Advance disclaimer: I’ve always been a big Steely Dan fan (soft sell: download tracks here). That being said, I still proclaim with extreme confidence that the seven albums Walter Becker and Donald Fagen released between 1972 and 1980 represent the best collection of any one artist or group during the 1970s. And their fourth album, Katy Lied (released on March 9, 1975) is the cream of the bucket.
Steely Dan, of course, wasn’t a true rock band, but the platform for songwriter/musicians Becker and Fagen to showcase their eclectic, one-of-a-kind amalgam of jazz, pop, R&B and light rock influences, using a progression of top-level, veteran studio session as their backing band (“Skunk” Baxter, Larry Carlton, Michael McDonald and Jeff Porcaro, to name just four). Together they produced a consistent, but not repetitive sound with enough pop to field several AM radio hits and enough substance to create a cult following off free-format FM radio. By the time Katy Lied came out, the duo had stopped touring (and wouldn’t resume so for nearly 20 years) and became perfectionists on the mixing board. With light rock (“Black Friday”), jazz-pop (“Doctor Wu”), funky R&B (“Bad Sneakers”) and drowsy blues (“Chain Lightning,” featuring Rick Derringer on guitar), the album is prime stuff all the way through.
From their pop-rock debut, Can’t Buy A Thrill all the way to the artsy jazz-pop of Aja and Gaucho, Steely Dan perfected the subtle but persuasive mix that’s more than stood the test of time and shifting musical tastes. My take on Steely Dan’s Top 25 is in the Playlist Vault. Katy Lied is on Amazon (as a CD or individual mp3 downloads) and iTunes, where you can download the album or individual tracks.