Divided over The Dan (part one): Countdown To Ecstasy vs The Royal Scam

It would seem that there’s some dissention in the ranks here at Black Wax Reviews.

While we’re generally a pretty peaceful species, trying to determine the best ever Steely Dan album has brought our staff to the brink of fisticuffs. (Talk about your politics and religion all you want; we’re all about acceptance. But favorite album by The Dan; them’s fightin’ words.)

So in our attempt to be fair and indifferent (heh), we’re going to break it down and let you, our Dear Readers, decide.

Steely Dan BCE (Before Common Era): To include all albums from Can’t Buy A Thrill to Gaucho.

A solid 50% of our team stands behind Countdown To Ecstasy,

Countdown To Ecstasy

while the other half lauds The Royal Scam as Steely Dan’s best BCE recording.

The Royal Scam

Two Against Nature

Everything Must Go

Steely Dan CE (Common Era): To include all albums after The Absence (1981-1993); that is, Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go.

Again, we’re split right down the middle. One half of the team shouts “Two Against Nature”, while the other half stands there looking down at their shoes, shaking their heads with a condescending, wry smile on their collective face, muttering “Everything Must Go” repeatedly.

Rather than leave the outcomes of such critical issues up to mere human emotion, we decided to find out, once and for all, the answers to these mysteries that have plagued humanity for millennia. We took the time and energy to input our raw data directly to our Computer System (which boasts a pretty glamorous baud rate) and relied on pure logic for our answers.

We wrote a little code (no big deal) and programmed our Computer System to compare, side-by-side, the first songs from Countdown To Ecstasy and The Royal Scam; then the second songs; then the third songs, and so on; utilizing a highly-complex Eleven Star Rating System in order to determine which song was statistically superior and mathematically more enjoyable.

The results were nothing short of astonishing.

Countdown To Ecstasy vs The Royal Scam

Purportedly significant. Statistically moribund.

Song One: Bodhisattva vs Kid Charlemagne… This one was highly predictable; Kid Charlemagne is the superior song for a couple reasons… First, Bodhisattva is overplayed. And while it does score points for starting the song with a rest (the first beat we hear is actually the ‘and’ of ‘one’), Kid Charlemagne’s incredible guitar solo outweighs the coolness of Bodhisattva. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for The Royal Scam.

Song Two: Razor Boy vs Caves of Altamira… Razor Boy wins this one, not only for being mathematically more listenable, but also for successfully blending slide guitar twang with jazzy vibes and hippie angst at the realization of mortality. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for Countdown To Ecstasy.

Song Three: Boston Rag vs Don’t Take Me Alive… TIE! While Boston Rag is one of the most celebrated pieces of recorded sound known to humanity (so catchy, so poignant), Don’t Take Me Alive starts with with of the most majestically magnificent pieces of guitar work (by none other than Mister 335, Larry Carlton Himself) ever to grace the spectrum of humanly perceptible sound. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for each album.

Song Four: Your Gold Teeth vs Sign In Stranger… Sign In Stranger is the superior song. Our computer readout cites “cooler storyline” and “sweet piano thing” as deciding factors. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for The Royal Scam.

Song Five: Show Biz Kids vs The Fez… Show Biz Kids is inherently better for its inclusion of a highly contentious word popularly used as an insult or as part of a threat in the parlance of our times. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for Countdown To Ecstasy.

Song Six: My Old School vs Green Earrings… Green Earrings is qualitatively better. Even though My Old School talks about Guadalajara, Mexico, in the end, the line “Greek medallion sparkles when you smile” tipped the computer’s scales in favor of this late-70’s ode to love. Or to women of a certain dental persuasion, anyway. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for The Royal Scam.

What Walt wants, Walt gets.

Song Seven: Pearl of The Quarter vs Haitian Divorce… While Haitian Divorce would seem to be the obvious choice based on the talk box thing alone, our trusty Computer System cited Pearl of The Quarter as being more mathematically enjoyable for its inclusion of the following lyrical content: “voulez-voulez-voulez vouz”. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for Countdown To Ecstasy.

Song Eight: King of The World vs Everything You Did… Everything You Did is the stronger, more enjoyable, and highly more listenable song. Our computer readout cites such deciding factors as inclusion of the words “roller skater” as well as the whole Eagles reference thing. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for The Royal Scam.

Song Nine: (No ‘song nine’ on Countdown To Ecstasy) vs The Royal Scam… The Royal Scam is superior by default, since Countdown To Ecstasy only features eight songs. Also, The Royal Scam happens to be the best song from the album of the same title. Our technologically-advanced Computer System awarded extra bonus points for being so haunting, both lyrically and melodically, and cited rich harmonic structure as a key factor in its determination as superior. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One point for The Royal Scam.

ADDITIONAL STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT VARIABLES

Countdown To Ecstasy only featured three kick-ass guitarists (Denny Dias, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Rick Derringer), while The Royal Scam featured five (Walter Becker, Larry Carlton, Denny Dias, Dean Parks, Elliot Randall). STATISTICAL OUTCOME: Two extra points for Royal Scam (one per extra kick-ass guitarist).

Inclusion of vibraphone — Countdown To Ecstasy features vibraphone on Razor Boy. No vibraphone is to be found anywhere on The Royal Scam. STATISTICAL OUTCOME: One extra point for Countdown To Ecstasy.

MATHEMATICAL RESULTS

Steely Dan rely only upon the finest state-of-the-art equipment for capturing the magics in their musics.

After months of processing time and countless reels of tape, our highly refined Computer System has determined that, logically speaking, and based purely on fact, The Royal Scam is the superior Steely Dan album in comparison to its inferior predecessor, Countdown To Ecstasy. The Royal Scam’s total of eight (8) Cool Points, in stark contrast to Countdown To Ecstasy’s mere five (5) successfully proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Steely Dan’s 1976 effort is logically and morally superior to their 1974 output.

We at Black Wax Reviews hope that this is helpful in furthering current research in the field, and applaud the efforts of all programmers, hackers, and hacks involved.

What say you, Fellow Dan Fan? Weigh in with your comments below.