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The Nightfly

Donald Fagen

1982

Buy At Rough Trade
The Nightfly
Album Summary

The Nightfly is the debut solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Donald Fagen. Produced by Gary Katz, it was released October 1, 1982, by Warner Bros. Records. Fagen was previously best known for his work in the group Steely Dan, with whom he enjoyed a successful career in the 1970s. The band separated in 1981, leading Fagen to pursue a solo career. Although The Nightfly includes a number of production staff and musicians who had played on Steely Dan records, it was Fagen's first release without longtime collaborator Walter Becker. Unlike most of Fagen's previous work, The Nightfly is almost blatantly autobiographical. Many of the songs relate to the cautiously optimistic mood of his suburban childhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s and incorporate such topics as late-night jazz disc jockeys, fallout shelters, and tropical vacations. Recorded over eight months at various studios between New York City and Los Angeles, the album is an early example of a fully digital recording in popular music. The nascent technology, as well as the perfectionist nature of its engineers and musicians, made the album difficult to record. The Nightfly was well-received, both critically and commercially. It was certified platinum in both the US and UK and generated two popular singles with the top 40 hit "I.G.Y." and the MTV favorite "New Frontier". Among critics, The Nightfly gained widespread acclaim and received seven nominations at the 1983 Grammy Awards. The relatively low-key but long-lived popularity of The Nightfly led Robert J. Toth of The Wall Street Journal in 2008 to dub the album "one of pop music's sneakiest masterpieces."

Wikipedia

Rating

3

Votes

11296

Genres

  • Rock
  • Jazz
  • Pop

Reviews

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Thu Jan 07 2021
3

Over produced, yacht rock that appeals to a very generic, "beige" set of people

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Fri May 07 2021
3

Very middle of the road for me. A nice morning listen. The cover is definitely better than the album.

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Sun Sep 11 2022
1

Occasionally, I am reminded of how much a product of my environment I am; that teenage years really are more formative than you realize. You can try to distance yourself from them, but that seed is always there, lying dormant and ready for the right glimpse of sunlight in order to bloom again. I was a teenager in the early 90’s. Alternative rock was at peak popularity. Our guitars were fuzzy, aggressive and screaming out the arrival of a new way forward. There was a new world order and what had been the status quo a few years earlier had become painfully uncool. High atop the Mountain of Uncool was soft rock, the kind of stuff you’d hear at JC Penny while shopping with your mom. Intolerable blandness, so inoffensive that you could play it almost anywhere, with the exception of maybe a convent, and not get the side-eye from anyone. As kids, we used to laugh at the Time-Life infomercials schilling 2 and 3 CD collections of “Soft Rock Super Hits of the 70’s”: These collections typically featured bands like Air Supply, The Doobie Brothers, Bread, Steely Dan…and many more! All yours for the low price of $19.99! I always thought Steely Dan was lame. 30 years on, that hasn’t changed. They’ve never been for me and god help me if they ever are. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried: I know plenty of people who love them, I’ve got younger friends and co-workers who extol their virtues. My own brother is a fan. But the second a Steely Dan track comes on, I’m transported back to 1993 and the aforementioned seed begins to sprout: this is everything that was wrong with music; perfection for the sake of perfection, emotionless music masquerading as having soul. Even though the Alternative-era of the early 90’s soon gave way to a similar by-the-numbers alt-rock soullessness and awful nu-metal, there were at least a few years where the sky was the limit. The formula had been broken and it didn’t matter how weird you were, you could get radio play and/or a major label deal: bands like sonic youth, pavement, the butthole surfers and ween had radio and MTV playing their songs. These bands would be less likely to find “mainstream” success today, but for a brief window of time, the rules no longer applied. Maybe I’ve been looking at the music of Steely Dan (and their ilk) from the wrong perspective this whole time. If wasn’t for their rigid, schlocky compositions, there wouldn’t have been a backlash towards authenticity and uniqueness that lead me to the music that I love… Newton’s third law and all that.

