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4.8 out of 5 stars
Katy Lied
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101 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
By 1975, Steely Dan had abandoned touring and reconvened in L.A. to wring songs of confusion, loss, mayhem, and strange lust out of a new Bosendorfer and some ace studio musicians. The cryptic lyrics of such songs as "Dr Wu," and "Rose Darling" shimmer as in a dream amongst the syncopation and searing guitar work (just who is Snake Mary?). Although these are all rock songs, they are arranged and played in a jazz idiom for the backing tracks, giving Steely Dan their unique soundworld.
Walter Becker and Donald Fagan's talents begin to bloom here. Freed from the grind of touring that wore down so many bands with potential, they could concentrate on their neurotic perfectionism and create recorded music that is both clear and deep.
This reissue sparkles, the musical layers in relief, the sneer and terror in Donald Fagan's voice ringing over the snap and smear of Michael Omartian's dynamic pianism. Donald Fagan and David Paitch contribute keyboards of various types throughout, always to good effect. Larry Carlton, Denny Dias, Rick Derringer, Dean Parks, Hugh McCracken, and Walter Becker contribute the excellent guitar work.
The album begins with an ominous song of dread, "Black Friday," whose existance might alone justify the invention of the electric piano, if that invention might need to be justified.
The big Bosendorfer powers the next cut, the classic "Bad Sneakers," a tale of exile and aimlessness in the big city. Michael McDonald's back-up vocals of "Goin' insane" give the song some bluesy atmosphers, while the nearly whimsical guiter solo over some nice piano chops belies the seriousness of the song's existential dilemma.
And of course, certainly one of the 10 best Steely Dan songs, "Dr. Wu," a Miami Beach epic of the love jones and Asian physicians. Once again the piano strikes like a bell, and Porcarco's minimal percussion on the verse ticks like a bomb. Fagan's lament for his lost and future love murders me still, as it killed me back in 1977. Phil Woods takes this song into the stratosphere with an alto saxophone solo few could match; consider how well this solo works in the context of the music and the lyrics compared to the clumsliness with which most solos intrude on other songs.
Katy Lied, indeed. Like a fresh morning breeze on a summer day that carries the portent of pain and a lonely night. In short, a masterpiece.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Not telling you anything you don't already know, but this memory surfaces everytime I see the cover of or play any of the songs on Katy Lied. When this album came out, my high school science class was dabbling in entomology (bugs) so I paid attention to the seemingly inscrutable cover art of Katy Lied. Well, as we all know, it's a Katydid... just another sardonic Becker-Fagen play on words. But the knowledge that Katy did, gives an extra punch to Fagen's 'I was half-way crucified' lyric. Dr. Wu is their best song ever.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2002
Format: Audio CD
"Katy Lied" is the best album Steely Dan did, improving even on "Pretzel Logic". Why? This album plays to the band's strengths: Donald Fagen's incredible piano playing and the songwriting. They were at their best with edgy, cynical and clever lyrics and that is in abundance here. Throw in some other well-known names like guitarist Rick Derringer and vocalist Michael McDonald here and it add even more. The leadoff track, "Black Friday" is a brutal tale about a guy who causes financial panic and flees to Australia to "feed all the kangaroos". Great guitar work make this an excellent leadoff track and a minor Top 40 hit. "Bad Sneakers", an FM staple, is funky and mellow; listen for McDonald's distinctive background vocals (you also hear him on "Any World That I'm Welcome To"). "Daddy Don't Live in that New York City No More", a story about a broken-down wiseguy, is another number with clever, subtle lyrics (you get the lyrics on the Dan's remastered CDs, which can be very helpful). "Doctor Wu" is the album's tour-de-force, with beautiful piano and a haunting alto sax solo by Phil Woods; this might be THE track that best defines the band. "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" is a close second to "Doctor Wu"; the lyrics about a neighborhood weirdo with his movie projector are absolutely irresistable and classic Dan (many have tried, and failed, to adequately parlay similar worldviews into artistic success). Piano fans will like "Your Gold Teeth II", a completely different tune than its namesake on "Countdown to Ecstacy". "Chain Lightning" is maybe the album's coolest track and has more toughness in the lyrics. The aforementioned "Any World", another FM staple, is a great tale of loneliness and searching for a place that is elusive. "Throw Back the Little Ones" is hard to figure out, but you gotta love the refrain: "Throw back the little ones and pan-fry the big ones; use poise, tact and reason and gently squeeze them". This is one of my very favorite CDs.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Steely Dan never made a bad album/CD, period. This is their best. If just for the bass riff in Gold Teeth, you need this CD. The level of muscianship has never been surpassed. The level of sophistication and insight is in a class by itself. The unbelievable quest for perfection that these two guys were on is unique in the pop music world, and I feel that the pinacle was Katy Lied. You can never get tired of this CD, it is timeless and absolutely amazing.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This music is over 30 years old. Katy Lied is a treasure, a fine compilation of smooth rock with great lyrics, guitar solos, and jazzy overtones. Steely Dan's greatest hits CD's are good, but CD's like this one really show how the songs belong together and have a musical flow where you look forward to each song on the CD.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I should probably start by saying that there are no bad songs on Katy Lied (that's probably what you wanted to know, anyway). In fact, everything here is really good. It's one of those albums where even the weakest tracks would be the standouts on just about any other record. Musically, it sees the Dan taking their signature mixture of jazz, pop, R&B, rock `n' roll, and blues to its absolute zenith. The compositions combine complexity and accessibility in much the same way that the music on Steely Dan's previous record (1974's phenomenal Pretzel Logic) did to such a satisfying effect. If anything, the genre bending on Katy Lied is more pronounced and accomplished- stylistic nods to bebop, boogie rock, and sunshine pop come off exceptionally well. Lyrically, it's loaded with great examples of the Dan's trademark penchant for cynicism, dark humor, irony, and sarcasm, with the occasional sliver of genuine sentiment sneaking in through the cracks.

