Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos

Posted October 24, 2012 by in



4.5/ 5


Genre: Rock, jazz-rock
Producer: Donald Fagen, Michael Leonhart
Label: Warner Bros., Reprise
Format: CD, Digital download, LP
Time: 44:07
Release Date: 16 October 2012
Spin This: I'm Not the Same Without You, Slinky Thing, Out of the Ghetto, Miss Marlene


Cruisin' funk, sharp instrumentation, witty songs - a career best emulating 1982' The Nightfly


Like all of Fagen's solo albums, it settles for a short LP-friendly playlist

So far, the innovative jazz-rock on Sunken Condos shines as some of the finest r&b content heard all year

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

So far, the innovative jazz-rock on Sunken Condos shines as some of the finest r&b content heard all year

Singing half of Steely Dan, Donald Fagen has hardly shredded his ego-braniac sarcasm for sexy, but Sunken Condos avoids the bulk of Steely Dan idiom tailspins and goes for his most vertical album to date. And it’s quite obvious from the jump that Fagen’s fifth solo set corrects the nitpicky mistakes of 2006’s Morph the Cat: The unbelievably polished production and plastic funk are replaced with an authentic Nightfly quality, where the musicianship is tighter and feels systematically applicable to the Steely Dan aesthetic. It’s a snarky voyage full of jukejoint blues, cool jazz and mid-grade funk that gives Fagen a hip Daddy-O makeover. He does rap a bit about his aging blunders on “The New Breed,” where his lover dumps him for a younger man, and the “I.G.Y.”-sounding “Miss Marlene,” where he attempts to turn bowling into a sexy sport. It’s traditional Fagen dark humor at best, but it is the smooth grooves, tight lyricism and excellent musicianship aboard Sunken Condos that grips the ear. Album opener “Slinky Thing” easily steals the show with its slick suaveness, as Fagen entertains that young fixation (Today we were strolling/By the reptile cage/I thinkin’ that she needs somebody/Who’s closer to her own age”). “I’m Not the Same Without You,” a trusty runner-up, dabbles with “Glamour Profession” disco vibes and Stevie Wonder-ish harmonica while showcasing brilliant brass and sexy girly background harmonies. The other cuts are just as cool and appetizing as the first two. “Out of the Ghetto” surprisingly revamps the forgotten Isaac Hayes tune (substituting ‘Soulsville’ for Memphis and editing ‘chocolate chip’ for ‘honey dip’) and sweetly mixes Nashville soul with lava lamp jazz-funk. “Good Stuff” offers up a great deal of mellow jazz-funk. The bluesy Johnnie Taylor-ish breakup of “Weather In My Head” even hearkens listeners back to Aja’s “Deacon Blues,” but replaces the “sax-e-phone” with Lucille-esque guitar riffs. “Here comes my own Katrina – the levee comes apart/There’s an ocean of misery floodin’ my heart,” Fagen vehemently sings.

Nine time out of ten, regardless of how fast technology evolves – Fagen knows how to handle the production chamber, and he has a strong understanding and grip on the type of music that embellishes his fancy art-rock. Plus, good company seems to always be complementary devices in Fagen’s world (co-producer Michael Leonhart plays just as much as Fagen does). Although the zenith of Steely Dan may far too attached from the recollection of modern-day consumers, Sunken Condos pulls off a magical suite that feels like a career best for Fagen. Never does the jazz get out of hand or too cozy: Fagen is one with the band and the grooves.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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