Steely Dan Catalog Vinyl Reissue Campaign Continues

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Steely Dan’s classic ABC and MCA Records catalog continues its return to vinyl with an extensive yearlong reissue program of the band’s first seven albums, which is being personally overseen by founding member Donald Fagen. The LPs, most of which haven’t been widely available since their original release, will be available on 180-gram vinyl via Geffen/UMe. The next title in the series is 1980’s Gaucho, which arrived on December 1, 2023. It’s available in the U.S. here and the U.K. here.

From the October announcement: After nearly two years in the studio, Steely Dan emerged triumphant with their brilliant seventh studio album. The GRAMMY®-winning title would not only mark their final release under MCA Records but also their last studio album for 20 years. Featuring the Top 10 hit “Hey Nineteen,” plus such classic cuts as “Babylon Sisters” and “Time Out of Mind,” Gaucho also boasts a who’s who of legendary guest musicians, including Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald and Bernard Purdie.

The vinyl edition of the band’s acclaimed sixth studio album, 1977’s Aja, considered by many to be their masterwork, was issued on September 29, 2023. It’s the fourth title in the campaign to be returned to vinyl and is available for order here.

From the earlier announcement: Released in 1977, Aja (pronounced Asia) marked Steely Dan’s sixth album in just five years and cemented Fagen and Walter Becker to be the musical visionaries their previous albums hinted at. Alongside longtime producer Gary Katz, Fagen and Becker recorded the album, a heady and sophisticated seven-song statement that blended jazz with progressive pop and rock, over a year and a half in six different studios in Los Angeles and New York. The duo, retired from touring and now true songwriting partners, recruited dozens upon dozens of ace session players to help realize their singular vision. As creatures of the studio, they became sonic perfectionists, in search of the perfect sound and perfect take, scrutinizing every single note played by some of the best in the business, bringing in new musicians and sometimes even entirely new bands to try a different approach, only accepting exactly what they were looking for. In all, nearly forty musicians and vocalists played on the seven-track, forty-minute album including such greats as bassist Chuck Rainey, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, guitarists Dean Parks, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Jay Graydon and Steve Khan, drummers Bernard Purdie, Ed Greene, Jim Keltner, Rick Marotta and Steve Gadd and Victor Feldman and Joe Sample on keys. Timothy B. Schmit and Michael McDonald both contributed backing vocals to several songs.

The album became their fastest seller to date and gave the band their first platinum record, eventually going on to double platinum. Bolstered by two Top 20 U.S. hits, “Peg,” which hit #11 and stayed on the singles chart for more than a year, and “Deacon Blues,” which climbed to #19, plus the Top 40 hit, “Josie” (#26), the album peaked at #3 on the Billboard Top 200. Aja won the GRAMMY for Best Engineered Recording – Non Classical for its meticulous production and was also nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

The previous title in the reissue series was Pretzel Logic, which includes such favorites as “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” and “Barrytown.” That album’s expansive sound is owed in large part to the more-than-a-dozen studio musicians that performed on the album, including drummer Jeff Porcaro and keyboardist David Paich (both later of Toto), as well as guitarist Dean Parks, and seasoned bassists Chuck Rainey and Wilton Felder. The July 28 reissue marked the first time in 35 years that the album—the band’s first to reach the Top 10—was made available in vinyl.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Pretzel Logic

The second album in the series, Countdown to Ecstasy, arrived on May 26. The 1973 LP features such standouts as “Bodhisattva,” “Show Biz Kids” and “My Old School,” sung by Fagen who took over as lead vocalist.

There will also be a limited-edition premium 45 RPM version on Ultra High-Quality Vinyl (UHQR) from Analogue Productions, the audiophile in-house reissue label of Acoustic Sounds. Analogue Productions is also releasing this series of titles on Super Audio CD (SACD).

The series kicked off on Nov. 4, 2022, with the album that started it all, Steely Dan’s legendary 1972 debut LP, Can’t Buy A Thrill, for its 50th anniversary year, featuring the band’s breakthrough hits, “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” and the recently viral “Dirty Work,” with original lead vocalist David Palmer.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Can’t Buy A Thrill

Additional albums rolling out over the next few months are 1975’s swing-pop perfection Katy Lied, with highlights “Black Friday,” “Bad Sneakers” and “Doctor Wu,” and the addition of Michael McDonald on vocals; and 1976’s guitar-driven The Royal Scam, featuring “Kid Charlemagne” and “The Fez.”

More from the label’s announcement: All albums are being remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes except for Aja, which was mastered from an analog, non-EQ’d, tape copy, and Gaucho, which will be sourced from a 1980 analog tape copy originally EQ’d by Bob Ludwig. (There’s no evidence the original tapes containing the flat mixes of Aja and Gaucho were delivered to the record label and it’s presumed the tapes no longer exist.) Lacquers for UMe’s standard 33 1/3 RPM 180-gram version will be cut by Alex Abrash at his renowned AA Mastering studio from high-resolution digital files of Grundman’s new masters and pressed at Precision. They will be housed in reproductions of the original artwork.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Countdown to Ecstasy

[The 45 RPM UHQR version will be pressed at Analogue Productions’ Quality Record Pressings on 200-gram Clarity Vinyl, packaged in a deluxe box, and will include a booklet detailing the entire process of making a UHQR along with a certificate of inspection. Each UHQR is pressed, using hand-selected vinyl, with attention paid to every single detail of every single record. All of the innovations introduced by QRP that have been generating such incredible critical acclaim are applied to each UHQR. The 200-gram records feature the same flat profile that helped to make the original UHQR so desirable.]

Becker and Fagen reunited as Steely Dan in the early ’90s, touring successfully throughout the decade and releasing a live album in 1995 (Alive In America). In 2000, they released their multi-GRAMMY® winner, Two Against Nature, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Fagen continues to tour as Steely Dan; they are the opening act for Eagles’ farewell tour. Tickets are available here and here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. Huw
    #1 Huw 17 September, 2022, 04:25

    Great news. Can they do the same for Little Feat’s back catalogue?

    Reply this comment
    • DAVE
      DAVE 7 June, 2023, 17:29

      It’s funny you should say that, as “Sailin’ Shoes” and “Dixie Chicken” are getting the 180g and CD remastering treatment.

      Reply this comment
  2. 122intheshade
    #2 122intheshade 8 June, 2023, 00:27

    I’m guessing some of the Steely Dan tapes went up in the great Universal fire of 2008. The New York Times chronicled that as “The Day The Music Burned”. It’s a fascinating and heartbreaking story, and you can read it online.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rudy
    #3 Rudy 16 August, 2023, 15:52

    Slight correction–for the UHQR releases by Analogue Productions, Aja is being released Sep 29, and Gaucho on Dec 01, 2023. Katy Lied is scheduled for Mar 23, 2024 and Royal Scam arrives Jun 28. No word on SACD reissues (they usually follow a couple of months after), and Geffen’s schedule for the 180g digitally sourced/Grundman-mastered vinyl is still an unknown.

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