KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Satur-debut – DONALD FAGEN “THE NIGHTFLY”

Steely Dan was an integral part of the soundtrack of the ’70s for me and millions of music fans, and their split after 1980’s Gaucho…which lasted until their 1993 reunion…marked the end of an incredible string of Gold & Platinum albums. Along with guitarist/bassist Walter Becker (who passed away in 2017), keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen co-wrote dozens of brilliant songs that straddled the lines of rock, pop, jazz, lounge, funk and almost any other genre you can think of. I previously wrote about their classic 1977 album Aja in a Forty Year Friday post, so my love of their music will come as no surprise to anyone who has previously visited KamerTunesBlog. Two years after they disbanded Fagen released his debut solo album, The Nightfly, which I consider to be the equal of anything in the Steely Dan catalog thanks to a combination of Fagen’s unique voice & keyboard work, stellar playing from a who’s who of studio musicians, immaculate production and eight instantly memorable songs. There aren’t many albums I own in multiple configurations, but I’ve got this one on CD, reissued vinyl and DVD-Audio with a stunning surround sound mix.

For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.

From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 1:

Donald Fagen may have had an advantage heading into his solo career, having been half of the creative duo behind Steely Dan throughout the ‘70s, but that doesn’t diminish what he accomplished with The Nightfly. Some fans might have seen this as a continuation of his work with “The Dan,” but it has a unique feel that separates it from anything in that band’s catalog. Sure, he surrounded himself with top-notch studio musicians like they did on Aja and Gaucho, but the subject matter seems a lot more personal than anything he had previously recorded. From the late-night disc jockey in “The Nightfly” to the bouncy lounge-jazz of “The Goodbye Look,” from the faithful cover of Lieber & Stoller’s “Ruby Baby” to the radio hit “New Frontier” (whose lyrics were my impetus for checking out the music of jazz legend Dave Brubeck more than three decades ago), this has been one of my desert-island discs for as long as I can remember. I’ve enjoyed his other solo albums and his work with the reunited Steely Dan, but none of them have struck me with the same intensity as The Nightfly.

I wonder if there are any Steely Dan fans out there who missed this record? If so, I advise them to pick up a copy as soon as possible. If you’re a Dan fan and already know The Nightfly, how would you rate it against their catalog…as well as the rest of Fagen’s solo work?

25 comments on “Satur-debut – DONALD FAGEN “THE NIGHTFLY”

  1. christiansmusicmusings
    October 19, 2019

    I dig Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and this album big time!

    And while I sadly never saw the Dan with Walter Becker, I caught them twice last year. Both shows were hands down among the very best concerts I’ve ever been to.

    Fagen was still in superb shape. And, as you’d expect from a perfectionist like him, he was backed by top notch musicians.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you also love this album, Christian. It’s one of those records I know so well that when one song is ending I can already hear the next song in my head. Sorry you didn’t get to see the two-man Dan but I’m sure the shows you caught were great. I only saw them once, on their initial reunion tour in 1993. Needless to say it was fantastic.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Jim S.
    October 19, 2019

    A great album, better than some Dan albums, not – for me anyway – as good as say, Aja or Katy Lied. By the time this album arrived, Fagen had started smoothing off the rough edges. One song you didn’t feature and that I love is “Walk Between Raindrops” with that cool swing (“Oh, Miami.”) I did a post on Becker and Fagen’s solo stuff and nothing really touches this IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jim. I can’t argue with your rankings of those albums but for me The Nightfly is every bit as essential as anything in the SD catalog. I think those smoothed out rough edges happened on Gaucho, and that continued with Fagen’s debut. The only difference is I believe The Nightfly was one of the earliest examples of digital recording of a “rock” artist, so that gave this album more of a slick sheen. I may not have mentioned “Walk Between The Raindrops” but I absolutely love it. There’s really not a second of this record that I don’t love with all my heart. I will check out your post on Becker & Fagen solo soon. I have everything they released and while I love or really like most of it, The Nightfly is the pinnacle of their post-breakup years.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aphoristical
    October 19, 2019

    Really good record – keeps up the momentum of Steely Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No doubt about it. Although it was a very successful record, I can only imagine how much bigger it would have been if Becker was involved and they used the band name, since most casual Steely Dan fans probably didn’t know Fagen’s name and weren’t aware of this.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. stephen1001
    October 20, 2019

    Steely Dan was like broccoli for me – too complex for me to appreciate at first but now I’m hooked!
    This was deserving on the 1001 and I agree, on par with the string of solid group records that preceded it.

    Like

  5. Bill P
    October 21, 2019

    I’m not familiar with any of these songs, but if I heard them on the radio I would have said it was Steely Dan. That is not just because of Donald Fagen’s unique voice but the music seems to have same quality to me.

    Growing up, I would hear Steely Dan songs all over the radio. Anytime I hear the Saturday morning football announcers talk about the “Crimson Tide” or I see an Annandale address, I can’t help but sing “Deacon Blue.”

    Thanks for raising my attention to this album.

    Like

    • Hi Bill. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the clips I shared in this post. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the whole album if/when you get it. I have the same reaction to “Crimson Tide” and “Annandale.” I’ve also used the phrase “the things you think are precious I can’t understand” regarding a few girls I dated. 😛

      Like

      • Bill P
        October 24, 2019

        I was just listening to this album. Didn’t realize that I.G.Y. was on here. I’m familiar with that one and the Howard Jones version as well.

        Like

      • I like the Howard Jones version. I think it first appeared on his Greatest Hits album. Hope you’re enjoying The Nightfly.

        Like

  6. Alyson
    October 23, 2019

    Just back from one trip and about to head off on another, so precious little time (for an anecdote!), but just spotted this last weekend’s pick and had to drop by – Yes, yes, yes! One of my all-time favourite albums and one I’ve been wanting to share songs from at my place for some time. Love the mood, the voice, everything about it. Thanks for featuring.

    Like

    • Thanks for checking in during your brief pit stop at home. Hope you’re enjoying your trips. So glad we have another one in common. Had a feeling that might happen once we reached the ’80s. I wondered if this album made an impact overseas so I’m pleased to find out that was the case. It’s a record I know so well that when one song is ending I can already hear the next song in my head before it starts. Yet I’ve never grown tired of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alyson
        October 24, 2019

        I had a friend in the mid ’80s with a fantastic record collection and if not for him I might never have discovered this album. So true about the next song appearing in your head before it starts – The joy of oft-played vinyl.

        Like

      • All hail those friends who introduced us to music that stands the test of time. I’ve had a number of them over the years, and hopefully I’ve provided that service for others.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thom Hickey
    October 23, 2019

    Thanks.

    One of my all time favourite records.

    You might enjoy the post on the Immortal Jukebox celebrating the Nightfly.

    Regards Thom

    Like

  8. As you know, Rich, I’m a huge Dan fan and I agree that this easily ranks up there with Royal Scam, Aja or Gaucho. I was in New York this week and had the pleasure of seeing Donald and the ‘Steely Dan Band’ at the Beacon. Weirdly, ‘New Frontier’ got almost no audience reaction, as if most people didn’t know the song… So maybe you’re onto something there.

    Like

    • Matt, I’m pleased to know we’re on the same page about The Nightfly. A bit disappointing to hear about the lack of audience response to “New Frontier” but sadly not surprising.

      Like

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