Love is growing in the street,
Right through the concrete

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Steely Dan - ROARING OF THE LAMB (1993)

As you can probably already tell from the hopelessly faux cover art, this is another unofficial Steely Dan song collection. There are many collections such as these, all featuring frustratingly incomplete selections from early demo recordings made by an early form of Steely Dan, and songs which even pre-date the name. I first came across a slighter selection of these curiosities on CD under the title The Root of Steely Dan, but they had long before been released to the public. They were distributed piecemeal, in vinyl form, under such names as Stone Piano and Sun Mountain. All featured a great deal of overlapping content - but all with Pokémon-style exclusive rarities which could not be found on others. This particular collection, Roaring of the Lamb, released on CD in 1993, has the most tracks of any I've come across, which I why I'm sharing it. It still lacks, however, a handful of early songs which can be found on Stone Piano amongst others (which I will share in time), but the most listenable and worthy, by far, can be found on this one.

What is interesting to hear is how much more adventurous and challenging these early compositions were in comparison to the sunny 'Classic Rock' sound of their début, Can't Buy a Thrill. In Brian Sweet's excellent biography, Reelin' In The Years, he describes the first album not as a humble beginning, but a conscious retreat into commercial rock which allowed the band a stronger career position for subsequent albums. It's fascinating to see how songs which appeared as late in their discography as 'The Caves Of Altamira' were actually penned before 1972 (albeit in an earlier form). As well as these familiar songs ('Parker's Band', 'Any World', 'Charlie Freak'), the majority of the tracklist is composed of demo tracks for songs destined never to resurface. As you might imagine, this miscellaneous and unofficial collection spans a broad spectrum of genre and quality; motown vocal harmony on 'A Horse In Town', acoustic riffs in 'Ida Lee' whimsical pop ditties like 'You Go Where I Go' and 'A Little With Sugar', Carole King-esque piano pop in 'Sun Mountain' and more. The best songs to be found on this collection defy easy categorisation, however - even easy comparison to their later, realised albums. Songs like 'Stone Piano', 'Android Warehouse' and 'Oh, Wow It's You' have the uneasy grace which is familiar from their darker LPs, but with a haunting atmosphere borne from the agoraphobic demo recordings.

These real gems are only few, making this an unwise choice for the Steely Dan newcomer, but those tracks which shine (till the end of the line) really feel perfect, despite their stripped arrangements. They sound as if performed in a remote, empty and dimly lit hanger, with no short-tempered record executives or common-denominator public to appease. @224


1. Android Warehouse
2. A Horse In Town
3. Parker's Band [demo]
4. More To Come
5. Ida Lee
6. Stone Piano
7. Any World [demo]
8. Take It Out On Me
9. This Seat's Been Taken
10. Barrytown [demo]
11. Oh, Wow It's You
12. Charlie Freak [demo]
13. A Little With Sugar
14. Roaring Of The Lamb
15. The Caves Of Altamira [demo]
16. You Go Where I Go
17. Sun Mountain

[reuploaded 29.03.11]

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