“Your Gold Teeth II”—second song, side two of Katy Lied (1975)

This is the only Steely Dan song that comes to mind that is presented as a sequel, or has the Roman Numeral “II” in the title—it's another one of their dry, SD jokes, of course. I don't think the song has anything to do with the first “Your Gold Teeth” besides a line of lyrics—but in this case the chorus says: “Throw out your gold teeth/And see how they roll/The answer they reveal/Life is unreal.” If any other band put the line “Life is unreal” at the end of the chorus, I'd insist that it's just lazy, bad lyric writing—because that line means absolutely nothing—it's like saying “the internet is big.” But when it's Steely Dan, you have to look a little further, because they are anything but lazy, in any facet of a song. I'm guessing it's another one of their jokes—which is, in this case, that the words in the song mean nothing. In the second verse, they can't help falling back on their gambling imagery, but it's not specific—and it's not even metaphorical—it ends with the phrase: “the rules are your own, win or lose.” Which means... nothing. Which takes you back to the first verse, some very profound and poetic sounding rhymes that seem like they'd hold up—until you examine them more closely—and they just crumble away like sugar. This is not a failing of the song, though, not at all—it's intentional. It's one of the reasons I love this song so much. It starts off with a little intro that gives you a sense that it's going to be 17 minute prog-rock song, but then effortlessly drops into some cool jazz that feels like it could be the soundtrack for an autobiographical film about the guys playing it. The song zips through the parts with lyrics like it can't wait to get to the heart of matter—a guitar solo, followed by the shortest and best drum solo to date, followed by another guitar solo that's similar but absolutely different from the first one. The guitar solo (or solos) is/are something that at one time I would have breezed right by—or maybe I'd have dismissed as noodling—but listening to it closely, now—it's kind of like discovering the priceless, renowned Emerald hidden deep in the album—naturally, in plain sight.

—Randy Russell 11.18.18

Current Ranking: No. 15