In the years before they formed Steely Dan and released the band's debut album, Can't Buy a Thrill, in 1972, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen made numerous demonstration recordings of their songs under the auspices of their manager, Kenny Vance of Jay & the Americans. Vance began leasing these recordings for commercial release starting in 1983 with the Aero Records album Becker and Fagen -- The Early Years, and since then various collections of them have turned up on such European albums as Sun Mountain, Berry Town, and Stone Piano, generally credited to Steely Dan. In putting together yet another album of this juvenilia, Park South Records is to be commended for using the songwriter-performers' own names, a commendation that unfortunately must be rescinded for the label's misspelling of Fagen's name in the album's title. Steely Dan fans who have never heard any of this material may be pleasantly surprised, however. None of Becker and Fagen's vaunted studio perfectionism is present on these primitive and usually spare tracks, but the work comes only a short time before the polished Steely Dan commercial recordings, and it is identifiably by the same performers. In fact, several of these songs turned up on Steely Dan albums: "Brooklyn" on Can't Buy a Thrill; "Charlie Freak" and "Parker's Band" on Pretzel Logic; and "Any World That I'm Welcome To" on Katy Lied. "Android Warehouse," meanwhile, is an early version of "Boston Rag" on Countdown to Ecstasy. Most of the tracks feature only Fagen on lead vocals and piano and Becker on bass and harmony vocals, though some of them are more developed arrangements presumably including Demian, the band with which they were playing at the time. As long as buyers aren't expecting the usual Steely Dan sonics, they may enjoy a glimpse into the band's beginnings.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann