered on the radio.

Rating: B+

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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.