RICK’S PICKS: Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos (Reprise) / Bassists: Lincoln Schleifer, Freddie Washington, Joe Martin
The Album: Three things need to be intact for any Donald Fagen album to succeed: his voice, his wit and lyrics about young girls. Fortunately all are in peak form on Sunken Condos, Donald’s first solo album in more than six years.
The album is decidedly Steely-sounding; “Planet D’Rhonda” could have come right out of the Gaucho sessions. “I’m Not The Same Without You” might be the ultimate anti-love song, as a liberated Fagen sings “I don’t need sleep anymore / But if I closed my eyes / I’d sleep the sleep of the gods / I’m not the same without you.” The shuffle-ey “Miss Marlene” pays tribute to a seventeen-year old bowling partner (“Can’t you hear the balls rumble”), while Donald acknowledges losing the age battle in a fight for the girl in “The New Breed” (“Tonight I ran into that kid / Who’s been upgrading all your stuff”). Fagen writes all the tunes but one, a cover of Issac Hayes’ old nugget “Out Of The Ghetto”, and it’s a perfect choice.
Musically the album is fairly even-keel, and I would have preferred a more up-front drum mix on certain songs, but it all pieces together quite nicely and there are indeed standout musical contributions throughout, in particular the harmonica work of William Galison.
The Bassists: Lincoln Schleifer keeps with Fagen’s long tradition of hiring low-enders who know how to lay down the large groove with taste and restraint. Freddie Washington percolates on the Hayes cover, while Joe Martin’s acoustic moves the album’s opener “Slinky Thing”.
Best Tracks: “I’m Not The Same Without You”, “Out Of The Ghetto”, “Miss Marlene, “Planet D’Rhonda”