Friday, April 13, 2012

The Nightfly

courtesy of VeryDistorted
at Flickr
Friday April 13, 3:17 p.m.

Over the decades, I've collected a small rental shop's worth of discs. Most of them I hear perhaps once a year or even once a decade. But for Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly", I give it a listen a few times a year. I used to remember listening to "I.G.Y."on the radio as well as "New Frontiers". The former song just struck me as being this weirdly arranged tune sung by a fellow who sounded as if he were being strangled every few verses. Of course, the album has become an icon, going into its 30th anniversary this year, and its cover, at least for those who used to buy LPs and CDs, is amongst one of the most recognized.

But I only finally purchased the album just a little over a decade ago when one of my fellow teachers, who used to be a keyboardist for a band in California, kindly lent me the disc. As I said, I only knew the songs that had been released as singles. But though I didn't immediately catch onto all of the songs (with the exception of "Maxine"which is an urban ballad classic), it was good enough for me to get my own copy. Pretty soon, after a few listens on the stereo, I grew to appreciate "Green Flower Street" and the title track. And just over the last few years, I've finally gotten to enjoy the last few tracks such as "The Goodbye Look".

Through the Net, I've read about what a masterpiece "The Nightfly"is. I've read it on Wiki, which led me to some other online reviews, and the authors and commenters have been absolutely effusive in their praise of Donald Fagen's lyrical mastery. Of course, sound engineers have called "I.G.Y."the song to test any equipment out. However, I didn't buy or repeatedly listen to "The Nightfly"because it's a masterpiece. Frankly, I wouldn't know or appreciate or recognize a masterpiece if I saw one. I can only recognize masterpieces because experts or the media have told me they are so. "The Mona Lisa is a masterpiece!" "Rodin's 'David' is a masterpiece!" OK, Mona and David, you are masterpieces. Congratulations.

Nope, I bought "The Nightfly" simply because it sounds good. I'm not a lyrics man by any means. Some of the expert reviewers spoke of how Fagen lyrically managed to make himself sound tough and tender through some of the lines in "Maxine", especially focusing on one line. I can't remember that line or all that many of the lyrics, to be honest with you. What makes it a great ballad for me is the arrangement, the jazziness, Fagen's voice placed alongside it, and that saxophone.

However, I can say that after hundreds of listenings to it over the 3 decades, I do remember a lot of the words from "I.G.Y."and Fagen's somewhat satirical tribute to the Kennedyesque American's vision of a utopian future. Heck of a song to try to sing at karaoke, though.