Donald Fagen – Morph the Cat (2006)
purchase this album
I know a lot of people (my wife, for instance) who literally cannot stand the music of Steely Dan. I can sympathize; I was one of those people, not so long ago, and I’m not really sure what sent me over the edge, really. I do remember listening to the Dan’s comeback album, Two Against Nature, and feeling a warm rush of nostalgia for the music of a band I’d never really enjoyed, or even given much thought. But catch me in the right mood these days, and I’ll sit for half an hour and tell you exactly why you should own and love Aja. Go figure.
Donald Fagen’s solo albums, on the other hand, are a dicier proposition. To be fair, there have only been two thus far â€” 1982’s The Nightfly and 1992’s Kamakiriad â€” but the former was a solid extension of Fagen’s work with Steely Dan, and the latter was an arid mess. (And given the lack of old-fashioned human moisture that can define many of the Dan’s latter-day recordings, calling Kamakiriad “arid” really means something.)
Now here’s Morph the Cat. Where does it land on the continuum? Happily, it’s more Nightfly than Kamakiriad; more Two Against Nature than Everything Must Go. The difference between the two extremes is negligible to non-fans, and to those of you for whom Steely Dan and Donald Fagen are mere lounge-rock mush, Morph will unquestionably be more of the same. To the converted, though, this is easy listening in the best sense of the word: Bitter, sardonic lyrics; smart changes; tight playing and fluid interplay. In other words, more of what we’ve come to expect from Donald Fagen. Try the title track (download) and “Mary Shut the Garden Door” (download).