Picks and Pans Review: The Nightfly

updated 12/20/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/20/1982 01:00AM

Donald Fagen

Fagen and Walter Becker, a/ k/ a Steely Dan, have decided to have a professional separation. But while this is a solo effort by Fagen, it is almost indistinguishable in style from his most recent studio works with Becker, Aja and Gaucho. But Fagen's lyrics stamp this collection as his collection. They are less biting than Becker's, and Fagen describes them as "certain fantasies that might have been entertained by a young man growing up in the remote suburbs of a Northeastern city during the late '50s and early '60s." Fagen, 34, was raised in Passaic, N.J. He recounts a party in an underground bomb shelter in a tune called New Frontier, a teenage romance ("We've got to hold out till graduation") in Maxine, and listening to a jive-and-java-fueled jazz radio jock in The Night-fly. A tune called I.G.Y. was inspired by the International Geophysical Year, begun in 1957, when there were expectations that in the near future science would have transformed the world into a paradise ("There'll be spandex jackets, one for everyone"). Musically the album is an appealing meld of sophisticated jazz and pop instrumental framing Fagen's versatile voice. He can wheeze like a veteran auctioneer who has had too many Chesterfields or harmonize with himself in multitrack parts, sounding like the Four Freshmen. Fagen and savvy producer Gary Katz gathered an impressive lineup of studio musicians for this solo debut, notably guitarist Hugh McCracken, drummer Jeff Porcaro, horn player siblings Michael and Randy Brecker and background vocalist Valerie Simpson (of Ashford and...).

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