The Royal Scam is the first Steely Dan record that doesn't exhibit significant musical progress from its predecessor, but that doesn't mean the album is any less interesting. The cynicism that was suppressed on Katy Lied comes roaring to the surface on The Royal Scam -- not only are the lyrics bitter and snide, but the music is terse, broken, and weary. Not so coincidentally, the album is comprised of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's weakest set of songs since Can't Buy a Thrill. Alternating between mean-spirited bluesy vamps like "Green Earrings" and "The Fez" and jazzy soft rock numbers like "The Caves of Altamira," there's nothing particularly bad on the album, yet there are fewer standouts than before. Nevertheless, the best songs on The Royal Scam, like the sneering "Kid Charlemagne" and "Sign in Stranger," rank as genuine Steely Dan classics.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine