THE ROYAL SCAM by Steely Dan

Alicia Willis

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    This is hands down my FAVORITE AOTM thus far !!! My mother was a huge Steely Dan fan and I remember hearing this album quite often growing up. “Everything you did” was her favorite, and thus mine as well. When mom would clean the house she always had music blasting and “everything you did” was one she always played and sang at the top of her lungs lol. I can’t dig deep into the theory behind the music, but nostalgia for me is EVERYTHING when it comes to music and this brought back so many memories I’ve not thought of in years ! Thank you Syn !
    🤘🏻
     

    Brian Haner Sr.

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    I was kinda just listening to it while doing my dishes and such so I don't actually know any of the song titles😅

    What did catch my attention was that there are some really nice vocal harmonies and guitar playing on this. Also, the grooves are really nice, I kinda caught myself sorta dancing in my kitchen.

    Overall killer record and makes me regret not looking into steely dan earlier after listening to Reelin' in the years. Sorry for the lack of details but this is kind of first impression while doing something else kinda stuff 😅

    Speaking of Reelin' in the years, after hearing Larry Carlton's playing I kinda want to add it to my list of songs. Should have listened to Rick Beato on that one 😅
    The solo in Reeling In The Years was played by Elliott Randall. Total monster.
     
    Oh god, yes! Love the story, love steely dan! I’ve been listening for a while, but never really understood some of the lyrics until now, so thanks a lot for the explanations! My favorites are:
    Kid Charlemagne - Best guitar solo ever, but the whole thing is great. Bass and drums deeeep in the pocket.
    The Caves of Altamira – It’s probably a good song to learn new chords, because it seems to have all of them. And the horns are out of this world.
    The Fez – is it disco? Is it a satire on disco music? Can’t really tell. But either way, the groove is insane.
    Sign in Stranger - Second best piano part ever, just because Fire in the Hole exists.
    Everything You Did – it’s like the other side of Dirty Work, and it has an Eagles reference, I love it.

    Also, I’m not sure if you guys have seen it, but there’s a vulfpeck cover of kid Charlemagne, with Purdie on drums, where they harmonize the solo and it’s insane (not even close to Larry Carlton’s, but as an Avenged fan I do have a weakness for harmonized guitar solos).
    Steely Dan always inspires me to practice, so thanks a lot for the reminder that this album exists! Good weekend!
     
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    Ids Schiere

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    I just found this video of Rick Beato talking about Don't Take Me Alive and also a bit about the record itself and he mentions some interesting stuff about chord voicings and modulations and such
    And there's also this what makes this song great on kid charlemagne in case someone is interested in that stuff 😅
     
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    Ids Schiere

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    So, I decided to listen to it again so I can highlight some stuff I really like.

    Kid Charlemagne - Nice catchy chorus. Also really dig the rhythm guitar in this. The addition of the lead guitar in the 2nd and last chorus is nice. I also really like the little section in between the second chorus and the first guitar solo. The guitar solos are amazing! it's kind of the type of fusion playing I really dig but oddly enough don't listen to that much.

    The caves of Altamaria - Love the chords and the groove in this one. Killer Horn section solo too!

    Don't take me Alive - Rick was right that opening chord is a beauty! Followed by that solo is sheer genius! I'm a sucker for vocal harmonies or multiple voices in general and there's some great stuff in that department in this one! I also love cool bridges and even though the bridge is fairly short I love it, the change in vibe with the arpeggiated chords and at the end the lead lines back into the chorus is awesome!

    sign in stranger - That dissonant piano chord in the beginning(the second one) made me turn my head and grabbed my attention, Love that! I love it even more that later on the vocal melody goes over it too, Awesome! Really nice relaxed groove, I can definitely vibe to this one! Ooh, in the second verse when the other voices come in, that just gives me goosebumps! The modulation into the bridge is really great, its definitely one of those 'whats going on here moments'.

    The Fez - love that piano chord progression in the intro before it goes all funky. Love it even more when it comes back later into the second verse.

    Green Earrings - Oeh, I like this song. Such a nice groove and really nice Guitar solo to go along with it. Love the organ as well!

    Haitian Dance - Another nice chill groove. Also like the addition of the talk box for the guitar in this one. I only knew it form livin on a prayer and kickstart my heart but I never heard it being used like this and I probably like it more 😅

    Everything You did - Mostly like the guitar solo and the slide lines in the verse after the solo

    The Royal scam - Love the addition of the choir towards the end.

