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Steely Dan - Walter Becker / Donald Fagen - The Early Years CD (album) cover


Steely Dan


Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.00 | 1 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This record contains pre-Steely Dan demos of the 1968 - 1971, more or less unofficially issued with varying track listings under different titles. All these "s**** boots" (Walter Becker) were sourced from a cassette sold by Kenny Vance in 1983 without consent of the artists, hence the absymal sound quality. It's one of the first albums I've ever listened, around 1986, with a blue cover, and the title "Old Regime", the most commercial song.

Now, let's talk about the songs.

Side A 1. Brain Tap Shuffle (2:56) is a very convinced boogie where Fagen and Becker sing in unison, and where Dias' sharp guitar is in the foreground, and thanks to the backing vocals you reach a great fusion sound between jazz, blues and soul. The only flaw is that it ends too soon. Vote 8.

2. Come Back Baby (4:02) is a beautiful song, another piano ballad with bass bluesy and the two voices of Fagen and Becker in unison. Simple structure, verse and chorus, with a guitar solo (Denny Dias again) in the center and at the end, immediate and inspired song. Rating 8.

3. Don't Let Me In (4:10). Another piano danced to the rhythm of a boogie, with drums (John Mazzi) and bass (Becker) very strong, and with Fagen's voice in the foreground along with Dias' rhythm guitar. These songs flow which is a pleasure for the ear. This is even more catchy than the previous ones, perhaps too commercial. But Dias' sharp solo lifts the quality and makes it a beautiful blues. Rating 7.5/8

4. Old Regime (3:05). A very rhythmic (John Discepolo on the drums), commercial, verse/chorus pop song, in which the fall of the old regime is sung by Keith Thomas. Nice jazz bridge that, after the second chorus, connects the second verse with the third. Very gritty song but conventional. It is the weakest song of the album. Rating 7+.

5. Brooklyn (5:37) is the only song of this collection that will end up on an official Steely Dan record and this version is slower and more resigned than that on "Cant buy a Thrill". This one is very evocative, based on singing by Fagen and keyboards but in the center has an interesting guitar solo (Elliott Randall), then the song expands a lot up to 6 minutes, becoming the most ardous of the album. In my opinion it is emotionally better than the original one included on the debut album, which loses much of its languid charm even if it is better arranged. Rating 8+.

Side B 1. Mock Turtle Song (3:25) is like the first of the A-side: a really jazz-fusion song with soul backing vocals, xilophone (?), jazzy rhythm, percussive piano, guitar solo (Dias). What a grit these early Steely dan! They got still sixties accents. Very radiophonic and commercial, immediate but also inspired. Rating 7.5/8.

2. Soul Ram (2:05). The shortest song of the album: a pop-jazz track: who sings? I think Keith Thomas, and not Fagen, his voice is more high-pitched and more soulful, less melancholy. Great work of keyboards and percussion. Short filler but very lively. Rating 7+.

3. I Can't Function (3:59). Piano ballad with great Becker on bass and where Fagen plays a saxophone solo. Fagen and Becker singing together and in the end we can hear their talkin'. Rating 8.

4. Yellow Peril (4:01). The track has a great piano work (Fagen), it's a refined pop-jazz ballad, with Fagen's voice in the foreground rising to the high notes. Shy electric guitar solo, which the production does not highlight. Beautiful song, solid, with a nice piano tour and an expressive singing. Rating 7.5/8

5. Let George Do It (3:03). Piano ballad in the honky tonk style, very rhythmic, flowing pleasantly, beautiful singing (Keith Thomas), and sorry only that it ends after 3 minutes. Rating 7,5/8.

Words and music by Fagen and Becker except B1: Words by Charles Dodgson. Arranged By - Fagen, Becker.

Album not really prog and composed largely on the piano, which is the sound carpet to every song (except in Brooklyn where keyboards prevail), and which develops with longer songs in the style of ballads, or with shorter and faster songs. There are no real masterpieces but each song is pleasant, melodically inspirated and has an immediacy that will no longer be found on the band's official records.

A record to listen for every fan of the group.

Rating: 8,5. Four stars.

jamesbaldwin | 4/5 |


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