Steely Dan Sunday: “Do It Again” from Can’t Buy a Thrill (1972)

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This is the first Steely Dan song from the first album, and their first hit (No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973). Already, however, they are exploring the idea of people succumbing to their worst tendencies again and again – a theme that will get many return visits from the Boys of Bard.

Otherwise, it’s a little unlike typical Steely Dan songs in some ways: “Do It Again” reverbs heavily, with a shimmering electric piano and Donald Fagen’s double-tracked vocals that’s recorded in a sort of evocative way. And then there’s the ritualistic plodding of Latin congas and other percussion. All of this makes the song a little bit spooky sounding. Come to think of it, Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” probably wouldn’t have been out of place on Abraxas by Santana.

But after all these years of listening to “Do It Again,” it’s the two solos that still knock me out. Denny Dias – a criminally underrated guitarist and the author of several other noteworthy Steely Dan solos – plays a sublime electric sitar solo that’s rare in that it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to ape East Indian music. It still manages to feel exotic all the same.

Fagen follows with a pitch-shifting organ solo that gets points not so much for technique, but for the eerie sound he makes with it, matching well with that overall spooky vibe of the song. Credit also goes out to the way the song was recorded: Multi-Grammy award winning engineer Roger Nichols begins his vast legacy right here.

Everyone knows this is a song from 1972, but the combination of the Walter Becker / Donald Fagen songwriting team, precision musicianship and top-notch production makes this one of the most enduring songs from that time. It didn’t always click this well early on, but it was clear right from this beginning that Steely Dan was setting its standards high.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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