    Overall I just really like it. I'm also noticing that there are some really nice where there are short little breaks or silences that work incredibly well. I also noticed a couple times that after the solo the intro of the song comes back in which is really cool.

    I also just ordered this record along with steely dan the definitive collection (adding that one got me a discount and I'm not gonna turn down good discounted music) and Groove family cyco. Thanks for the recommendations Syn!
     

    Brian Haner Sr.

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    Ooh oopsie. Me not being in informed and assuming it's always the same guy doing the solos there 😅
    Honest mistake. They had two amazing guitarists in the band; Denny Dias and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (as well as Walter Becker). Then on every album - they brought in a ton of studio guys; Larry Carlton, Rick Derringer, Dean Parks, Elliott Randall, Lee Ritenour, and a handful of other guys. They were tough on guitar players. lol.
    Great story about the song "Peg" from the album "Aja". Seven of the top studio guitarists came in and layed down solos (including Robben Ford and Larry Carlton). They were unhappy with all of them and ended up using the 7th guy, Jay Graydon. Jay is a monster and it still took him 6 hours to come up with something they liked.
     

    Ids Schiere

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    Honest mistake. They had two amazing guitarists in the band; Denny Dias and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (as well as Walter Becker). Then on every album - they brought in a ton of studio guys; Larry Carlton, Rick Derringer, Dean Parks, Elliott Randall, Lee Ritenour, and a handful of other guys. They were tough on guitar players. lol.
    Great story about the song "Peg" from the album "Aja". Seven of the top studio guitarists came in and layed down solos (including Robben Ford and Larry Carlton). They were unhappy with all of them and ended up using the 7th guy, Jay Graydon. Jay is a monster and it still took him 6 hours to come up with something they liked.
    Well shit me. No wonder all their solos are so great!

    I think Rick Beato has a video about 3 classic rock solos and he talks about PEG in that one, Pretty cool stuff!
     

    Gabby Heafy

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  • Apr 5, 2020
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    Here are my thoughts about this album, it has a funky mix, jazz, rock. blues... so many styles, Incredibly exceptional, I love them. I'll keep listening it, no doubt. As I always started researching about this band, this album received very good reviews and when I was listening to it I couldn’t agree more.

    My Fav Songs:

    Kid Charlemagne:
    It's a fusion of funk rhythm and jazz harmonies with rock and roll instrumentals and lyrical flair. Donald has a dreamy voice and WOW what can i say, i just loved that guitar solo! Larry Carlton's a complete genius, hands down to this man!! :rock-hand:

    The Caves of Altamira: totally my favorite!! This is one of the most amazing songs i've ever heard. What a powerful effect of accompanying voices, holding those high notes to the last chorus! i loved it so much.

    Don’t take me alive: BEST guitar intro!! When songs get 'stuck' in your head, this is one of the ones I want to stay...... yeah :explode-skull:

    The Fez : Excellent notes and that interesting drum beat. Totally a brilliant song!!

    Everything you did: Stunning guitar solo. The tone, the phrasing, just great. For me this is one of Donald's best vocal performances! i Loved it!!

    @Syn Gates Thank you for this excellent recommendation, I have completely fall in love with this Band! You're really expanding my mind more and I love it! lol! Thank you Genio, Te Amo! be safe:syn::rainbow-mushroom::pink-heart:
     
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    Ed Seith

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    I've heard the hits and the deep AOR cuts for decades, but aside from Greatest Hits and maybe Aja, I never dug too deep. On first listen, if asked to sum the whole thing up, it would be something like "A seasoned jazz ensemble in the 70s decided to make a contemporary pop-rock record." Of course, it would be "classic rock" now, but back in 76, it was pretty contemporary.

    I've never been a big fan of fuzz tones (too thin and fizzy), and they were all over a lot of lead guitar in the 70s, including here. It doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the playing, but they're not tones I would ever try to chase. For the era, I liked more of the big, round lead tones of Tom Scholz and Barry Goudreau in Boston, and Gerry Rafferty.

