STEELY DAN: Dirty Work

Song Review by Stewart Mason

The odd song out in Steely Dan's career, "Dirty Work" is an uncharacteristically emotional depiction of marital infidelity, interestingly observed from the point of view of the man doing the cuckolding. With its soulful clavinet and tenor sax opening and upward-modulating chorus, "Dirty Work" is by some measure the most commercial-sounding song on Can't Buy a Thrill, sounding rather like the group's ABC Records labelmates Three Dog Night covering one of Todd Rundgren's Philly soul ballads. Because it was original lead singer David Palmer's showcase, "Dirty Work" was retired from Steely Dan's repertoire after Palmer left the band in 1973, and was largely forgotten by most due to its dissimilarity to the sardonic jazz-rock that came later. The song did enjoy a revival in 2001 due to its use in a powerful scene in the third-season premiere of The Sopranos.

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