Donald Fagan - Sunken Condos
Donald Fagan - Sunken Condos
Sunken Condos is the fourth solo album from Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen, released in October 2012 through Reprise Records. It contains eight new songs and a cover of Isaac Hayes' "Out of the Ghetto". Fagen began recording the album in 2010 and described it as having a lighter feel than his earlier work, rather than being a continuation of his Nightfly trilogy.
Notes by Scott Hull
Donald Fagan fans already know they like this record. But those who sort of tuned out about 15 years ago might want to give this a “new” one a listen. This DF record sounds a lot more like early Dan to my ear.
I was an assistant mastering engineer 30 years ago when all of the Steely Dan catalog was being re-mastered for the new CD format. Working with Donald might stress some people out. He is a perfectionist’s perfectionist—If it can be better then it has to be better. He doesn’t mind spending the time to get it right and to confirm the results. He doesn’t rush making a shaker track. So why would he rush the final creative step?
Donald and co-producer Michael Leonhart came to my mastering room, and i was really excited to hear his latest work. I had the pleasure of mastering “Kamakiriad”, “Two Against Nature” and “Sunken Condos”. Each one is different but each sounds so good. I have been told by many live sound engineers that they use these records every night to test their sound PA systems.
What you will hear on this record is fun and playful lyrics—obscure references, poetry, and simple love songs. Making this into vinyl was actually one of the easiest cuts I have done in a long time. When the engineering is done right the record almost cuts itself. The hard records are the ones made in a bedroom—over-compressed and full of sibilant vocals. This record doesn’t have any of that. It just sounds good—really good—and that’s why it’s in my record store. I’m proud to have worked with Donald on this one. I’m sure yo are going to be blown away.
The Masterdisk Review
For those of you who are fans of Donald Fagen albums, you will be happy to know that Sunken Condos--his first since 2006’s Morph The Cat --is very much a Donald Fagen album: lavish production, meticulous arrangements, world-class musicians, and not a single note out of place.
Conversely, those of you who aren’t fans may be left wondering what the appeal is vs. any of his other albums, or his work with Steely Dan. To this I will say that some artists go wide while others go deep, and Fagen is of the latter breed. His artistic path is largely one of refinement rather than experimentation, and it’s one of the things I most enjoy about his music. These albums are more like portrait studies: it’s the same subject, but we see it from different angles. Maybe we see a new wrinkle or an arched eyebrow, but we’re unlikely to spot a feather boa or, I dunno, bat wings. This is more about subtle shifts that mark time and experience.
Listening to Sunken Condos I’m picturing a bit of a grin and a gleam in the eye. There’s an energy and a playfulness here that we get mostly by way of rhythm. It’s probably a bridge too far to suggest that Slinky Thing is ripe for a Joss Stone cameo, but the cover of Isaac Hayes’ “Out of the Ghetto” has klezmer horns for crying out loud, so someone’s feeling a little less bleak.
If I had to guess, I’d say that at least some of this underlying spark came from Fagen’s time with the Dukes of September, the supergroup featuring Fagen, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs. (YouTube it: It’s every bit as good as it sounds). Belonging to a group carries less pressure than leading one, and I think Sunken Condos reflects some of that spirit. It’s still Donald Fagen, but in this picture--taken from a distance, as always--maybe he looks just a little bit more relaxed behind the sunglasses.
- Justin Poroszok
I'm Not The Same Without You
Weather In My Head
The New Breed
Out Of The Ghetto
About This Record
Pat Dillett's Studio
Charles Martinez, Michael Leonhart
October 16, 2012
Candyland Studios, Hirsch Studios, Sear Sound, Avatar Studios, Audio Paint, Stratosphere Sound, Pat Dillett's Studio
Donald Fagen, Michael Leonhart
Fusion, Jazz-Funk, Jazz-Rock
Donald Fagen, Michael Leonhart, Pat Dillett
Lacquer Cut by
Donald Fagen – lead vocal, piano, Prophet 5, Wurlitzer, B3 organ, clavinet, melodica, background vocals
Harlan Post – synth bass ("I'm Not the Same Without You", "The New Breed", "Miss Marlene", "Good Stuff")
Michael Leonhart – trumpet, flugelhorn, mellophone, Fender Rhodes, minimoog, clavinet, L100 organ, M100 organ, Prophet 5, Wurlitzer, mellotron, Juno 6, accordion, vibraphone, percussion, glockenspiel, background vocals
Earl Cooke Jr – drums
Jon Herington – acoustic bass, guitar, twelve-string guitar, rhythm guitar
Walt Weiskopf – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet
Charlie Pillow – tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass flute
Roger Rosenberg – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Jim Pugh – trombone
Carolyn Leonhart – background vocals, ad lib
Jamie Leonhart – background vocals
Catherine Russell – background vocals
Cindy Mizelle – background vocals
Joe Martin – acoustic bass ("Slinky Thing")
William Galison – harmonicas ("I'm Not the Same Without You", "The New Breed")
Lincoln Schleifer – bass ("Memorabilia", "Weather in My Head", "Planet D'Rhonda")
Gary Sieger – guitar ("Memorabilia")
Larry Campbell – rhythm guitar ("Weather in My Head")
Jay Leonhart – acoustic bass ("The New Breed")
Freddie Washington – bass ("Out of the Ghetto")
Antoine Silverman – violin ("Out of the Ghetto")
Aaron Heicke – bass flute ("Miss Marlene")
Kurt Rosenwinkel – solo guitar ("Planet D'Rhonda")