    Some of the rhythm guitar tracking is a LOT more complex than you would imagine from a general listen of the songs, and that's part of what betrays the jazz roots here. The layers and layers of vocals, creamy as butter, sound fantastic and so much more organic than a lot of the stuff you hear today in similar styles. In fact, that brings forward again one of the best things about 70s music, just how REAL and GROUNDED and ORGANIC it sounds. I think a lot of modern music has lost its way on that front, with the endless quantizing and pitch correction of everything. Those old records always sound like so much more of a PERFORMANCE than modern records do.

    And the complexity and frequency of the chord changes (also indicating the jazz heritage) also kind of made me realize just how much of an influence early punk was on rock - this was an era before "all you need is three chords and the truth" had really seeped into the mainstream by the rock and "hair metal" of the early 80s.

    A really good listen alongside maybe some classic Chicago, before they started pumping out hit ballads and such.
     

    Aquamandy

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  • Feb 22, 2021
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    So, I listened to it again and paid really close attention. First, I have to talk about the drums. That groove is insane! Those snares are top notch. My friend and drummer @Aquamandy actually knows more about drum techniques, but damn, what a groove! Bernard Purdie did an oustanding job.
    You're so right sys! Although I know less about drum techniques than I should, LOL, these drums are complex and the use of snares, especially cross stick, (when the snare goes TOCK instead of TAH) and opening hi-hats (when it goes TSSHHHHTS instead of TSSSS - is this making sense? :ROFLMAO:) really adds some unique texture to the grooves, and to be honest it requires some deep training to execute the hi-hat technique, so this really shows off how good was Bernard Purdie's work 🔥
     
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    Aquamandy

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  • Feb 22, 2021
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    This month I'm gonna start my review commenting song by song:

    Kid Charlemagne: So groovy! A great opener, good voice, good beat, killer solo (I really wonder how was Papa Gates's version because what I heard was already powerful!), and deep lyrics.

    The Caves Of Altamira: This song is lighter in rhythm, but not on meaning. I got too attached to the chorus, very catchy! Also, I love how the song is constructed based on a historical fact but they made it very lyrical. I think that's the magic of doing music in general, being able to tell stories in beautiful and unique ways that could make the listener understand what's about but also feel this enchanting vibe. 🙂

    Don't Take Me Alive: Fantastic intro, I really liked the song construction here, the guitar never stops shining, and the voice and the drums are very well connected, especially in the chorus.

    Sign In Stranger: The piano really caught my attention. The music flows nice, but I like how it intensifies in the end, making the music have a bigger impact to the listener.

    The Fez: I love the groove! I don't know why, but I found it pretty good, I know there's something here that caught my attention but I can't identify what, I know I like the vibe, there's one instrument here that's making me FEEL this groove is special but it's making me intrigued that I can't really point out what 🧐

    Green Earrings: The guitar is spectacular here, but for me the drums are more (sorry not sorry! 😎), the fast beat, with so many breaks, it's so difficult to perform, but it was so well executed that I'm impressed! 😮

    Haitian Divorce: GOD that's my favorite song by far! I liked the guitar effect, which my little sister @Batbia after said it was a talkbox (and I was like: wtf is a talkbox? At the moment I thought it was something related to the singer LOL I really am that guitar ignorant 😅). Btw, the guitar at 3:09 gives me chills! 😨Oh, and the singer's voice adapts so well to the song's vibe.

    Everything You Did: This song has a different beat than the others. I really felt a heavy Cross Stick snare sound here, that's for me what made the song sound so different, I like how the lyrics keep returning to the verse "Everything You Did Baby".

    The Royal Scam: The album title track and also the last song really had to be that special! I loved the riff! After hearing it I knew it was going to be a very enjoyable song. Though this is the longest song, I barely felt the time passing by, really catchy, the combination of the diverse instruments is pretty well made, I liked the choir at the end too.

    After hearing all the album, I had my top 3:

    🥇 Haitian Divorce
    🥈 The Royal Scam
    🥉 Don't Take Me Alive

    Now talking about the drums, which is something I really pay attention when listening to different music styles, I got impressed at the hi-hat variations, specially opening hi-hats (for those who aren't used at this language, is when the hi-hat goes tss-tss-TSSHHHHT-tss-tss). They are present in most of the album, and they are SO SO difficult to perform (at least for myself, a poor drummer who lacks so much at technique 🤡), cause it requires you some precision to open and hit the hi-hat at the right time, it can't be done when it's totally closed or totally open, it NEEDS to happen when is opening, which means the sound can also be affected if it's half open, a quarter open, and blablablah. That being said, the drummer really nails at this cause his hi-hat has a constant sound, and if this isn't enough, he also performs them under time breakings which also needs a lot of attention to do while drumming, so matching these 2 for me is the drumming chaos and somehow it was done perfectly, I'm SHOCKED. Always heard jazz drumming is one of the hardest styles but analyzing it today made me realize how THAT hard it is.

