--Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, liner notes for 1998 re-issue
In the Summer of '73 Steely Dan followed up their critically acclaimed Top 20 debut with Countdown to Ecstasy. The band enjoyed more critical acclaim ( Robert Christgau praised the band's "studio slickness -perfect licks that crackle and buzz when you listen hard")" but not as many sales, thanks to the lack of a single on the scale of Can't Buy A Thrill's "Do It Again" and "Reeling in the Years".
It's not a popular opinion but to these ears Countdown to Ecstasy is a bit of a sophmore slump. "The Boston Rag", "Pearl of the Quarter" and "King of the World" can't hold my interest and I'm just annoyed by "Bodhisattva" despite the dueling lead guitars of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Denny Dias.
And, right there, I've just disparaged half the album's eight songs.
That leaves four classics though: the singles "My Old School" and "Showbiz Kids" still get plenty of FM radio play ( Rickie Lee Jones does a super cover of 'Showbiz Kids' on 2000's It's Like This) and "Your Gold Teeth" and "Razor Boy" are bold exciting explorations into the places where jazz and rock meet. Lyrically, you have to appreciate these cynical and sarcastic East Coasters fuming about having to live in phony Los Angeles where show biz kids are making movies about themselves "you know they don't give a fuck about anybody else".