Katy Lied

Steely Dan

MCA, 1975


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Following the rather drab outing of Pretzel Logic, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen -- the heart of Steely Dan -- must have decided that something in their formula had to change. Yes, they were still in the mode where they were cranking out an album a year -- and seeing the kind of music they wrote, being on that kind of musical assembly line didn't seem to be the best thing for them.

Yet the addition of studio musicians -- hired guns, if you will -- seemed to be a spark that partially re-ignited the fire of Steely Dan's work. Their fourth outing, Katy Lied, contains some tracks that have rightfully taken their place among the group's best efforts of all time. Yet there is still a tentativeness about other tracks, ending up in, at least, a tentative step in the right direction.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Granted, classic rock radio has threatened to beat some of these tracks to death, such as "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)," "Bad Sneakers" and "Doctor Wu," yet despite the way that corporate radio has latched onto these tracks like leeches, there is still something refreshing about hearing them. Maybe it's the fact that, when you're sitting and listening to this album from beginning to end, you're hearing these songs in their natural environment, as it were. Maybe these tracks are just so strong that they can withstand the barrage of airplay they've been given.

Yet other tracks, while getting some airplay to my attention over the years, almost await re-discovery by the listener. "Black Friday" is one such animal, a track that captures the rock essence of Steely Dan more than any single of theirs since "Reelin' In The Years." Despite the overriding cynicism of the lyrics -- a trait common to a lot of Steely Dan's work -- this jazz/rock fusion is just a lot of fun to listen to.

The same can be said for "Everyone's Gone To The Movies," a track that makes me wonder if there was some kind of hidden message in its lyrics. While this one may not get the kind of attention that a lot of Steely Dan's hits catalog gets, it's well worth the time to really focus on. If there was one track off of Katy Lied that I'd argue is a prime candidate for "hidden gem," this one would be it.

Yet Katy Lied doesn't seem to approach the same kind of confidence level that other discs such as Can't Buy A Thrill or Countdown To Ecstasy had. Any time a group goes back to repeat an earlier musical effort -- in this case, "Your Gold Teeth II" -- it's usually a red flag that flies up in my mind. I will admit that this faster-tempoed take of the song works well, but I have to wonder why they even needed to do so in the first place. Likewise, "Throw Back The Little Ones" just seems like a weak way to close the disc -- admittedly, something that Steely Dan has had problems with on most, if not all, of their previous discs.

Still, Katy Lied, despite a few weak moments, is a step in the right direction for Steely Dan, and most definitely was the disc that set the pace for the remainder of the band's career until their first retirement.

Rating: B-

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