Thursday, January 30, 2014

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly

   The musical scene in seventies was complicated with rise of fresh waves and plenty of old concepts. As rock in its progressive subgenres was still aroused, pop-rock and jazz-rock were keeping their positions, and new ideas were emerging with speed of angry punk riffs and with power of new electronic sounds. Full spectrum of styles between musical experiments and easy listening was the scene for many bands playing all kinds of sound, forms and attitudes. One of them was Steely Dan, the band founded by two friends Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The ideas were continued by Donald Fagen after Steely Dan was disbanded in 1981 and his first solo album was The Nightfly, a clear display of new frontiers in popular music. The New Frontier was one of hit songs.
   Relations between words and harmonics, culture of sound and bold arrangements made this music revolutionary. First reason was entire new technology of digital process is studio recording. Giving new possibilities in composing and mixing tracks, it was a challenge for artists recording at the moment, and Fagen was not only one musician testing himself in new technology, but the results even 32 years later are still impressive. From the other hand, the year after breaking the band was good moment for recapitulation of artist achievements. And last but not least, after decade of creating sound of Steely Dan, came the time for shifting Fagen’s artistic development into new level. All of his albums had such character, and were issued at intervals of about 10 years.

Donald Fagen – The Nightfly (1982)

   Also the personnel changes during recording songs for The Nightfly album could be seen as a sign of summarizing attitude of the artist. There were some about two and a half dozens of musicians engaged. Many of them were known as sidemen from Steely Dan’s records, like guitarists Larry Carlton (The Royal Scam, Gaucho), Rick Derringer (Countdown to Ecstasy, Katy Lied, Gaucho), bass guitarists Chuck Rainey (Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, Aja, The Royal Scam, Gaucho), Anthony Jackson (Gaucho),  drummers Ed Greene (Aja) and Jeff Porcaro (Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied). Even famous jazzmen brothers Randy Brecker playing here trumpet and flugelhorn and Michael Brecker were recording on Gaucho, the last Steely Dan’s album preceding The Nightfly. Probably the greatest new arrival was Marcus Miller playing with strong jazz feeling. His bass guitar driving in Maxine, The Nightfly, and The Goodbye Look is just unmistakable.
   In Maxine close harmony voices are accompanied with perfect jazzy-style arrangement and Michael Brecker’s tenor solo, which is the great example of new pop-rock-jazz crossover. Everything here is organic and transparent, even if elements were taken from distant genres. In 1982 it was the turning point, not only in technical context, but first of all in social and cultural perspective. The debut record of Donald Fagen was recorded in years 1981 and 1982 in New York Soundworks Digital Audio/Video Recording Studios, then in Masonic temple of Village Recorders in Los Angeles and later back in New York Automated Sound Studio. It was produced by long time Steely Dan producer Gary Katz and released October 29, 1982. Certified platinum in US and UK, this album influences many trends in next decades. After thirty two years this music sounds still as fresh as new. I’m giving four and half star to express my strong belief this album is still a blockbuster.

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