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The Royal Scam (1976)
Steely Dan

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User Rating: 5 / 5 [ Add Your Rating ]

Name:  Juergen Martens <>
Rating:  4 / 5
Comments:  A great album, but not so much under the Rhodes aspect: The Royal Scam is also being referred to as the Dan's Guitar Album - it features loads of breathtakingly brillant string work by Larry Carlton on almost every song. Rhodeswise we hear Fagen, Victor Feldman, Don Grolnick and Paul Griffin working their ways through a set of typical SD songs that are yet overall more aggressive in tone and style than anything they did before and after, who knows why. Interesting note: Paul Griffin, who passed away not too long ago, is the only guy who Becker and Fagen ever honored volunteerly with crediting him as a song's co-author. (They HAD to do it a second time when Keith Jarrett caught them with their hands in the cookie jar, ripping off one of his tunes as intro for the tiltle song on Goucho, but that's another story...).

Name:  Dan Belcher <>
Rating:  5 / 5
Comments:  Despite being known as Steely Dan's "guitar album," there's a lot of great keyboard work on The Royal Scam, including some great clavinet, lively acoustic piano, and of course, some smooth, wonderful Fender Rhodes. Don Grolnick does all of the Rhodes parts on this album and does a great job with it. Kid Charlemagne's clavinet steals the show on the keyboard front, but there's some driving Rhodes carrying this tune as well while Larry Carlton works his magic on the guitar. However, the Rhodes piano really gets its proper attention in the delightful Caves of Altamira. Not only does this song have one of the catchiest horn lines of all time, but there's some unmistakably 1970s Rhodes action showing up quite frequently. Don't Take Me Alive is obviously a guitar-oriented song, but that doesn't stop the duo from managing to work in some Rhodes. On Sign in Stranger, the Rhodes takes a back seat to the acoustic piano, but that's perfectly fine in this song -- the bright, up-front piano is amazing. The next song, The Fez, is ridiculously campy and fun with some synthesized strings, an almost-disco beat, and lyrics apparently about wearing a condom. However, it leads to some particularly fun Rhodes soloing and leaves you with a smile. The incredibly funky Green Earrings has very little emphasis on the Rhodes in it, but it's got a great clavinet and is a must-listen. Haitian Divorce brings some almost-reggae to the table with a talkbox guitar lead and backing Rhodes. Everything You Did has once again merely subtle Rhodes, but the organ is awesome and the lyrics are classic ironic Steely Dan. Finally, Don Grolnick gets a chance to shine in the title track that closes the album. This dark, aggressive tune has some swirling atmospheric Rhodes that dies off in a dramatic fadeout.

Name:  JM
Rating:  5 / 5
Comments:  Talkin' 'bout guitars here: many people just say "Larry Carlton" and often forget what impressive marks Elliot Randall left on SD's body of work. Listen to his "coincidential" solo on "Reelin' in the Years" (reportedly Jimmy Page's all-time-fave) and even more "Kings" ( both on "Can't Buy...") or to "Sign in Stranger" and "Green Earrings" (sharing duties here with Denny Dias) on "Scam".
People have said about him that he's a pretty weird fellow, and it shows in his aggressive tone and highly daring, inventive style - just ceeck the raking and crazy bubbly FX in the "Earrings" outro (Ring modulator? Early phase shifter?) Original rating 4, but after having given it some new listenings recently I'll give it a straight 5. Sounds like it's been recorded just yesterday, only the many drum fills rolling all over the toms and the talk-box guitar indicate another era.