Customer Reviews: Sunken Condos
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on October 16, 2012
"First Dive to Visit Fagen's Sunken Condos"

Jim McPartland

I've had trouble doing anything but listen to Donald Fagen's Sunken Condos since it streamed yesterday, 10/9, one week before its official release.

I'm on eight times straight through so far.

Like fine wine, it gets better with each listen. And like most of Fagen's material, it's very complex with lots of musical intricacies. Sunken Condos is a mixture of jazz, blues, rock, and 70's funk--and Fagen has never been in better form.

Sunken Condos is Fagen's strongest solo material EVER. Better than The Nightfly--and I LOVE Nightfly.

It surpasses Steely Dan's Grammy Award winning Two Against Nature. And as good as Walter Becker is at contributing to Steely Dan, Fagen proves he is and always has been Steely Dan's driving force.


Donald made a great choice having Michael Leonhart co-produce. Michael `gets it' and his horn playing/orchestration are powerful. The recording is ideal- typical for perfectionist Fagen.

A pass at the songs-

1) Slinky Thing- funky- love the horns and xylophone- an older guy chasing or with a young chick and doubting himself.

2) I'm Not the Same Without You- love the melodica, which Donald uses more on Sunken Condos than on any other CD's and handles it like a madman--- very upbeat-- and optimistic about a break up- think the opposite of The Things I Miss the Most from Everything Must Go. Great vocals! Takes all of Steely Dan and solo efforts---shakes `em up--- and pours out one of the best songs he's ever written.

3) Memorabilia- great muted horns, sweet and soulful. More great vocals. The gals do a great job of complimenting Donald.

4) Weather in My Head- very bluesy- more outstanding horns/backing vocals- super nice guitar solo- B.B Kingish- I assume its Jon Herrington.

5) The New Breed- reminds me of Gaucho's My Rival--- organs--- freakin' great horns- and more melodica. More vocal harmonies. Donald's voice as strong as ever.

6) Out of the Ghetto (Isaac Hayes cover)- very funky--think War's Slippin' Into Darkness. "I took you out of the ghetto, but I could not get the ghetto out of you."

7) Miss Marlene- THIS SONG TOTALLY ROCKS- a little I.G.Y., a little Ruby Baby. Vocal blend is unbelievable- takes the best of SD-- gives me the chills--another totally great guitar solo by Herrington.

8) Good Stuff- TOTALLY FUNK-EEEE! Love the off key piano- more out-freakin'-ragous muted horns-- melodica-- xylophone---backing vocals--think Haitian Divorce--sounds like a Sopranos episode, both lyrical and musically--- "East Patterson"-- reprise of "There's a special satisfaction when a job comes off so right- better break out the good stuff, the boss wants to party all night."

9) Planet d'Rhonda- Jazzy- "somewhere between 19 and 38"--sweet with more outstanding vocal arrangement--AND yet more Herrington guitar. Think Chain Lightening--- stretchin' out, like Donald said "Have at it, Jon". "My friends say `Jim, you're on a deadly spree.' They just can't understand that D's my vitamin XYZ."

I guarantee the reviews will praise Sunken Condos, proving you don't get old--you get better. I don't know what's gotten into Donald, but it's ridiculously good. Sunken Condos is an epiphany for Fagen, like vintage wine that has fermented for hundreds of years, is opened, and will be enjoyed for many more.
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on October 16, 2012
Donald Fagen has done it again!! "Sunken Condos" is another instant classic. As usual, it is replete with the same level of superlative musicianship, lyricism, intelligence, class and style that's come to characterize his work. There is a familiarity that, in part, stems from allusions to the older classics in his catalog. DF musically refers to I.G.Y. and Ruby Baby (The Nightfly); King of The World (Countdown To Ecstasy); Pretzel Logic (Pretzel Logic); Your Gold Teeth II (Katy Lied); The Night Belongs To Mona (Morph The Cat); Deacon Blues (Aja); Trans-Island Skyway (Kamakiriad), Hey 19 (Gaucho), etc. throughout 'Condos.' This usage is rife with irony. DF's approach to newness was, in part, to use something old--something he's never done before. If it's true that creativity stops around age 50, no one told Donald, for the invention and experimentation in Condos makes that assertion ludicrous. His brilliant remake of Isaac Hayes' "Out of the Ghetto" alone negates the contention that he broke no new ground on this record. He also employed Upright Bass, Vibraphone and solo Violin, instruments he's rarely if ever used before, but that's not the only reason it sounds so fresh. There is an underlying sense of fun and joy in these songs. Only an artist of Donald's caliber and mindset can make a narrative about a bowler's untimely death (Miss Marlene) sound mellifluous. Condos is the work of an artist who is comfortable with life and himself. There is a brightness that shines through the track with even the darkest theme. Humor has always played a prominent role in SD/DF/WB oeuvre, but these songs are laugh-out-loud funny. ("Four old hippies/Drivin' in the rain/I asked for a lift--they said/Get used to the pain."--Weather In My Head) There is such heart, honesty, humor, self-awareness and warmth in these tracks that it's almost palpable. Like all Fagen/Becker compositions, Condos will take hold of your soul and won't let go. Rather than regale you with my personal opinions on each track, I'll say this: I have listened to it on a continuous loop for a week now and I just can't get over it. This will live in my ipod for the next 9 months at least.

