DUST OFF THE VINYL: Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam remains reminiscent but unique 




Steely Dan’s fifth album, The Royal Scam, is a great album with many unique styles. The album is very reminiscent of Steely Dan’s other works but still maintains its place in the group’s pantheon.

The album has a very jazz and rock influenced feel to it. Steely Dan singer Donald Fagen has been quoted saying that both he and the guitarist Walter Becker were heavily influenced by jazz and rock when making all of their music.

The Royal Scam is very similar to some of their other albums, such as Pretzel Logic and Aja. Their songs on this album have many common themes. Jazz instruments and rock riffs alongside great guitar solos.

The album opens with the song “Kid Charlemagne.” It feels very techno, but that still stays below the incredible guitar playing by Larry Carlton. With the solo that Carlton does halfway into the song, it makes the song an instant favorite on the album.

Another song, “The Caves of Altamira,” is great. It has an obvious jazz influence, with John Klemmer having a tenor sax solo in the song that sounds absolutely exceptional. The real life Caves of Altamira are caves where the earliest cave drawings were found. The lyrics hint towards the story of the girl who discovered the caves.

“Green Earrings” is one of the only songs on the album that isn’t up to the standard that The Royal Scam set up earlier in the album. Many of the lyrics, combined with the synths, make the song cacophonous and while the drums, played by drumming legend Bernard Purdie, try to make up for it, the song just isn’t up to snuff.

The most popular song on the album, “Haitian Divorce,” made a splash in the British markets, marking Steely Dan’s first major hit in the U.K. The song follows the blueprint of most of the songs in The Royal Scam, it has very ambiguous lyrics along with awesome instrumentals.

All of the songs in the album, save “The Caves of Altamira,” have lyrics that are very cryptic and very ambiguous. Mysterious lyrics are a familiar theme in all of Steely Dan’s lyrics. Although many of their albums are similar, all of their albums stand apart as unique.

While the album is great, some of the songs become tiring and repetitive. Many songs, like “Haitian Divorce,” “The Fez” and “Kid Charlemagne” are very similar. They still maintain a uniqueness and songs like “The Caves of Altamira” breathe a breath of fresh air into the album and give the album a great feel.