Saturday, October 20, 2012
The Return of Donald Fagen
Five Scoops of Bosco
Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco
It has been six years since the last Donald Fagen album and four years since his day gig, Steely Dan's, last album.
Again, forgive me if this sounds like a broken record, but the wait was well worth it.
Sunken Condos is the first album of music away from the Donald Fagen Trilogy which started in 1981 with "The Nightfly" and was completed with 2006's "Morph The Cat". So, the first question was what he was going to do for an encore now that the trilogy was complete.
Fagen says he didn't start out to do a thematic or concept album this time around but if you wanted to hang a theme on this one it certainly would be about loss of love and that aha moment where you move on or try to move on from a relationship.
Submitted into evidence to prove this point are his songs "I'm Not The Same Without You" (the first single released from the album) and "The New Breed".
Semi-Autograpical? Who Knows? You never know where the real and surreal begins with Fagen and that's ok. His music is always great with the lyrics finely crafted like beautiful poetry.
One of the first things that you do notice on this album is that the familiar sarcastic bite of Fagen, especially from his Steely Dan collaborations with Walter Becker is pretty much MIA this time. Maybe, it's because he's now a little older or maybe because he is taking a break....any way it is pretty refreshing to hear this side of Donald Fagen.
Everything we enjoy about Fagen is here: complex melodies, precise production, sophisticated arrangements, wonderful musicianship, not to mention witty lyrics.
At age 64, Fagen's vocals are stronger than ever, molding that signature voice around sly lyrics better than ever. And true to what we expect with any Steely Dan album, each listen brings something new to discover.
Fagen rarely does covers. His albums are 99% new and original material. He usually only does covers if it is of a song that either A) influenced him musically or B) he loves the artist.
On this album he surprisingly or (maybe not so surprisingly) covers Isaac Haye's "Out of The Ghetto". Fagen's interpretation is soulful and funky...just like Isaac Hayes would like it.
Aside from that surprise, Fagen is in familiar territory and that's ok, especially if you are producing music like "Marlene" or "The Weather In My Head", probably the best two songs he has written in years.