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Kid Charlemagne  performed by  Steely Dan  (1976)
From: USA
Recommended by thewilyfilipino [profile] on Wednesday 17th September 2003

"Kid Charlemagne" sounds like it's starting in the middle -- a little instrumental passage between stanzas, or the middle of a drug bust. Whatever it is, it works: the song drops you right into a seedy, sun-soaked, coke-fueled, sour-tasting hangover of a scene, populated by "Day-Glo freaks" and "low-rent friends."

What makes the song most memorable for me are the two all-too-brief soaring guitar solos unleashed by Larry Carlton (and drums by Bernard Purdie!), particularly the one that still echoes in the ears of the listener on the way out. That and the unforgettable couplet, bracketed in the last verse (and sung by Donald Fagen with a half-faltering note that makes it sound like undisguised joy) for maximum effect:

"Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there's gas in the car."

Sometimes it's just the slightest detail that turns a song into a masterpiece.

from A Decade of Steely Dan, available on CD (MCA)
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  02 Oct 03 ·tinks: i've never thought much of steely dan. and i still don't. but reading this review set off a frenzy of activity in my little brain trying to figure out where i knew "kid charlemagne" from as a pop-culture reference. at first i thought..."was it the name of a boxer on the simpsons?" was it from mr. show? no...it was the college radio handle of the dad on "malcolm in the middle".
  05 Apr 04 ·Latimer: Chuck Rainey's bass work on this track is absolutely great. It's the epitome of his style, a veritable thesaurus of syncopation. - Kid Charlemagne supposedly refers to Augustus Owsley Stanley III, sometime purveyor of high-grade acid to the hippie elite, and raided in 1967.


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