Donald Fagen's new solo album Sunken Condos is out.. and I have to say it's pretty damn good!
A new album by one of the best song writers America has ever produced in the last 42 years is always of interest and there's always going to be some debate on how it measures up to the rest of the Steely Dan / Donald Fagen / Walter Becker catalogue, and especially Fagen's legendary The Nightfly album.
What strikes me about this collection of tunes is that while the similarity in feel, tone, quirkiness they have to all of Fagen's solo output, it's instantly placeable stuff, it just couldn't be anyone else.. but it's different too.
As you might expect there is a fair dose of cool jazzy funk grooves, great extended chord harmonies, understated horns, laconic vocals, funky keys, great guitar playing, plus a great mix.. a slightly softer, more sympathetic bass & drum sound than previous Fagen / Steely Dan albums of recent years. It certainly makes more of the funky grooves... think more The Nightfly, Gaucho, Aja than say Kamakiriad or Two Against Nature.
Following The Nightfly model all songs, bar one, are by Fagen. That outsider is Isaac Hayes' Out Of The Ghetto. Fagen gives the original 70s funk an update and a brand new arranged middle section which partly filters back towards the end of the song forming a sort of overlaid coda.
Like most guitarists I always look forward to the players' contributions to Becker & Fagen albums, and Sunken Condos doesn't disappoint. There are is some nice offerings on most cuts courtesy of (fast becoming) Steely Dan stalwart Jon Herington and a lovely Kurt Rosenwinkel solo on Planet D'Rhonda.
Herington's playing perfectly compliments the mood of the songs with chameleon-like colour shifts sitting right inside each song's style. Check the altered blues Weather In My Head and The Good Stuff for melodic lines uniquely their own while tilting a hat towards the legacy of previous great contributions to Becker & Fagen recordings. The lazy funk of Planet D'Rhonda provides Kurt Rosenwinkel with a great platform to echo the mood of Fagen's cynical wit with some great jazzy outside playing.
Great album, recommended listening. Available at all good record shops ... as they used to say.. : -)