CD Review: Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen
Morph the Cat
By David Chiu

As indicated his other two previous solo albums, Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat sounds very similar to the latter day Steely Dan albums—smooth and sophisticated jazz-inflected pop. Morph the Cat also represents a trilogy of sorts: The Nightfly (1982) explored adolescence, Kamikiriad (1993) tackled midlife, and this latest one deals with endings (The afterlife on the fourth solo record?). Underneath the upbeat and soulful pop is some serious and downbeat stuff post 9-11, from impending death in “Brite Nitegown” to the ‘War of the Worlds’ scenario of “Mary Shut the Garden Door.” It also poignantly explores the climate of the times such as lovers ignoring the world of “psycho-moms and dirty bombs” around them on “The Great Pagoda of Funn”; even Fagen inserts his trademark wry humor on “Security Joan,” in which a hapless passenger serenades to the airport attendant: “Girl you won’t find my name on your list/Honey you know I ain’t no terrorist.” There’s also an imagined dialogue with Ray Charles on “What I Do” that captures the essence of the soul genius. With the usual superlative musicianship and Fagen’s distinctive sardonic voice, Morph the Cat is engaging and intimate with a little bit of that dark edge that defined Steely Dan’s career.


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