Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)

So perfectly did Donald Fagen and Producer Gary Katz create a glistening movie-for-your-ears whose central themes are joyous vibrancy combined with effortless cool that the sheer musicality of this brilliant release is often easy to miss. Much more than an extension of where Steely Dan were heading before they disbanded after the lacklustre Gaucho LP, The Nightfly delivers everything that album’s ‘Babylon Sisters’ teasingly promised but without the jaded hipster sneer. Instead we are treated to detached but not unsentimental reminiscences of an era of perfect pop confections (‘Ruby Baby’), teenage romance (‘Maxine’), narrowcast all night jazz radio (‘The Nightfly’ as beautifully depicted on the album cover) and the threat of Cold War nuclear obliteration as an excuse for a survivalist cocktail party in a suburban underground bunker with Dave Brubeck on the turntable (‘The New Frontier’). Immaculately recorded, the entire running time sparkles with highly sophisticated song-craft, exquisite vocal arrangements and excellent performances by the top-flight session musicians gathered here. Alongside the best of his output with Steely Dan, Donald Fagen never approached these heights again.




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