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Thu Jun 10 2021
4

May induce a face-palming epidemic among first-timers in the present day. I get that. It incorporates most of the "oh, that's so 80s" sounds received wisdom says we should avoid: a faux fur bed of cool swing, shamelessly smoothed-out jazz, criminally toothsome hooks, synthesisers, conga(!) But I say this face-palmers: seriously, are those bad things? Especially when they accompany satire so arch you can walk under it without noticing (consider Fagen's sincerity on the opener - "The future looks bright" - or how the line "Ruby Baby, how I want you / Like a ghost I'm gonna haunt you" flips that one into an artlessly creepy song that ends oddly with a super fun coda and fake jazz-club applause). And technical virtuosity that's not only impressive for what it does (like play every modulation known to man) but how accessibly it does it. And the crystalline rhythms that playfully evolve from start to finish without letting a speck of dust settle. And stories about lonely disc jockeys, using your dad's nuclear bunker as a sex den and being ominously stuck in Cuba in guessing). And also remember that received wisdom calls Meatloaf a camp hack but Springsteen a butch genius, immortalises Radiohead and Pink Floyd and celebrates everything that's "oh, so 80s" about Prince.

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Fri Jun 04 2021
5

A well crafted album with lots of Donald Fagan charms, with his dry, witty, intelligent lyrics and expressive voice. Some nostalgic value for me too - this album slowly became a family favorite starting sometime in my teenage years.

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Mon Mar 07 2022
5

Fell in love with this album when I got it back in 1982. I loved the sound of the song, IGY and quickly the rest of this album became a classic to me. I am grateful that the extended version contains True Companion from Heavy Metal (Soundtrack) and Century's End from the Bright Lights, Big City Soundtrack were included. I really think these two songs complete the album quite well. This is a rare 5/5 from me.

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Thu Aug 18 2022
5

Smooth and jazzy - like being on a monorail to the future.

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Thu Jul 15 2021
4

I love Steely Dan, but had never listened to any of Donald Fagen's solo work without Walter Becker. Can I describe it as "too smooth" or "too upbeat"? I must miss the more biting aspect to the lyrics and music that were Beckers influence. Maybe 3.4/5? Then I listened to it some more, and its really growing on me due to the jazzy music. Solid 4.

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Thu Jun 10 2021
5

You can listen to this endless times and it never gets boring

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Thu Aug 18 2022
5

This has been one of my favorite albums since it was new and I.G.Y. was on the radio and the video for "New Frontier" was on MTV. Although I was a young teen at the time, I still really connected with the nostalgic themes and optimism for the future. This is an album that shines best as the whole album, as each song is a vignette that continues the theme. This is one of the few in this project that I've listened to so many times over the past 40 years that I can play it in my head (well, the line, "Won't you pour me a Cuban breeze, Gretchen?" is one that I hadn't remembered but love love love.) This is smooth and jazzy and wonderful. One of the best.

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Wed Feb 03 2021
2

It was initially nice to hear the light rock 80s sound of Steely Dan's Fagen because just about any music from that era takes me back to fuzzy places. However, I quickly realized that the only thing I like about The Nightfly was the album cover.

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Thu Oct 13 2022
1

I'm not sure how to describe this album. Like there's nothing technically wrong with it, but it still sucks and I hate it. The combination of smooth jazz and standard pop music just grates on me in the weirdest way. Like it's made to be as inoffensive as possible, and that fact just offends me deeply.

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Tue Apr 13 2021
5

10. Considered a 9, because Donald Fagen really is only half the man Steely Dan is

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Thu Apr 29 2021
2

So cool so fresh so unnötig - 2

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Wed Aug 02 2023
1

This album gave me both diabetes and high blood pressure.

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Fri Feb 05 2021
5

First time I’ve listened to a solo from either one of the Dan’s. Solid stuff

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Tue May 25 2021
5

Brilliant, love this album. Better without Becker IMO. Such a cool retro/futuristic vibe to it

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Sun Mar 07 2021
5

Had me from the hop! Jazzy, poppy, post steely dan yacht rocky. Good vibes all around.

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Fri Jul 02 2021
5

I really dug this, it sounds amazing and the songs have just the right amount of cheese to balance out how smooth they are

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Tue Apr 13 2021
5

So chill! Great lyrics! 9/10 for the vibes, would want to relisten for a better appreciation

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Tue Apr 13 2021
5

this is a really great album, theres a couple tracks i don't like as much that make it 9/10

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Mon Jul 19 2021
5

The Nightfly and I go a long way together! I remember it from when it was first introduced in Ad Pop by Ehud Manor as a new album. Love it, and regularly listen to it.

