Good Fagen, But Not His Best
Doggymcnuggets | Bedford, IN USA | 06/02/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Kamakiriad," Donald Fagen's second solo album, would get an extra star or two if the bar had not been set so high by his 1982 classic "The Nightfly." "Kamakiriad" is by all means a good album, but it falls short of the wonder of its predecessor. Both feature classy, intelligent songs marked by smooth jazz-tinged arrangements, impeccable musicianship & sonics, and Fagen's distinctive vocals. But the difference between the two concept albums lies precisely in their concepts. "The Nightfly" was Fagen's nostalgic and sympathetic look back at his adolescent fantasies about the future, all seen through an optimistic and romantic 1950s lens. There is a great warmth to "The Nightfly" largely because it sounds like Fagen really enjoyed his fond look back. "Kamakiriad," on the other hand, is a more detached affair. Here we follow a future protagonist as he ventures out into the ups and downs of the brave new world in his new high tech car, the Kamakiri. A decently interesting concept if not particularly compelling, but one that comes across as a much less personal affair this go round. Though Fagen's songs would never likely be described as sweet, there was a certain sweetness to "The Nightfly" that wasn't present before or after that album and which gave it an extra emotional connection. The songs themselves on "Kamakiriad" are consistently good, and they are smooth as silk and groove admirably. In fact, they may groove just a little too hard. A listen to the album in its entirety causes the songs to begin to sound a little homogeneous compared to those of "The Nightfly," where each song was uniquely and melodically memorable, told a story, captured a specific emotion, and really transported the listener to Fagen's innocent fantasy life. It's a tougher challenge to actually remember the songs on "Kamakiriad" and distinguish one funky groove from the next.
My review may sound negative but it really isn't. "Kamakiriad" is certainly a very enjoyable album - well performed, well produced, and offering fans a healthy dose of Fagen's unique soulful songcraft. A classic, however, it is not. That status remains reserved for his solo debut. We know Fagen has it in him to give us something really really special, but this time around we gladly settle for very good."