Here’s an interesting name for Friday Night Jazz: Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly.
The WSJ called The Nightfly "one of pop music’s sneakiest masterpieces" and I think that moniker fits well. The key to this is the music’s timeless quality. It was retro back in
1982, and over the years, has never grown to sound tired or even of a specific era. It remains fresh, even 25 years later.
Fagan is better known as the front half of Steely Dan — the other half being Walter Becker. In 1982, with Steely Dan "retired," Fagen released this disc as his solo debut album.
Not only did the CD win critical acclaim amongst the jazz and pop reviewers, but the disc delighted audiophiles of all stripes. You see, The Nightfly was one of the first fully digital recordings of popular music. Add to that the usual crisp, sleek production The Dan were famous for, and you have a recipe for a phenomenal recording.
A colleague who studied acoustics and audio engineering (and presently works as a documentary film director) notes the album is a favorite of touring bands. In each new venue for a concert, the CD used to "tune" the room almost universally is The Nightfly. Not only is the production musically marvelous, but is brilliant technically as well — "it’s not overcompressed, and all frequencies are well-represented. This makes running the sound board way easier."
Despite the critical review, the disc barely sold a million copies. Now, 25 years later, we see that "The Nightfly" is getting a soup-to-nuts anniversary edition in November from Reprise Records.
Except for hard core collectors, however, I cannot see purchasing this box set. All the subsequent releases were victims of The Nightflys greatness. Morph the Cat was rather nondescript, and Kamakiriad was a better effort, but simply didn’t have the same verve or pop as the first disc.
Stick with the single disc of The Nightfly. Its an essential recording . . .
The Nightfly (Wikipedia)
The Nightfly’ Still Lives at 25
ROBERT J. TOTH
WSJ, January 9, 2008; Page D8