Before Sunken Condos, Michael Leonhart and the Avramina 7's Seahorse And The Storyteller lived on a constant loop in my playlist (It comes highly recommended, as well). A big congrats goes out to the multi-talented Leonhart who co-produced with Fagen and played drums on every track. He also contributed a plethora of other instrumentation throughout the album (guitar, keys, clavinet, vibes, trumpet, voice, etc.) Donald was looking for a laid-back feel that was reminiscent of drummers from the '30s and '40s and Michael was an audacious choice who delivered. As a long-time Leonhart fan as well, I'm glad to see him get his well-deserved turn in the spotlight. I predict he will become a highly in-demand producer following this stellar effort. I also predict Sunken Condos will garner lots of acclaim and award nominations come 2013-14. (I'd love to see DF inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a soloist) Well, I'm off to take another dose of Vitamin D(F). I don't know what pill Don has been taking, but the entire music industry needs a hefty dose, stat!
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on October 29, 2012
So many artists today claim to be musical geniuses ... but that are all no-talent jokes.
Donald Fagen is one of an exceptional few artists making music these days whom you can truly call a musical genius!
His music always leaves me breathless ... with tingles running up and down my spine. Fagen is a true master of mixing the best of funk, R&B, rock, pop and jazz into one perfect package, and his ability to write amazing melodies, sophisticated chord changes, deep introspective lyrics, and nasty funky grooves is nothing shy of supernatural.
The man is a GOD of music. Pure and simple.
Whether with Steely Dan or as a solo artist, Fagen's compositions have always represented contemporary music at its absolute highest of excellence.
SUNKEN CONDOS is no exception.
The album features nine perfectly polished soulful gems that create a musical experience that leaves you HUNGRY for more ... but sadly, with Fagen, it will be a long time before you ever get any more. So enjoy them while you can!
My all-time fave on the album is MISS MARLENE. Good lord, this song melts my heart. It's classic Fagen and represents WHY he and Steely Dan are national treasures throughout the world ... and have been since 1972. Everything is perfect with the track: the groove, the changes, the melody and lyrics. Every time I hear MISS MARLENE it literally brings tears to my eyes ... it had been FAR TOO LONG since I have heard music THIS GOOD! So long since I have heard Fagen-quality music.
But all the songs on SUNKEN CONDOS are amazing ...
Another great song is I'M NOT THE SAME WITHOUT YOU. The lyrics on this track are very clever, satirical and even hilarious ... and remind me why Steely Dan lyrics are considered the absolute best in recorded music this side of Dylan.
Another great track is WEATHER IN MY HEAD, a cool bluesy song that brings to mind the dark elements of Steely Dan's classic THE ROYAL SCAM.
I'd like to THANK Donald Fagen for generously releasing another album. (I was pretty sure he had retired after MORPH THE CAT, which was all about meeting your end ... whew, thank god he did not!)
And, Donald, if you are reading this review ... PLEASE, man, don't make me wait another six years before you release more new music. (That's my begging on the ground in humble prayer position.)
FIVE STARS ... only because I was not allowed to give it SIX.
Buy this album, listen to this album ... and thank GOD ABOVE that musical geniuses like Donald Fagen still exist in a world littered with the likes of Taylor Swift, Pink, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justine Bieber, and countless other no-talent hacks lining the local compost pile.
Long live The King: Donald Fagen!
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on October 17, 2012
This is better than "Morph the cat" imo. I've listened to it 3 times and it keeps getting better, just like all Fagen's music. If you're a dan fan you will definitely enjoy.
Hopefully the guys will reunite someday and give us all another Steely Dan disc too.

Update: 11/17/2012 -I've listened to this disc about 20 times and it is positively infectious. I can't even decide which songs I like best but slinky thing, new breed, miss marlene, and good stuff are all bouncing around in my head long after I stop the music. This one is a classic, not to be missed.