    And back to the album in general, I liked how the entire album is under the same concept and the same vibe, but each song has it's personality without escaping the album style. For me that's a great musical challenge, to make everything sound so connected without being repetitive. It takes a lot of creativity to do that and The Royal Scam makes it with property.

    That being said, my final words to this AOTM are: SEE THE GLORY OF THE ROYAL SCAM! 😎💪
     

    Marco Gilli

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    I had it for some time already in the list of albums to listen to and after your suggestion I finally remembered to listen to it. The grooves throughout the album are absurd. It's catchy and extremely complex and varied at the same time. I will listen to it better to understand it fully, but at first listen i really loved the opener and Green Earrings (the harmonic at the beginning of the guitar solo is spectacular). GREAT record 😎
     
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    Batbia

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    This album is absolutely complex, but equally amazing! I can hear a lot of different elements and they are very well combined, creating a totally unique sound and experience! Every song is so different compared to the others and has something special, but here's my Top 3 tracks:

    🥇1 - Haitian Divorce: I found the guitar for this song so cool, and the solo is so mindblowing! Really loved the effects, they bring this song to a whole new level (I'm not sure, but I think it's a talkbox?), because they are really well used!
    🥈2 - The Royal Scam: A hell of a choice for a closing track! Loved the keys, and the opening riff creates a really cool listening atmosphere that lasts until the very last second of the album, finishing this work with such style!
    🥉3 - Don't Take Me Alive: The intro is amazing and it basically summarizes how good every instrument is well handled on this song, shoutout to the drums (they are really on point here) and to the guitar (it's insane)! Also, vocals really reached it's peak on the chorus, they are amazing!
    🏅Honorable Mentions: Kid Charlemagne (the solo and the outro are out of this world 🙀 I would pay anything to listen to PG's broken string version, it got me really curious now 👀) and The Fez (the chorus is so catchy and makes me wanna dance!)

    In conclusion, this album is a must-have piece on every musician repertory! Overall, highlight goes to the guitar work, because the riffs are absolutely flawless on every song, and also to vocals, the harmonies are so perfect, very well arranged and well executed!
     

    Batbia

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    You're so right sys! Although I know less about drum techniques than I should, LOL, these drums are complex and the use of snares, especially cross stick, (when the snare goes TOCK instead of TAH) and opening hi-hats (when it goes TSSHHHHTS instead of TSSSS - is this making sense? :ROFLMAO:) really adds some unique texture to the grooves, and to be honest it requires some deep training to execute the hi-hat technique, so this really shows off how good was Bernard Purdie's work 🔥
    So nice of you to include translations for non-drummers between parenthesis here because I honestly had no clue what you were talking about :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
     

    redlipsofdeceit

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  • Oct 21, 2020
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    I liked the guitar effect, which my little sister @Batbia after said it was a talkbox (and I was like: wtf is a talkbox? At the moment I thought it was something related to the singer LOL I really am that guitar ignorant 😅)
    When I first saw the word "talkbox", I also thought it was something related to singers, but then I found out I already knew what it was, I just didn't know the name 😂 Richie Sambora is the first person that comes to mind when I think about it. And also Jerry Cantrell, 'cause I remember seeing him use it during an Alice In Chains concert that I attended.
     
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    Aquamandy

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    When I first saw the word "talkbox", I also thought it was something related to singers, but then I found out I already knew what it was, I just didn't know the name 😂 Richie Sambora is the first person that comes to mind when I think about it. And also Jerry Cantrell, 'cause I remember seeing him use it during an Alice In Chains concert that I attended.
    Yes I heard it before and never knew it was a talkbox too! The way Bia explained me was "do you remember that WOWOWO section on Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi? Or that midsection on The House Jack Built - Metallica?"
    Then I was "oooooh ok ok, now I get it" 😂