All of which combines to form one of the most well-conceived and brilliantly executed albums of all time, and a fantastic listen. "Black Friday" opens the album with a burst of thundering blues-rock, complete with greasy guitars and mean attitude. The lyrics, meanwhile, take a sly, sharp stab at shameless opportunism and economic chaos. "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" and "Chain Lightning" are similarly cool blues grinders. "Bad Sneakers" and "Any World (That I'm Welcome To)" are among the Dan's most affecting songs, with their spot-on depictions of alienation and longing. "Everyone's Gone To The Movies" is one of the group's most brilliantly twisted tunes. It combines an infectious, vaguely Caribbean melody with lyrics that are warm, inviting, and innocent... at least, that's how it may seem the first time you listen to it. "Dr. Wu" is a jazz-rock classic, with its swirling horns and soaring melody. The lyrics somehow manage to be simultaneously hip, affecting, and cryptic. Then there's "Your Gold Teeth II," an intoxicating whirl of Coltrane-esque bebop and pop sensuality. "Rose Darling" is an irresistible tongue-in-cheek ballad. Album closer "Throw Back The Little Ones" is a sumptuous conclusion to one of the greatest albums ever recorded. Get it!
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD
I have several Steely Dan albums, including this one, and they are all filled with great songs, performed well by exceptional musicians (they had great taste in guitarists and really gave them the opportunity to shine) and with excellent production. There are no bad songs on any of the albums I have. I also recommend Aja (sublime), Royal Scam & Gaucho. I should really try some of their newer stuff too (the singles sound great).
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
And you will listen to it again and again and again over the months and then years and then decades, yes, decades and it will only get better and better. The source of the Nile is "Doctor Wu," an actual romantic and wonderful Steely Dan composition that is just plain unequalled -- dizzy joy, everything is all right. This album is the moment before enlightenment, poised on the edge of -- well, being. It's as far as they could go without burning their ships and accepting the new world.

Can you hear me, Doctor..?

Are you with me, Doctor..?

They could charge five hundred dollars for this album and it would still be an obscene bargain, you just can't find music this good anywhere else.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2008
Format: Audio CD
If you appreciate the precision, beauty, incisiveness, and atmosphere Steely Dan conjures, this is for you. Albums don't get any finer than this.

A skilled actor knows that tears withheld are far more poignant than buckets cried, and this work shows the same beautiful, painful restraint. Each track can stand alone in this dark short-story collection, but when this CD is viewed as a whole, you're immersed in Steely Dan's parallel world of the singular loner. The instrumentals are perfect, and Fagen's voice is at its alternately cool and urgent best. As intimate and bittersweet as this music is, we're not left to appreciate just the vignettes and melodies because the craftsmanship is there too, once you manage to think past the tales and reflect on what lays behind them.

New SD fans will find this CD delivers swift understanding of SD's realm, while old time fans will count this as the heart of their collection.

Sometimes you listen to a work and understand that it represents the artist's efforts to connect to the audience. This isn't like that. This is inner thoughts simply put out there, and is why it's Steely Dan at their purest, just being without regard to marketability or hit potential. Making this work was probably an act of faith, knowing that people who needed to get it would.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2000
Format: Audio CD
On "Katy Lied," Steely Dan basically refines what they began in "Pretzel Logic" to a smooth finish; scaling their music back into more concise playing. It may be a pop concession, but it works beautifully on both albums. However, some of the songs on "Pretzel Logic" felt like they were clipped, as if they would've benefited from the band hanging in there for another minute or two. I didn't get that feeling with "Katy Lied," which is why I think it's a better album. For new pop/rock oriented listeners, it's probably the next best album to buy after "Greatest Hits `72-78" or "A Decade of Steely Dan." Each track is enjoyable and impeccably performed, particularly "Black Friday," "Bad Sneakers," and "Doctor Wu." There's one great gem on this album in "Gold Teeth II." It's the one track where the players really get to lay out, resulting in a lovely, supple guitar solo, possibly the most exquisite ever put on a Steely Dan cut. Furthermore, there's also a warmth to the music, not just the sound, that wasn't present in their previous album. Steely Dan has always been more cerebral and complex than emotional and direct, but on a track like "Any World That I'm Welcome To," they show strong hints of the latter.
It's unfortunate the album fell short of the group's expectations: a malfunction in a DBX console flubbed the sound on the master tapes. They couldn't fix it, and neither could DBX, so with only a few days to press time, they mixed down a new master (not rerecord, as some believe), resulting in what was considered inferior to all involved. However, keep on mind these guys are the most meticulous studio artists in the world; "Katy Lied" may fail their standards but it still sounds like solid gold.
One more thing for audiophiles out there: if you end up buying their CD's used, try to get either the initial pressings or the reissues made in 1993 and after. Pressings/issues made in between came from inferior analog tapes rather than the digital masters carefully prepared by Gary Katz in the early 80's or the transfers made in the 90's (see the Steely Dan bio "Reelin' In The Years" for details).
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