I'm scratching my head over the negative reviews posted here. Everyone is entitled to their opinions I suppose. Mine is if you're a fan of dan you must get this.
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on September 6, 2013
As with anything Donald Fagan does, it has a terrific production behind it. The songs, however, seem to simply be reruns of his other albums. Most songs tend to have the same feel, giving this effort the idea that the whole thing is one, long song. This was purchased from a glowing review and, liking Fagan and, of course, Steely Dan, seemed to be something that should be added to the CD stockpile. I'd hoped for a "Nightfly" type of CD that you marvel at but sadly, it was/is just another rehash of similar feeling songs from past work.
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It was my friend Henrique who put it best about Donald Fagen's music,that it has continued to age like fine wine. Filled with color and a good flavor. Well I myself am not a wine connoisseur myself,but at the same time I can definitely understand the metaphor. At a time when the music scene had seriously changed to the point where it shouldn't have accommodated the music he makes,albums such as his debut The Nightfly in the early 80's and the follow up Kamakiriad a decade later showcased that he had a sound AND a musical understanding that made him very generationally transcendental. He and Walter Beckers devotion to their craft,attention to detail and overall perfectionism as well as their way around top notch song craft probably helped them survive in more persnickety music fans after the 1980's. Though as always critically acclaimed I really don't think Fagen's previous solo album Morph the Cat captured the public's musical spirit the way his previous solo records had or his Steely Dan comeback releases. Having completed a personal life cycle related conceptual trilogy with that Fagen teamed up with Michael Leonhart here to restart his solo career from another perspective.

Overall the impression of this album is that it's likely the most out and out hard funk recording Fagen has made thus far. That especially goes for the opener "Slinky Thing","The New Breed" and the deep,wah wah powered "Miss Marlene" in particular. Of course on these tunes he is again exploring old style romanticism through the filter of age and modern awkwardness. "Memorabilia" returns to the slicker,jazzier production of classic Steely Dan a bit on a compelling tale of character named Louis Dakine who,from the nature of his "memorabilia" was one of the military personnel involved in atomic tests in the Marshall Islands. I have a few favorites of my own of course. "I'm Not The Same Without You" has the potential with it's strong melody and hook to be his modern day "Tomorrow's Girls" commercially,in terms of hit potential. It has a strong,well produced live band disco/funk sound not too far removed from Steely Dan's "Glamour Profession" (though more upbeat melodically) and takes about a relationship whose ending actually benefited Fagen rather than was a detriment. On "Weather In My Head",one of those great bluesy jazz grooves of his he uses the metaphor of global warming,even evoking the name of "Mr.Gore" himself to describe his confused emotional state.

On "Out Of The Ghetto",his first cover song since his debut thirty years earlier that funk spirit of this album is affirmed by this Isaac Hayes number praising his girlfriend for her "ghetto fabulousness" and ability to maintain her dignity at the same time. That jazzier Steely Dan type flavor is maintained well across "Good Stuff" and "Planet D'Rhonda". As for Donald Fagen his musical abilities and faithfulness to his craft have apparently never abandoned him. As a matter of fact he seems to have learned from his previous solo recording as well. Many of these songs are infused with a welcomed return to his way with melodic song craft,but it's not only that aspect that makes this such a vital and strong comeback. Long regarded for his devotion to the most complex of lyrical implication,Fagen has been learning a lot from the funk era (of which he was of course a part with Steely Dan) about how to project this aspect of his talent in a way that's totally relatable. This means that the songs here are both musically and lyrically creative,intelligent and witty as well as being completely accessible to the people as well. Of course his inclusion of a lyric sheet here probably adds to that as well. I praise Fagen for emphasizing the heavy funk groove side of his musicianship much as he did with Steely Dan on albums like The Royal Scam. It really shows how this often neglected genre of music has potency in places one might not begin to suspect. Taken on it's own,this is an excellent Donald Fagen album easily the equal,if sometimes very different,to his first three solo releases.
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on October 22, 2012
I realize this is a solo album for Mr. Fagen, but to me it has the most Steely-Dan-like vibe of any of his albums. I think this is for two reasons:

1) He had a collaborator on this album -- the multi-instrumentalist Michael Leonhart, who co-produced, co-arranged horns and vocals, plays trumpet, clavinet, synths, and,under a pseudonym, drums. I think Fagen is different when he's working with a teammate. He's not just trying to express himself, he's trying to entertain a musical partner. That sense of "can you top this" is not a feature of most Fagen solo work, but it is all over this album.