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Sat May 08 2021
5

Amazing album, love the vibes

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Tue Jun 15 2021
5

The style...the musicianship...the vocals...immaculate. Wondering why this is not on my iPod already.

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Mon May 24 2021
5

Beautiful sound. Upbeat yet mellow jazzy sound.

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Mon May 10 2021
5

Real gem this one. Never listened to any Steely Dan, but this solo album was smooth, catchy, full of jazzy tunes and beautiful Rhodes sounds. Really loved it.

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Thu Jul 22 2021
5

Five Stars Standouts: IGY, The Nightfly, New Frontier, Maxine, Green Flower Street

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Thu Sep 02 2021
5

I absolutely LOVE this album. It's Steely Dan-esque with a kinda Frank Zappa vibe?

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Fri Sep 03 2021
5

5/5 - Reminds me of a pre-Sting/The Police

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Mon Nov 01 2021
5

Opening notes - I knew it was going to be great. Smooth, melodic, lyrically wonderful from end-to-end.

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Fri Nov 12 2021
5

Una locura este disco. LOCURA.

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Mon Jan 03 2022
5

Oh yeah. Funky, smooth, slick...great rhythm, great piano. This is my jam.

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Mon Feb 21 2022
5

One of my favorites. 5/5 I love every song. The extended version has a couple of extras that were included on soundtrack albums (Heavy Metal and Bright Lights Big City).

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Wed Jan 24 2024
5

A masterpiece fusion of pop, R&B, jazz, and rock, this album is smooth ride through the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Each instrument is a masterclass in taste, pushing out of the mix for ad-libs and solos, then pulling back to blend seamlessly with the track. Fagen’s lyrics and melodies inspire visions of mid-century optimism and Cold War nihilism, all backed by an absolutely airtight band. This album can be enjoyed by a casual listen or hyper-analyzed by the nerdiest music freak. Stand out tracks include “I.G.Y.”, “Green Flower Street”, “The Nightfly”, and “The Goodbye Look”.

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Sun Feb 18 2024
3

I like how the top review refers to this as over produced beige yacht rock, like that’s a bad thing!

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Tue Jan 30 2024
2

If this was 1001 albums to listen to drinking champagne on a yacht and checking your stock portfolio then this would be 5 stars all the way. It's slick, well played, tightly produced but I'm left cold by it. Chilled even.

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Mon May 20 2024
2

I don't like Steely Dan, therefore I don't like The Nightfly. It does nothing for me, it isn't horrible and we've had considerably worse, we've just had many, many, many better. A quick and forgettable 2, although I will say Ruby Baby was decent enough until he started singing.

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Tue May 18 2021
1

Comenzó bien y como al segundo 40 ya todo se fue al carajo con el jazz. Es aburrido y tal vez por lo que comenta Vic está en la lista pero fuera de ahí no me aporta nada

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Wed Mar 03 2021
1

Ernsthaft? Dann lieber ne Stunde Helge Schneider Pink Panther Variationen

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Wed Oct 26 2022
1

I can’t stand music like this. The harmony and arrangements are so convoluted just for the sake of dick-swinging and maybe to mask the shitty songwriting. It tries to be “funky” but without an ounce of soul or feeling. The vocals and lyrics are horrible. Every song was worse than the last. I hope I never have to hear this again.

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Fri Apr 07 2023
1

This is one of those rare albums, where the music is so bland that I would rather eat the CD than listen to it again. I'm sure the plastic crunching between my teeth will sound better too. I give this the only possible score it can get, one slice of plain white bread out of 5. 🍞

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Mon Jan 22 2024
1

Fuck me, this is shite. I mean, Steely Dan are wick but this is another level.

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Mon Jan 22 2024
1

Just utterly pointless. If this guy wasn’t in Steely Dan no one would care about this.

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Wed Jul 13 2022
5

Steely Dan with less guitar and more saxophone. Brilliant, I love Steely Dan.

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Fri Aug 26 2022
5

Perfect mood, can always listen to this.

