Citizen Steely Dan

Steely Dan

MCA, 1993

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Every time I think the scumbags in the music industry can't sink any lower, they find another way to bilk people out of their hard-earned money.

Now, you may think that it's awkward for me to say this in an article about Steely Dan -- and, if you've followed the reviews in this retrospective, you know that I've generally given good marks to Steely Dan's albums. But what else can you say about a box set that features all of the group's studio albums, track for track, and throws in as bonus features a whopping four non-album tracks, only one of which wasn't available anywhere else, other than "snow job"?

You mean to tell me that, well over a decade after Walter Becker and Donald Fagen called it a day, the only "bonus tracks" that could be included were "Here At The Western World" (previously found on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Steely Dan's Greatest Hits), "FM" (included on Gold and A Decade Of Steely Dan), a live version of "Bodhisattva" (found on the re-issue of Gold) and a demo version of "Everyone's Gone To The Movies?" Four words: give me a break.

Granted, the "albums" on Citizen Steely Dan were all re-mastered for this set, but these are now commercially available individually. And, granted, you can't deny that hearing Steely Dan's popular songs is still thrilling, no matter what format they're in. But isn't that what the numerous best-of collections are for?

If you've read my takes on the individual albums, you already know what to expect from the same material on Citizen Steely Dan. And I've already made my feelings known about the track "FM". So, let's focus on the remaining three songs. The live take on "Bodhisattva" features a rambling, incoherent two-minute introduction that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor without hurting the song. Musically, it's not a bad performance, making one almost wish that Becker and Fagen had occasionally pulled the group out of the studio to do a few live dates. Likewise, the demo version of "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" doesn't necessarily break any new ground, but it is somewhat interesting to listen to.

That leaves "Here At The Western World" -- a track that, frankly, could have made The Royal Scam (from whose sessions it came) a much better album. Chances are good that listeners already will know this one from their well-worn copies of Steely Dan's Greatest Hits, but each time I've listened to this one, it's like a drink of cold water on a hot day.

So why am I so harsh on this set? Is my rating based on the music? Not totally; while I really wish there had been more rarities included in this four CD set, the music still stands on its own. No, I'm so harsh on this one because, if you already own all of Steely Dan's albums, there really is no good reason to spend upwards of 50 bucks on this set. (This, of course, comes from someone who wanted the first Led Zeppelin box set for all of one rare track, so I admit some hypocrisy here.) If you don't own the Steely Dan catalog, then maybe it is worth picking this one up just to get everything - at least up until the group's mid-'90s reunion -- in one fell swoop. Otherwise, avoid this marketing debacle.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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