We tend to not really mess with Greatest Hits-type collections that often - call us rockist if you want, but, especially with rock and jazz, we connect most deeply to full-on proper albums. Against traditional wisdom, our favorite Steely Dan album is The Royal Scam - it's got the super-scary, post-industrial, quasi-fascist, Gotham-threatens, Ghostbusters-style cover art, and some super fine examples of the dirty, darker side of the Dan's sleaze rock. Last week, however, Geffen put out Steely Dan: The Definitive Collection, and the song selection is pretty hard to argue with (if you don't have the dough to by the originals used for $3 a pop at your local vinyl shop).
Collection starts off with more upbeat FM favorites like "Dirty Work" and "Reelin' In The Years" (our holmie in the UK swears "Reelin'" has the best guitar solo of all time...) then slowly works its way towards the darker stuff. The hallmark of the Dan - something that no other rock band has ever touched - is using needle-point-clean production to make songs that are utterly filthy. All the saxophone solos don't hurt, of course, and the lyrics walk the same line. An example from the hazy creep-out of "Kid Charlemagne": On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene/ But yours was kitchen clean/ Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home/ Every A-frame had your number on the wall/ You must have had it all/ You'd go to LA on a dare/ And you'd go it alone/ Could you live forever? Damn, that's perfect.
The more aesthetically inclined of us have a bone to pick though. Good Steely Dan album cover:
Less good Steely Dan album cover (we appreciate the funk; we question the font, DEEPLY):