The challenge of change, but Steely Dan’s debut underwhelms

Can’t Buy a Thrill

Released November 1972. Written 2022.

Written by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The vocals are by Fagen, Becker, David Palmer, and Jim Hodder. Donald Fagen also played piano, electric piano and the plastic organ, Walker Becker played electric bass guitar, and Jim Hodder played drums and percussion, with Jeff Baxter (guitar) and Danny Dais (guitar). Gary Katz produced the album. Can’t Buy a Thrill boast the most interesting lyrics and perspectives of 1972.

There is a novel expression, and the music runs smoothly. Thematically, the album appears to turn on the first and last songs, making a thematic cohesion. The songs in-between reflect something of the theme, which have a negative charge as it observes the fallibility of the human condition and being unable to change.

The writers appear to not embrace change, instead they observe and comment on human nature and coming to terms with the inevitable strains of life, failure, free will, the meaning of existence, playing the fool (foolishly), how life can stack up, and insincerity. The challenge of this album from a Christian perspective is to decide to change some things that work against our soul. As an album, it tends to play in the lower key musically which to my soul wasn’t filling, but Do It Again plays on a higher level.

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers.

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