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The Royal Scam

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Album Review

The Royal Scam is the first Steely Dan record that doesn't exhibit significant musical progress from its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the album is any less interesting. The cynicism that was suppressed on Katy Lied comes roaring to the surface on The Royal Scam — not only are the lyrics bitter and snide, but the music is terse, broken, and weary. Not so coincidentally, the album is comprised of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's weakest set of songs since Can't Buy a Thrill. Alternating between mean-spirited bluesy vamps like "Green Earrings" and "The Fez" and jazzy soft rock numbers like "The Caves of Altamira," there's nothing particularly bad on the album, yet there are fewer standouts than before. Nevertheless, the best songs on The Royal Scam, like the sneering "Kid Charlemagne" and "Sign in Stranger," rank as genuine Steely Dan classics.

Biography

Formed: 1972 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions. Becker and Fagen never truly enjoyed rock — with their ironic humor and cryptic lyrics, their eclectic body of work shows some debt to Bob Dylan — preferring jazz, traditional...
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