|Roaring of the Lamb|
|no production credits|
|Released on 1995|
|no chart information|
|Find it at GEMM|
|AB 3035 cover
[high resolution scan]
T his turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Having exhausted all of Steely Dan’s studio albums, and shelling out for both Citizen Steely Dan and the expanded reissue of Gold to grab whatever scraps remained, I cast my covetous eyes at the band’s earliest studio recordings. Mind you, these recordings are available in any number of permutations, but at sixteen tracks over a single disc, Roaring of the Lamb seemed as good a place to start as any. Now for the good news: the songs are much further along the curve than I expected. Rudimentary arrangements (and some flat singing) notwithstanding, all of the cuts are pretty catchy in their own right. Becker, Fagen and (presumably) Gary Katz recorded this music shortly before the Can’t Buy A Thrill sessions, yet it includes seminal recordings of songs that would appear on later works: “Parker’s Band,” “Barrytown,” “Charlie Freak,” “Any World That I’m Welcome To” and “The Caves of Altamira.” Those five tracks are likely to fascinate Dan fans the most, though only “Charlie Freak” and “The Caves of Altamira” capture any of the lightning that the “official” versions had. Considering what the band was able to do with these songs later on, it’s a shame that ideas like “Android Warehouse,” “Take It Out On Me” and “A Horse In Town” weren’t revisited as well. Granted, nothing on Roaring of the Lamb is likely to displace even the lamest tracks on Gaucho, simply because the rich and exotic arrangements that defined the Steely Dan sound hadn’t been developed yet. These songs are merely placeholders for future improvement, featuring piano, bass, drums, guitar (usually acoustic), percussion and synthesizers. That last element may have been added after the fact, since I don’t recall many people using synthesizers back in 1972, when these were supposedly recorded. In fact, it’s likely some recent re-touching was done on these recordings to punch them up in lieu of polish. If so, it’s a kindness. What comes through is a glimpse of a major talent in development, from Fagen’s clever lyrics to Becker’s measured melodies. Given the dearth of supplemental music surrounding the Steely Dan legacy, fans should find a place for these recordings somewhere in their collection, whether it’s Roaring of the Lamb or something just like it. However, I’m docking this disc one imaginary star for referring to a standard bifold picture sleeve as a 4-page booklet.
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