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Wed Sep 07 2022
5

actually super sick, every track slaps

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Tue Nov 08 2022
5

With the distinctive voice from Steely Dan, you'd think this would be just another Steely Dan album. It's definitely not. There's some sharp commentary in here, along with some very tasty grooves. I love this album. How are things on Mount Belzoni, by the way?

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Mon Nov 21 2022
5

Fantastic Album that’s known as the benchmark for testing out Hi-Fi Systems due to its incredible production and coordinated, tight arrangements.

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Wed Dec 28 2022
5

come on man. come ON turn me UP don fagen does not disappoint when given total creative control. he has such a clear vision on this record. the steely dan sound has always been a relaxing one to me, but fagen pulls from some different influences here to bring a bit more intensity in spurts. but, in the end, it’s a steely dan album through and through, with more melodica steely dan did green flower street at their phoenix show this year, and it got me to re-listen to the nightfly. i was sold then, and i’m sold now. what a great record, a great musician, and a perfect body of work

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Sun Mar 05 2023
5

it’s so cool hearing the Steely Dan members’ solo stuff you can really hear what charm they can both individually put into the band that create such a perfect sound and yet they both hold up so well on their own it’s incredible - 10/10

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Wed May 17 2023
5

This is excellent jazzy pop music. Standout: New Frontier. 5/5.

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Fri Jun 23 2023
5

I own this album, and if there's a way to corrode a CD through over-playing I must be close with this one. As expected, it's as smooth and jazzy as Steely Dan; perhaps even schmoover. The production is light, crisp and, although very much of it's time, sounds like brushed silk on a good set of speakers. What sets this aside as truly remarkable is that Fagen has conjured up something like a quasi-concept album centred around the themes and events of his youth - the techno-utopianism of the 1950s, the Cuban Revolution, anxieties around the A-bomb - and it's all done with wit and panache. Less elliptical than the Dan, as a consequence this feels like it is more human and has more heart than anything else Fagen had heretofore. A triumph.

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Fri Jul 07 2023
5

Was very surprised at how much I liked this. Kind of slaps and I'll be a little generous from 4.5

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Fri Jul 07 2023
5

Very pleasant listen. Not one bad track on this bad boy

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Mon Jul 17 2023
5

The best Donald Fagen album in my memory. It could be qualified as some Steely Dan light version, but I like it just as much (apart from Ruby Baby).

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Thu Sep 14 2023
5

Album 166 of 1001 Donald Fagen - The Nightfly Rating : 5 / 5 Favorite Tracks : I.G.Y. I look at other reviews for this and wonder what they had against Fagen and/or Steely Dan before they even listened. Seems to be the cool thing to diss them. I couldn't disagree more. This is an awesome album. Even without having those undeniable "hits", I find each song very enjoyable. I could listen to this on repeat for a few hours before I'd notice. Nice songs...nice production...nice vibe.

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Fri Nov 03 2023
5

Sick, classic Fagan with a bit more to it.

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Thu Nov 09 2023
5

at first i thought, this sounds just like steely dan! lol. i think this is like 4.5/5 but i am feeling generous. there were a couple songs that felt very "peppy-artificial-80s-beat" but still pretty good.

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Sun Nov 19 2023
5

I can't help but love it. And thanks to the album generator I've finally listened to Brubeck.

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Tue Dec 12 2023
5

Listened this so often back when it came out. I haven't listened to it in decades though. Nice to get back to it.

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Thu Dec 14 2023
5

Strong start, feels a bit jazzy and a bit cool, I'm enjoying the range of instruments used. Definitely the kind of thing my dad would play which is a good sign. After a quick google I noted this guy was in Steely Dan, so definitely music I was exposed to growing up!

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Fri Jan 05 2024
5

Sounded to me like a more whimsical / lighthearted Steely Dan. Really dug it. On Spotify the loudness of the tracks vary so much you have to really adjust your volume. Re-mastering or mastering mistake?

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Thu Jan 18 2024
5

With jazz and conversation From the foot of Mt. Belzoni !!!

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Sun Jan 28 2024
5

i‘ve listened to this one like 100+ times. a classic, i love Donald Fagen

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Sun Feb 04 2024
5

Love. My first compact disc experience was this album.

