This scam went off without a hitch, reaching #15 in 1976 and hitting the charts with Kid Charlemagne and The Fez . The Dan are at their wry, sardonic best here, with gems like Green Earrings and Haitian Divorce -and this reissue has complete lyrics and original artwork for the first time since the album's original release!
Ever the primary conceit of mainstays Walter Becker
and Donald Fagen
, 1976's The Royal Scam
marks the first time the Steely Dan duo actually owned up to the fact. Musically, it's their edgiest, most guitar-driven record (thanks to Becker and a murderer's row of session greats that includes Larry Carlton
, Elliot Randall, Dean Parks, and Denny Dias). Lyrically, the songs cut an ever-sardonic, presciently discomforting slice of modern life that was a couple decades ahead of the game (who else was extolling the virtues of condom-couture, à la "The Fez," mid-Me Decade?). Though it didn't garner the radio attention of Aja
, its more jazz-suffused, multiplatinum follow-up, Scam
boasts a diverse, occasionally muscular musical rhetoric and some of the Dan's most telling portraits (the deranged, yet all-too-familiar killer of "Don't Take Me Alive," "Kid Charlemagne"'s drug-culture celebrity, the tropical convenience of a "Haitian Divorce"). Small wonder many Dan fans consider it their best. --Jerry McCulley