2) Thematically, he's done with the autobiographical cycle of Nightfly, Kamakiriad and Morph the Cat. Writing about himself, his songs were necessarily less edgy and more reflective. It works great, especially on the first album, and his weaving of sci-fi and ironic political commentary made his albums tougher and more surprising than the competition, but compared with Steely Dan -- mellower. This album is not about himself. Instead, like Steely Dan, he is telling stories here, and the characters in many of these stories resemble Steely Dan characters at least somewhat. Maybe a little less depraved and existential. But characters, for whom Fagen creates magnificent series of soundtracks, classic Dan-style guitar work and horns that any fan of "My Old School" or "Black Cow" will immediately recognize. Lyrically, he picks up a few Steely Dan themes that he tended to leave out of his solo work til now. "Slinky Thing" brings back the horny old man trying to keep up with a young chick that we got to know well on Gaucho and Two Against Nature. We get two songs about named women, "Miss Marlene" and "Planet D'Rhonda," that remind you a bit of "Josie," "Peg," "Lunch with Gina," or the "Negative Girl." "The New Breed" features another Steely Dan trope--the love triangle, sexual jealousy. Although, this time, the narrator is more resigned and philosophical, even as he condemns his young gal to her "new dotcom slash life."

Based on the first few days of playing this over and over, I would say the album is amazingly consistent, only one or two songs falling short of the best tracks on here. Man, the music sounds great! My current favorites are probably "I'm Not the Same Without You," "Weather in My Head," "Miss Marlene" and "Planet D'Rhonda." "Out of the Ghetto" is funny with its concept of adding klezmer instrumentation to the rapid-fire funk. The other songs are great too. Really nothing bad to say about it; all four of his solo albums are treasures.
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on October 20, 2012
All of Fagen's solo albums are great, AND it must be said we are lucky to STILL have him around and cranking out a top shelf album like this!...helping us all get through the cultural wasteland of 2012. It borrows a little from other Fagen/Dan but takes it's own route. Of course it'll grow on you! To me, it is warmer and less antiseptic than some of Kamikiriad and Morph (though parts of those are more melodic in spots than Condos ever gets)...and I like the drums and the myriad of Leonhart horns and Fagen keys...
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on November 10, 2012
Donald Fagen and his new sidekick Michael Leonhart have produced a funky jazz/pop album closer to "The Nightfly" than Donald's last two solo efforts. Leonhart plays drums under the name of Earl Cooke (with an E) Jr and bass under the a.k.a. of Harlan Post of the Boston Post family (I suppose). Bare with me for a look at the tracks:

"Slinky Thing" always makes me chuckle and the hook is brilliant. Joe Martin on acoustic bass lays down a great funky bass line and this is a great opener.

"I'm Not The Same Without You" is certainly the opposite of most love lost songs, no one looks at the world quite the way Donald does.

"Memorabilia": begs the question: "Who the hell is Louis Dakine and what is in the front of his backroom." The chorus gets a little old after awhile but the music is just pure funk jazz.

"Weather In My Head": is one of the best songs Donald has written in a long time and guitar player Jon Herington joins the long list of great guitar solos on Fagen/Dan LP's. I've long given up on the weather in my head, its always cloudy.

"The New Breed": is kind of "What a Shame About Me" part two. Love the organ work on this one. "Out of The Ghetto" is a cover of a Issac Hayes song from 1978, it is given a funky kind of George Duke treatment. Always good for a laugh to picture Donald with the Ghetto mama in the tune.

"Miss Marlene" makes me ask the questions: Is there really someone named Charlie Pillow and How does Donald think of this stuff? "Sometimes on a league night, I catch her scent again. Her hand guiding my hand, We drop the seven-ten." Would have fit right in on "Everything Must Go."

"Good Stuff": Love the groove on this one and the production is perfect. "There is a special satisfaction, When a job comes off so right, Better break out the good stuff, The boss wants to party all night" is classic hook.

"Planet D'Rhonda": congratulations to Donald for still having "Monkey Time" 24/7. The song doesn't seem to have the energy required for that task but then that's nit picking. A little less funky than the rest of the CD but the guitar work of Kurt Rosenwinkel is worth a listen, it's SMOOTH.

Summary: Some real good songs on here and some that are not quite as good but there is nothing bad, that's for sure. The production is good but sometimes too good if that makes any sense. The fact that basically Donald and Michael played most of the instruments eliminates some of the jazz aspects and lowers it one star for me. All in all a good effort and one that I am glad to own. Give it a listen and "Break out the Good Stuff."
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on November 16, 2012
SUNKEN CONDOS is just as good as any Steely Dan greatest hits collection. The record sounds familiar and yet brand new at the same time, not an easy trick to pull off! Much of this has to do with the healthy dose of funk that Fagen adds to his usual repertoire. His word play is at its best, too. Some of the highlights include "Good Stuff," that could have fit well on the soundtrack to SHAFT, and "Miss Marlene," a reminiscent piece about an old girlfriend he still pines for. Six of the nine songs on SUNKEN CONDOS are instant classics, while the remaining three are above average. His red ball knocks all the pins down!
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