Steely Dan's 'Countdown To Ecstasy' Remastered From Original Analog Tapes


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Steely Dan Reissue promo
Reissue promo

(UMe) Steely Dan's sprawling 1973 sophomore LP, Countdown To Ecstasy, with such standouts as "Bodhisattva," "Show Biz Kids" and "My Old School," sung by founding member Donald Fagen who took over as lead vocalist, will return to vinyl on May 26th via Geffen/UMe, continuing the extensive reissue program of the band's classic ABC and MCA Records catalog. The series, which began in November 2022 with the Dan's legendary debut LP, Can't Buy A Thrill, is being personally overseen by Fagen, and returns the group's first seven records to vinyl, most of which haven't been available since their original release.

Countdown To Ecstasy has been meticulously remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes and will be pressed on 180-gram black vinyl at 33 1/3 RPM. Additionally, the album has just been released as 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). Pre-order at Amazon (ad).

Additional albums will roll out periodically over the next year and will include 1974's jazzy Pretzel Logic, their first Top 10 album with the massive hit, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number;" 1975's swing-pop perfection Katy Lied, with highlights "Black Friday," "Bad Sneakers" and "Doctor Wu," and the addition of Michael McDonald on vocals; 1976's guitar-driven The Royal Scam, featuring "Kid Charlemagne" and "The Fez;" 1977's platinum-selling jazz-rock masterwork Aja, which includes the three hit singles - "Deacon Blues," "Peg" and "Josie" - and the elegant title cut; and their final album for MCA, and last for 20 years, 1980's brilliant Gaucho, with "Hey Nineteen," and "Time Out Of Mind," featuring Mark Knopfler on guitar.

All albums are being mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes except for Aja, which will be 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.

The 45 RPM UHQR versions 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.

Led by the songwriting and virtuoso musical duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan released an extraordinary run of seven albums on ABC Records and MCA Records from 1972 through 1980. Filled with topline musicianship, clever and subversive wordplay, ironic humor, genius arrangements, and pop hits that outshone the Top 40 of its day, their records, which were as sophisticated and cerebral as they were inscrutable, were stylistically diverse, melding their love of jazz with rock, blues, and impeccable pop songcraft.

Steely Dan's second record, Countdown To Ecstasy, released on ABC Records in July 1973, found the band exploring more of their rock side and reverting to its original five-man lineup, with original vocalist David Palmer departing and Fagen taking over lead vocals. As Becker and Fagen wrote in the liner notes for the 1998 CD reissue of the album, "Countdown To Ecstasy is unique amongst the Steely Dan albums in that it is the only one written and arranged for a working ensemble. For this reason, the arrangements were influenced for the better by the known instrumental textures and musical personalities of the band itself, and also for the worse by the horror and prolonged ennui of the odious weekend outings forced on us by our manager during the very recording process itself." Much of the material was honed live onstage as a result of the band's hectic tour schedule following the success of Can't Buy A Thrill.

Upon its release, Countdown To Ecstasy was well received critically but was not an instant commercial success, despite eventually going on to be certified gold. Nonetheless the press was impressed with the band's second outing: Robert Christgau raved in Creem about their "studio-perfect licks that crackle and buzz," while Billboard exclaimed, "this fine group with its enriched vocals and fine instrumental playing, has emerged as a powerful new group." Rolling Stone declared, "the Steelies strike gold and really boogie." Fifty years on and the album only continues to grow in stature amongst fans and critics, with inclusion in best of all time lists, and perfect score retrospective reviews from Rolling Stone, All Music and others.

The Steely Dan vinyl reissue program follows 2021's release of Steely Dan's Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live! and a live version of Donald Fagen's acclaimed solo album, The Nightfly Live, which were both released via UMe on 180-gram vinyl, CD, and digital. The first live Steely Dan album in more than 25 years, Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live! was recorded across tour dates at New York City's Beacon Theatre, The Met Philadelphia, and more, and showcases selections from Steely Dan's extraordinary catalog of slinky grooves, sleek subversive lyrics, and infectious hits. Fagen's The Nightfly Live was performed live by The Steely Dan Band.

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