Greatest Hits

Steely Dan

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Greatest Hits Review

by Jason Elias

This 1978 ABC set was issued to bide time between Aja and Gaucho. Despite the generous 18 tracks covering the 1972-1977 work, this didn't take on mythical proportions due to the fact that the band's separate albums all remained strong and the group's better moments weren't always the biggest hits. Despite the cavils, some great work is here. "Do It Again" and "Reelin' in the Years" both broadened what listeners expected from singles as Donald Fagen's ironic vocals were instantly singular and made all of the lyrics stick. By the middle of Greatest Hits, tracks from three albums in particular, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and The Royal Scam, all cohere into an imperfect though cogent sampling of their work. Tracks like "Black Friday," "Pretzel Logic," and "Haitian Divorce" are all nervous energy and gallows humor, all assiduously played in their patented mix of rock, jazz, and R&B. During its initial release, the draw for Greatest Hits was one unreleased track. The elegiac "Here in the Western World" from the Royal Scam sessions perfectly summed up their 1973-1976 sound. The track later showed up on another compilations. "Peg" and "Josie" from Aja show up here as well. What makes Greatest Hits less than essential are the glaring omissions, including "Don't Take Me Alive," "Chain Lightening," and "Deacon Blues." Having "FM" absent doesn't help things either. Unlike many compilations, Greatest Hits isn't a loving look but at a group's recent past, but more a stopgap measure to put product on shelves.

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