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Wed Feb 07 2024
5

I've always loved this album

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Fri Feb 09 2024
5

BL: Only knowledge of Fagen is that he was one of the members of Steely Dan, who are a group I've tried to get into a few times, and I haven't ever disliked them but still found them a little bit of a struggle to get into. I'll see how a solo venture fairs. AL: This was an incredibly good album, mixtures of city pop and traditional rock and singer/songwriter chops. A pleasure to listen to, will definitely be listening to again. FT: "I.G.Y", "Ruby Baby", "New Frontier", "The Nightfly", "Walk Between Raindrops" 5/5

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Mon Feb 19 2024
5

Love it. Synth-art-pop goodness. It's amazing and fun

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Wed Feb 21 2024
5

The Nightfly is an album I unashamedly adore. Where do I start with it? It’s full of layers. It’s shiny, (dad) pop perfection with immaculate playing and lush production, steeped in 50’s nostalgia. It’s warm in tone, but there’s also with a coldness to it, and underneath its bright, shiny, seemingly optimistic veneer, it’s a commentary on post-war middle-class America, with lyrics and stories full of irony, sarcasm and cynicism but wrapped up in a perfect, gleaming, catchy pop album. It’s a subversive masterpiece. Did you expect anything less from one half of Steely Dan?

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Thu Feb 29 2024
5

Donald Fagen and Steely Dan will always get 5 stars from me. Their music is timeless and brilliant. Jazz, pop, rock all rolled into one.

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Thu Mar 07 2024
5

Still a great album after all these years.

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Wed Mar 13 2024
5

Introduction: Released in 1982, Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly" marked a turning point. Following the dissolution of Steely Dan, the album showcased Fagen's distinct voice while retaining the duo's penchant for sonic brilliance and intricate arrangements. This review delves into the lyrical themes, musical tapestry, production mastery, and lasting influence of this critically acclaimed work. Lyrical Exploration: A departure from Steely Dan's often cryptic narratives, "The Nightfly" adopts a more personal approach. Fagen paints vivid pictures of a bygone era, drawing inspiration from his teenage years in the late 50s and early 60s. Tracks like "I.G.Y. (What a Beauty)" capture the youthful optimism and fascination with the Space Age, while "The New Frontier" reflects on Cold War anxieties and the ever-present threat of nuclear fallout. However, Fagen doesn't shy away from darker undercurrents. "Ruby Baby" hints at the allure and danger of forbidden love, while "Counterfeit" explores themes of deception and the fleeting nature of fame. This blend of nostalgia, introspection, and subtle societal commentary elevates the album beyond mere reminiscence. Musical Nuance: Fagen's signature songwriting shines through. Intricate melodies intertwine with sophisticated chord progressions, evident in tracks like "Gaucho" (a Steely Dan leftover) and "The Nightfly." The album leans heavily on jazz influences, with prominent use of horns, piano, and dynamic percussion sections. Tracks like "Walk Between the Raindrops" showcase Fagen's playful piano work, while the soulful ballad "Maxine" features a captivating saxophone solo. Production Prowess: The production on "The Nightfly" is nothing short of masterful. Longtime collaborator Gary Katz meticulously crafted a soundscape that is both pristine and warm. Lush layers of instrumentation blend seamlessly, creating a sonic world that perfectly complements the lyrical themes. Every note feels meticulously placed, a testament to Fagen and Katz's shared vision. Enduring Themes and Influence: "The Nightfly" transcends mere nostalgia. It explores universal themes of youthful dreams, societal anxieties, and the complexities of human relationships. The album's influence on various artists is undeniable. Acts like Beck, Radiohead, and even contemporary pop acts like Maroon 5 have cited Fagen's work as a source of inspiration. Strengths: Sophisticated songwriting: Fagen's masterful blend of melody, harmony, and intricate chord progressions creates a unique and engaging listening experience. Vivid lyrical imagery: The album paints a picture of a specific era while exploring timeless themes that resonate with listeners. Production excellence: The meticulous attention to detail in the sonic tapestry elevates the music to a whole new level. Weaknesses: Limited sonic palette: Compared to Steely Dan's broader soundscapes, "The Nightfly" leans more heavily on jazz influences, which might limit the appeal for some listeners. Lyrically opaque moments: While the album offers a glimpse into Fagen's personal world, some listeners might find certain lyrical passages cryptic. Conclusion: "The Nightfly" stands as a testament to Donald Fagen's exceptional songwriting and musical prowess. It seamlessly merges elements of jazz, pop, and rock, resulting in a timeless masterpiece. While minor criticisms exist regarding the sonic scope and occasional lyrical obscurity, the album's strengths far outweigh these aspects. "The Nightfly" continues to captivate listeners with its intricate musicianship, evocative lyrics, and production brilliance. It remains a landmark achievement in Fagen's solo career and a significant influence on the music landscape.

