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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The Nightfly

Donald Fagen

1982

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

2.99

Votes

7229
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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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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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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Thu Apr 29 2021
2

So cool so fresh so unnötig - 2

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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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Thu Jun 10 2021
5

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

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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 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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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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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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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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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 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 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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Wed Jun 16 2021
4

A lovely album to listen to in the sunshine. A cultured performance akin to Deco in his pomp.

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Mon Apr 26 2021
4

Donald Fagen once took a golden shower on my belly and some of it ricocheted into my mouth. Yummy.

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Sat Feb 27 2021
4

Música siempre agradable de oir

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Wed Mar 31 2021
4

Couple of tracks were definitely familiar, I had not heard the rest and dang if it isn't a fine album. Steely Dan-ish, of course.

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Mon Apr 05 2021
4

Ok this first song.... spicy I like this album omg Favorites: I.G.Y Ruby Baby Maxine The Nightfly The Goodbye Look

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Tue May 25 2021
4

Obviously similar to Steely Dan, thick harmonic lines, great arrangements.

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Wed May 12 2021
4

Had some jazz club vibes to it and made me miss going out to nice bars. The music itself was catchy but the lyrics less so.

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Fri May 07 2021
4

80's synth pop/jazz pop(?). Good nighttime cooking/chilling album I'd say. Kind of funky as well.

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Mon May 10 2021
4

Chill vibes, nice for a calm evening

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Thu May 13 2021
4

I never realized that Donald Fagen was the Steely Dan guy... wild. Recognize the 1st song, reminds me of when I was a kid. 70's groove songs.

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Tue Jun 15 2021
4

I'm a big Steely Dan but had never listened to any of Donald's solo stuff, so I was curious what this was sound like. Overall, it was quite pleasing - "I.G.Y" and "The Nightfly" offered a lot of those same great Steely vibes. "Ruby Baby" was kind of annoying, but I can overlook that.

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Tue Jun 15 2021
4

Never get tired of listening to the musical genius of Donald Fagen - very fresh sounding all these years later!

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Wed Jul 28 2021
4

I've heard several tracks from Steely Dan, and I knew enough to recognize Donald Fagen's name as a part of the band. As I listened, I would have thought that this album was from Steely Dan, if I hadn't seen the name of the artist. "I.G.Y." sounded familiar to me, and is a track that I'd probably play again. I'm not sure if I'm familiar with "New Frontier" or if the track just sounds like Donald Fagen's work. I'm not a particular fan of Fagen, but I think I enjoyed this listen. Some albums BARELY squeak into the 3 category. I think this one squeaked into a 4.

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Thu Aug 05 2021
4

I happen to love Steely Dan -- such incredible musicianship, craft, humor, and mind-blowing playing (man, the people they brought in...wow) -- so I also had a couple Donald Fagen albums in my collection at one time, including this one. I think it's great. I think he's a hell of a songwriter, love his dry humor, and even though I don't usually like too much organ playing in songs, it's fine here. Always loved the cover art on this one, too.

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Thu Aug 12 2021
4

pretty sure persona 5 stole concepts from this album And mario sunshine??

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Fri Aug 20 2021
4

Very cool stuff. An audiophile’s dream.

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Mon Sep 13 2021
4

From note one you know this dude was Steely Dan. Hell of a song writer. Hell of a musician.

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Fri Oct 01 2021
4

Den poppede udgave af Steeæu Dan. Fedt solo album med lækker lækker lyd. Et genlyt værd

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Sun Nov 21 2021
4

The fact that I have Steely Dan's Black Cow stuck in my head after listening to this says that this is not substantially different from a Steely Dan album. That's not a bad thing, as I love Steely Dan. It does make me wonder a bit what Walter Becker brought to the table. I liked this a lot, glad I listened to it. 4 stars.

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Mon Nov 29 2021
4

Странноватая музыка

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Thu Dec 16 2021
4

I love this album, but it is definitely not something you have to hear before you die. Super smooth.

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Mon Jan 10 2022
4

Jazz-pop-rock. Me ha gustado.

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Thu Feb 03 2022
4

I confess to hating this album (or at least the singles from it that I heard) upon its release as it fit neither the classic rock mode I was growing out of (but still enjoying and respecting) and the new wave/alt direction I was heading into for college and beyond. Full appreciation for Steely Dan was still quite a few years off, though they were vaguely on the radar, from summer hits heard at the swimming pool. Their breaking up just as I was entering high school didn’t help, but obviously the music is more sophisticated than I could process at the time. I remember hearing about the high-tech recording approach and thinking “yeah, but the music is still lame and wimpy.” I would have guessed the release date of this was later. I can definitely remember hating the annoying, repetitive synths and his strainy-thin-voiced vocal, but now I get their mellowness and love the shapely, unhurried guitar solos over them (“New Frontier”) and the phrasing and dry-martini vocal tone seem one-of-a-kind. The overall mood of this record is just totally up my alley on a snowy Friday afternoon nearly 40 years on. Not only does it hold up well, it’s somehow got a lot better.

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