Track listing
1.
Morph the Cat
2.
H Gang
3.
What I Do
4.
Brite Nitegown
5.
The Great Pagoda
of Funn
6.
Security Joan
7.
The Night Belongs
To Mona
8.
Mary Shut the
Garden Door
9.
  Morph the Cat
(Reprise)

Label: Reprise/Wea
Release Date:
March 14, 2006

 

   

A disc comes crashing through the doors with screaming melodies that are begging for Dr. Music's immediate attention. As the good doctor snaps the tight plastic glove around his eager fingers, he inserts the disc for a quick listen. Is this a disc in need of help, or is this a disc that screams with a wealth of talent from the very first listen? Dr. Music has only one chance to hear each track and give his expert opinion. After that one listen, he will declare the status of the patient as "ALIVE" or "DEAD." Will this month's patient make it out of the operating room alive?

This is . . .
EMERGENCY SURGERY!


Morph the Cat – Donald Fagen
CD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter / 4/2006

Donald Fagen, the voice of Steely Dan.

Donald Fagen, the genius of Jazz Rock.

Donald Fagen has finally returned with a new record to follow up his Grammy nominated "Kamikiriad" release from 1993. Okay, so "Donald Fagen, prolific recording artist" is a stretch, but when this guy does do it he does it right. "Kamikiriad" was nominated for Album of the Year, and it still remains a regular visitor to my disc player. In my opinion, it was a perfect record. So, what am I expecting to hear some thirteen years down the road? To be honest, I expect nothing less than perfection from Fagen. For so many years, he and Walter Becker thrilled and amazed me with their Steely Dan albums; blending jazz, rock, funk and pop with an injection of wry and dry humor. I go into this expecting to hear more great songs in the same vein of that Steely Dan and "Kamikiriad" material. Does Fagen have some surprises in store? Will this be the pillar of perfection that "Kamikiriad" was? Let's see.

Track 1: "Morph The Cat"
Opens with the soothing, yet funky bass line, backed by the trademark occasional keyboard jolt. There's even a light horn all the while, acting as the canvas for this classic musical collage. A light breezy vocal track holds your hand as you skip through this one. I now see that the track runs for almost seven minutes. Right at the four minute mark, the vocals subside to allow the wailing guitar solo. And, right at about five and a half into it, the vocals kneel to the horn jam session, which continues until the fade out. So, we have the usual elements you would expect from Fagen, all within this first track. Great stuff. RATING: 8

Track 2: "H Gang"
Funky and tight. This is the first single from the record, and it's no surprise. There is some excellent guitar work in the beginning and the end of this one, along with a classic horn sound and sweet vocals that make up another great song. RATING: 9

Track 3: "What I Do"
This song stays in step with the attitude and rhythm of the last two songs, but this time we get a harmonica solo at about two minutes and fifteen seconds into this one. And this is another song of length, clocking in at an even six minutes. Some nice backing vocal work, added together with more of the harp to end the track. This one seems to get a bit stale at six minutes though. Make this four minutes and I think it works better, but not too bad. RATING: 6

Track 4: "Brite Nightgown"
Funky …real funky. Almost sounds like a Prince tune it's so funky! This one has a running time of over seven minutes, too! At about two minutes and twenty seconds into the tune we get a long vocal break that gives way to a funky guitar piece, as well as a keyboard jaunt, which all lasts a total of about two minutes. When we continue the vocal groove, the song turns excessively repetitive and seems like it's fading for the last three minutes. You get that "Is this ever going to end?" feeling. Nice instrumental groove, but way, WAY too long. RATING: 4

Track 5: "The Great Pagoda Of Funn"
Nice steady pace that has that peaceful Steely Dan sway to it. Beautiful blend of vocal harmonies and instrumental work, right up until the horns take the reigns of the song with a blaring solo that lasts for about a minute or so. As the song never loses pace, the vocal harmonies and instrumental work seize the reigns once again, only to lead us to yet another solo section, this time for the guitar. This guitar solo, which starts just after the five minute mark, continues until the fade, which arrives at just after seven and a half minutes. This is another really lengthy song. This one has a much better pacing than "Brite Nightgown" did, but it still yearns to end a tad sooner. RATING: 6

Track 6: "Security Joan"
This one has a more upbeat jazzy feel, with those incredible vocal harmonies. There are plenty of lyrics and vocal groove to make this song, which also clocks in over the six minute mark, a pure delight. The guitar solo that's smack in the middle of the tune is perfectly placed and lasts a perfect amount of time, so as not to lose the flow of the track. This is a great example of how to write an interesting song that can last six minutes or more. Great stuff. RATING: 8

Track 7: "The Night Belongs To Mona"
I immediately check the clock when this one starts, and we're significantly shorter with this tune. At just over four minutes, "Mona" is a slow and steady walk that utilizes all the weapons, but keeps it very simple. Nothing special here, but a decent straight forward track nonetheless. RATING: 6

Track 8: "Mary Shut The Garden Door"
A moody bass line, coupled with a jumpy drum beat makes for an unusual edginess here. There's almost a nervous tension to this one as Fagen quickly spits out the title at the end of each verse. This is another song that seems to be a run-on. Lasting slightly more than six and a half minutes, "Mary" relies on some gentle harmonica solos to capture us for a large portion of the time here. For me, that just wasn't enough. RATING: 4

Track 9: "Morph The Cat (Reprise)"
This is a little reminder (just under three minutes) of what the title track sounded like, in case you forgot. With only one short verse here, this is really an instrumental that simply acts as an unnecessary cap to the album. RATING: 4

OVERALL RATING: 6 – ALIVE!

I love the Fagen sound; the easy tones, the soft sway, the funky groove that runs through so much of this stuff; it's all part of why I love this guy, and all of that is represented here. On the other hand, if that sound doesn't do that much for you, don't look for this one to do anything to change your opinion. This is a fairly consistent record. We have the usual ingredients that make Fagen who he is, and for most of this record they make for an enjoyable listen. But, quite a few of the tunes here could stand a minute or two chopped off of them, while some just don't work that well, and a few of them are just spectacular. It's nowhere near the dish that "Kamakiriad" was, or any of the Steely Dan albums for that matter, but that's okay. Fagen is so distinctive and original in his sound, and as he offers all of that up once again, I find it hard not to appreciate it.

 
       


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