Steely Dan's second studio album, originally released in 1973 by ABC Records, was certified gold-selling by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling 500,000 copies in the U.S.
Founded by core members Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards), Steely Dan's popularity rose throughout the late 1970s on, and their seven albums throughout that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. Becker and Fagen, with producer Gary Katz, gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring session musicians to record their compositions. The duo didn't perform live between 1974 and 1993. But their popularity nevertheless grew throughout the '70s as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of Adult Oriented Radio and pop radio stations.
Like Steely Dan's 1972 debut album Can't Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy has a rock sound that exhibits a strong influence from jazz. It comprises uptempo, four-to-five-minute rock songs, which, apart from the bluesy vamps of "Bodhisattva" and "Show Biz Kids," are subtly textured and feature jazz-inspired interludes. Countdown to Ecstasy was the only album written by Steely Dan for a live band. "My Old School" features reverent horns and aggressive piano riffs and guitar solos. "The Boston Rag" develops from a jazzy song to unrefined playing by the band, including a distorted guitar solo by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Jim Hodder's drumming eschews rock music for pop and jazz grooves. Bop-style jazz soloing is set in the context of a pop song on "Bodhisattva". Commenting on the album's style and production, Tom Hull says it is "clean, almost slick," with "no dissonance, no clutter," reminiscent of 1940s bop and "the overproduced early 60s pop rock."
Countdown to Ecstasy has lyrical themes similar to Can't Buy a Thrill. It explores topics such as drug abuse, class envy, and West Coast excess. "My Old School" is inspired by a drug bust involving Walter Becker and Donald Fagen at Bard College, "King of the World" explores a post-Nuclear holocaust United States, and "Show Biz Kids" satirizes contemporary Los Angeles lifestyles.
Rolling Stone described Countdown to Ecstasy as "another dose of mainstream rock and roll, restating the basic themes of Can't Buy a Thrill, but this time concentrating a bit more on the rocking side of their style."
The original cover painting was by Fagen's then-girlfriend Dorothy White. At the insistence of ABC Records president Jay Lasker, however, several figures had to be added when he found the discrepancy between five band members and three figures on the cover unacceptable. The proofs for the album cover were later stolen during a dispute over the final layout. The back cover features an orchid surrounded by the band and their recording equipment.
After a brief battle with esophageal cancer, Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017 at the age of 67. Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. VH1 ranked Steely Dan at No. 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Musical Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone ranked them No. 15 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
- Super Audio CD
- SACD Stereo SACD Layer
- This Hybrid SACD contains a 'Red Book' Stereo CD Layer which is playable on most conventional CD Players!
- Mastered Direct to DSD from the Original Master Tape by Bernie Grundman
- Disc Made in Austria
- Razor Boy
- The Boston Rag
- Your Gold Teeth
- Show Biz Kids
- My Old School
- Pearl of The Quarter
- King of The World