The general consensus seems to be that Katy Lied is Becker and Fagen’s least favourite Steely Dan album, because it didn’t match their levels of studio perfectionism that they had achieved on their other albums. As it turns out that is exactly the reason that it is my favourite Steely Dan album. I’m a rock fan you see and I’m one of those rock fans that appreciates the feeling of how something is played rather than how well it is played. This is a slightly scruffier and more natural sounding Steely Dan album than the rest, it sounds organic rather than meticulously structured, and as such it seems a little more fallible. A little more human if you like.
Probably the reason that Becker and Fagen are so harsh on Katy Lied is that this was the first time that they had recorded a whole album with a significant amount of support from some of the top session musicians that the 70s had to offer, and so they were probably expecting the most note-perfect and slick Steely Dan album to date. Quite why this wasn’t achieved is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad they didn’t. The songs on Katy Lied are among my personal favourite Steely Dan numbers, particularly “Doctor Wu” and “Any World (That I’m Welcome To)”. I also have a thing for “Bad Sneekers”, though quite why I have never really figured out.
At this point in their career Becker and Fagen were kings of smart-arse smug-bastard songwriting, with only 10cc able to match them when it came smart arrangements and Randy Newman was their only peer when it came intelligent and concise lyrics. Becker and Fagen’s faith in themselves should have been at an all time high, especially as they had abandoned touring and were concentrating all their efforts in the studio, but the comparatively rough-around-the-edges sound of this Steely Dan album just wasn’t what they were looking for, they wanted perfection and from now on nothing short of that would be good enough.