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A Worthwhile Artifact From Steely Dan's Past
on January 10, 2004
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the two main creative outlets of Steely Dan, have often criticized the constant marketing by Dan-described "fly-by night companies" of their pre-fame demos, but despite the disapproval of their creators, these gems hold a wealth of quality and integrity in their own right. These demos have been repackaged and re-polished again and again under several different titles, but "The Legends Collection" is probably the most affordable. The sound quality is average to less-than-average, but this is expected considering the circumstances under which they were recorded. "The Legends Collection" is also a bit of a historical musical document; despite their sarcasm and perfectionist ways, Steely Dan started out as innocent and as honest as any band struggling to make it. Becker and Fagen peddled many of these songs to several shlock producers, hoping someone would take an interest, becoming discouraged but never giving up, and all of those soap-opera dramas are reflected throughout these grainy demos.
There are obvious flashes of Becker and Fagen's attempts at writing simple and unremarkable pop so that producers would take notice, such as 'You Go Where I Go' or 'Come Back Baby.' But then again, there are many pop-attempts that also prelude the grim, sardonic wit that became Steely Dan's trademark; refer to 'Undecided,' 'Don't Let Me In,' or 'A Little With Sugar.' But of course these demos are also sprinkled with strong emotion and heart-achingly desperate characters, like 'Oh Wow It's You,' 'Roaring Of the Lamb,' an early version of 'Any World That I'm Welcome To' (which would later appear on 1975's "Katy Lied"), and several others.
A word of caution should be sounded that "The Legends Collection" is strictly worth buying for the music; despite a lovely if misleading box packaging, there are no liner notes or credits whatsoever in the deal. And although its title seems to suggest that this is a best-of or greatest hits set, it is not; it is a worthwhile curio of interesting and intriguing demos that foreshadowed the greatness to come from Steely Dan.