Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Excellent sound from start to finish – a stellar Triple Plus (A+++) side one is mated with a solid Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Show Biz Kids, My Old School, Pearl of the Quarter and King of the World are As Good As It Gets on this pressing
  • The richest and clearest we played all day – this is the sound that lets the only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCK
  • 5 Stars: “…its eight songs are rich with either musical or lyrical detail that their album rock or art rock contemporaries couldn’t hope to match.”

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THE Steely Dan Rock Album

This is the only Steely Dan album recorded with a working live band. One of the most important qualities we look for in a Hot Stamper copy is the ability to convey the fun and energy of these seriously hard-rockin’ sessions.

There’s so much we could say about this album, but we probably couldn’t say it better than the especially insightful Rolling Stone review which follows the AMG review reproduced herein. AMG, of course, goes nuts over the album, awarding it their top rating of Five Stars.

What to Listen For:

On Razor Boy listen especially to how clear and solid the piano and vibes are underneath the vocals. On the best copies, their contributions are easy to follow and really provide support in the lower registers for the vocals above them. If your copy they’re a murky mess don’t be surprised; that’s pretty much the way they sound on most copies. (They’re a good test for the quality of your reproduction from the mid-bass up through the lower midrange.)

The female background singers who make up the chorus on My Old School sound different on every copy you play. When they sound right you’ll know it immediately. The copies with clarity and energy always seem to also have a wonderful “sing along” quality that lets the music really come to life. We didn’t hear it happen too often but when it does it’s a THRILL, one you can buy.

The Typical Pressing: Ouch

This album shares top honors with Katy Lied as the toughest Steely Dan album to get to sound right. So many copies are such sonic let-downs: congested, bass-shy, veiled, compressed and grainy. There’s a good reason we don’t do this album but once a year, and it’s not because of a lack of demand. It’s because so many copies sound so bad.

One of the biggest problems with the average copy of this album is congestion. On King Of The World, for example, many copies never quite open up at the chorus. On our Hot Stamper copies, the sound is more spacious, allowing all the voices and instruments room to breathe. The soundfield needs to be BIG and WIDE for this album to work, and on the best copies the sound is HUGE.

Another big problem with the typical copy is a glaring lack of bass. This is Steely Dan, man: last I heard they had a pretty good bass player by the name of Walter Becker. (On later albums he plays guitar, but with Denny Dias and Jeff Skunk Baxter still in the band at this point the guitar duties were already in the hands of the truly gifted.) We have to imagine that the band wanted you to hear bass — and plenty of it. Any copy of this album that doesn’t have lots of deep, punchy, well-defined bass just isn’t gonna cut it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Bodhisattva
Razor Boy

This is the track I use to judge side one. Almost every copy you come across has grainy vocals, if there are any highs at all. This is true for the entire album, but it’s especially noticeable on this track. When the vocals are clear, smooth and sweet, or at least as clear, smooth and sweet as one can hope for, you are playing a good copy. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

That’s if there’s bass. This is a rock record, and rock records, like all records, need bass. If the vocals on this track are right and the bass is good, you might actually have a winner.

Also listen to how clear and solid the piano and vibes are underneath the vocals. On the best copies their contributions are easy to follow and really provide support in the lower registers for the vocals above them. If your copy they’re a murky mess don’t be surprised; that’s pretty much the way they sound on most copies. (They’re a good test for the quality of your reproduction from the mid-bass up through the lower midrange.)

The Boston Rag
Your Gold Teeth

Side Two

Show Biz Kids

On every copy we’ve ever played this track is cut substantially louder than those that follow. It also has a “jumping out of the speakers” quality that’s hard to find on the next three tracks. As a Demo Track it would seem to be the best one on the album. As a test track, since it seems to sound good on so many otherwise mediocre copies, it’s practically useless.

My Old School

The female background singers who make up the chorus on My Old School sound different on every copy you play. When they sound right you’ll know it immediately. The copies with clarity and energy always seem to also have a wonderful “sing along” quality that lets the music really come to life. We didn’t hear it happen too often but when it does it’s a THRILL, one you can buy.

Pearl of the Quarter
King of the World

There’s a lot going on in the chorus here, and the average copy suffers badly from congestion. If the copy you have on the turntable doesn’t have much extension up top you can forget about this track sounding any good.