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Countdown to Ecstasy

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Editors’ Notes

Steely Dan’s sardonic genius ripened impressively on their second album, Countdown To Ecstasy (1973). Band masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen advanced closer towards perfecting their tangy jazz/pop/rock formula while serving up social critiques of ever-greater refinement. The fact that they named their group after a marital aid mentioned in a William S. Burroughs novel gives a clue to their opinion of mankind — but what’s surprising about Countdown To Ecstasy is how listener-friendly it is. You don’t have to be a lit major or a jazz snob to dig tracks like “Bodhisattva” (a turbo-charged satire of guru-worship), “Show Biz Kids” (a slinky put-down of decadent wealth) or “My Old School” (a wry anecdote set to a cha-cha beat). Fagen’s coolly insinuating vocals and Jeff Baxter’s versatile guitar stylings are a big part of this album’s appeal, leading the listener through increasingly esoteric territory, including the angular planes of “Your Gold Teeth” and the nervous confines of “King Of The World.” Countdown To Ecstasy is smart, superbly-played and highly satisfying.

Customer Reviews

A beautiful second album.

Released in '73, Countdown to Ecstasy which is said to be named for the term used when soldiers in the war rent prostitutes and get laid for the first time (typical Steely Dan), is an amazing follow up to an amazing debut. The album starts with the oriental influenced Bodhisattva written by Fagen only, features great dual guitar work from Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias, try to listen to the last minute and not feel tingly all over, you can't do it. Razor Boy is the most underrated Steely Dan song ever, beautiful marimbas carrying the melody, nice upright bass driving the rhythm, Fagen's voice sounds as crisp as it ever will. The Boston Rag is simply genius, great guitar riff, acoustic guitars carry the rhythm, Fagen sings in his lower register which always leads to greatness. Your Gold Teeth is our first glimpse into Don and Walt's love for jazz, a seven minute epic filled with jazzy guitar and electric piano solos, and beautifully placed jazzy dissonance, once again Fagen is singing real deep which suits him so well, the ending vamp is delicous. Show Biz Kids is known as the Dan song where they say the "F" word (gasp), this is an amazing song with cryptic backing vocals the whole way through, nice vibes bouncing around in the left speaker, piano and bass driven with a drum loop (could have been the first album to use a drum loop), the melody is kept alive by Rick Derringer's ridiculously tasty slide guitar work. My Old School is the radio hit from the album, piano driven with nice lead guitar work throughout, nice horn section reminiscent of Van Morrison, dig how Fagen's voice is harmonized in the second verse (listen closely). Pearl of the Quarter is the Dan's backhanded attempt at a love song even if it is about a prostitute, a nice song though, as close to country sounding as they ever got. King of the World is without a doubt the best song on the album with it's eery synthesizers and unbelievable production (this was 1973 people!) creditted to guitarist Denny Dias, opens with disco-ish drums and wah wah guitar with bass chords, at 2 minutes 32 seconds you can hear Becker faintly say "I think my face is on fire", very trippy, almost scary song about the end of the world. Overall another amazing album and must have for Steely Dan Fans, we see our first glimpses of jazz entering their sound.

One of their very best

This one didn't sell as well as the debut--no hit single--but to my ears it was a big step forward. It is also the SD album where they sound the most like a real band (because, well, they were a real band at the time, road-tested and synergistic). A little bit of jazziness shows through in Your Gold Teeth and Razor Boy, but mostly this album is progressive pop with some great stretched out solos. Denny Dias plays his best solo ever on Bodhissatva; Skunk Baxter plays his best solo ever on My Old School. Best bets are the FM classics Bodhissatva, The Boston Rag, My Old School, and maybe King of the World. Everything else is good too. This is a true 5 star album. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Steely Dan....Do it Again!

Some of my favorite Dan tunes are on this album. Certainly show the diversity in their tastes and style. Tragically overlooked pieces. If you have never heard Steely Dan, or have, CHECK THIS ONE OUT!


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 pop, blues, and...
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