Whether 1972 or ’73 was the best ever year for rock releases is endlessly arguable, but those fabulously rich years – which brought us Exile On Main St, Ziggy Stardust, Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Tubular Bells, Quadrophenia and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – were a freakish non-stop conveyor belt delivery of shit-hot vinyl.
Slap-bang in the middle of that golden period, in January ’73 (two months earlier in the US), Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill arrived, with its knowing artistry and its stylishly crafted pop-and-rock mix, splashed with country and jazz flavours and wrapped up in a seductive aura of musical and lyrical sophistication.
Right from the off, with the summer-zephyr feel of Do It Again and its tricksy guitar and keyboard solos, the following Dirty Work, and the ‘class’-stamped Only A Fool Would Say That, it’s clear that Cant Buy A Thrill is not going to be an album of three-chord tricks.
For many its big sell will be the bouncy Reelin’ In The Years, with its celebrated twin-guitar solo (often cited as a favourite of Jimmy Page), while Midnight Cruiser and Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me) – the former with yet another hot, gritty guitar solo – are mature rock-pop songs that grow in stature with repeated listenings.
Can’t Buy A Thrill not only became a period classic, it also helped usher in a new type of album, one bought not only by rock-pop fans but also the hip-cool sophisticates. This 50th-anniversary remaster reissue comes on SACD and audiophile vinyl pressings, but even on a battered and scarred original the music’s class is clear.