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Thu Mar 21 2024
5

Solid late period Steely Dan minus Becker. Some people get turned off by the slick production of Donald Fagen's work, both solo and Steely Dan, and I did at first. But if abandon your preconceptions you will be richly rewarded with mostly excellent songs on this album that feel more personal than Fagen's work w Walter Becker as Steely Dan. Almost sounds like an autobiographical fantasy of a kid growing up in 50s NJ. The production is immaculate - the instruments sound lush richly detailed. I have probably heard this record hundreds of times and I still find it captivating.

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Tue Apr 23 2024
5

I loved all that clean, flawless, jazzy goodness and clever lyrics. Still great.

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Wed Apr 24 2024
5

4/23/24. Always loved Steely Dan and their evolution, listening to this solo effort continued to expand my love for SD and both their official members. Tight production, not afraid to explore different sounds, and great progressions. Loved this one.

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Sun May 05 2024
5

A meticulously crafted album that strikes a perfect chord with those who appreciate the finer details in musical storytelling. Its sophisticated blend of jazz-pop elements and thoughtful lyricism resonates with my affinity for deep narratives and complex, emotionally charged arrangements. Each track is a reflective journey through Fagen's lyrical dexterity, capturing the vibrant spirit of an idealistic past with a contemporary sonic polish. The album's standout, "The Nightfly," exemplifies this blend, with its introspective exploration of night-time radio broadcasting—a theme that personally resonates due to my own passion for radio and its power to connect and communicate. The Nightfly is a testament to Fagen's artistic genius, presenting a sound that's both timeless and deeply evocative.

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Mon May 06 2024
5

I remember hearing this album often when I was younger - it's like a walk down memory lane, and sounds as good as I remember. Much as it's Donald Fagen's first solo album, it absolutely sounds like Steely Dan, which is fine by me. The album just puts me in a good mood and I could listen to it on repeat for hours. Pretty much a perfect album to me. Favorite tracks: I.G.Y (one of those tracks where I see the name and go, "what's that?" and then press play and immediately go, "duh, of course I know this one"), New Frontier, The Nightly, Walk Between Raindrops (again, how can you listen to this album and not smile?).

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Fri May 24 2024
5

I love Steely Dan, so it's not surprise that I loved this. Only I.G.Y. was familiar to me, but the entire album stank of that wonderful Steely Dan aroma. Excellent album, listened to it twice and would again. Five stars.

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Fri Oct 30 2020
4

I admittedly don't like jazz, but the jazz influence on this album is sick. It also reminds me of Christmas music, a little bit. I think this one is kind of awesome, not something I'd listen to all the time but I'm gonna save it on Spotify for Christmas vibes. Omg, also a little Vulfpeck-ish! Another surprising four star album!!

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Mon Jul 05 2021
4

IGY is great! Very smooth album!

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Thu Mar 11 2021
4

surprisingly great pop jazz, not a huge fan of the more jazz oriented songs but overall great sound

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Fri Jun 04 2021
4

Big Steely Dan fan. I feel like this is a very natural extension of that sound with alot of the same players. Although I love the character perspectives in Steely Dan songs it is nice to hear something a little more personal.

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Mon Jun 21 2021
4

Enjoyable. Very different from anything I've heard before.

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Wed Jun 16 2021
4

Lo disfruté y tiene ritmos muy pegajosos (¿beats?). La voz muy bien y puse poca atención a las letras, aunque sí escuché eso de "Mexico City" jaja. Me parece un álbum animado y que te pone feliz, en un humor medio bailador, pero tranquilo, a gusto, chill que se diría. La canción que abre me parece muy bien colocada al principio. Mis favs: "Green Flower Street", "New Frontier" y "The Goodbye Look". 8.5/10

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