We gave it a B
The four-disc box Citizen Steely Dan 1972-1980 includes everything Donald Fagen and Walter Becker ever released and then some, including a demo version of ”Everyone’s Gone to the Movies.” Great for fans, but for skeptics it can be too much of a not-bad thing. The L.A.-based studio musicians, beloved for their eccentric art rock, produced an often soulful brew of obscure collegiate wit and beatnik jazz. But while a handful of these tunes-” Reelin’ in the Years” and ”My Old School,” for example-obviously deserve their status as FM classics, the rest are just too subtle for their own good. Unlike ’70s boogie men with half their vocabulary (i.e., the Doobie Brothers), Steely Dan simply refused to rock hard. In fact, their most propulsive music- beginning with the first hit single, ”Do It Again”-virtually disappeared by 1973. That tendency toward the laid-back combined with the duo’s penchant for oddball bebop time changes and precious proto-yuppie word puzzles about everything from Alabama football to collapsing economies drag even the most rousing of tracks into an overly cerebral torpor. These guys had a knack for making sounds no one else had tried before, sure, but this set can make you pine for a simpler, gutsier rock that reaches out and grabs you.