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on 2 May 2013
I've very little to say about this because 100/120 reviews at 4 and 5 pretty much says it all.

However, one thing I would like to emphasize is that Fagen's voice is getting better with age - it's getting deeper, but he's not losing his ability to hit the higher notes. I think this extra vocal range adds some layers of richness that perhaps have not been apparent in his earlier stuff (including SD stuff).

In terms of his singing, I think this is the best album he's done.
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on 6 August 2014
I have been a fan of Steely Dan since 13, nearly 40 years, and have followed there career through breakup return and solo projects. I enjoy Donald Fagen's solo efforts though with the exception of the Nightfly never considered them as good as Steely Dan.
I bought this album when it came out but didn't give it a chance at first, as I had a raft of other new stuff to listen to, then a few months ago stuck it in the car again, thank heaven I did, its superb.
Great Tunes and some great playing with solos on some tracks very reminiscent of Steely Dan in their mid 70's heyday. Mr Fagen still makes sure he surrounds himself with great players, yes there is jazz in there but there is also a fair amount of rock not loud but none the less rock.
Lets hope there is lots more to come as this is a return to top form and in Mr Fagen's case that means the very best music
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on 11 December 2012
If you already know Donald Fagen's music then skip to part 2. Part 1 is for the uninitiated.

Part 1: Donald Fagen writes songs with strange lyrics and unusual subject matter. His inspiration for them must come from the random ideas that momentarily strike any of us on any given day but which persist, fascinate and absorb the creatively curious obsessives of the world. It's usually best not to try to analyse the lyrics to discover the concealed sub-plot or meaning and yet it's almost impossible not to read between the twisted lines. Luckily for the listener, the weird words are wrapped up in very high quality music, where every detail has been individually crafted and combined with all the other elements to result in a note-perfect, stylishly-layered combination of sophisticated and elegant sounds. Donald Fagen is perhaps the Karl Lagerfeld of his musical genre - that being a blend of cool jazz-blues-funk-whatever. He is witty, intelligent, demanding, uncompromising and extremely talented and his music, recorded under his own name or as part of the phenomenal and continually-evolving Steely Dan, has been delighting his fans for forty years.

Donald Fagen's previous solo releases were The Nightfly (1982)- a classic musical work of art; Kamakiriad (1993) - also very highly-recommended; and Morph the Cat (2006)- different, darker and, in parts, more of an acquired taste perhaps. If you don't already have any of these albums, I would recommend buying all of them but listening and getting to know them in chronological order. The latest solo album in the sequence is another wonderful recording, with another set of strange songs set to perfectly performed and arranged music. To the uninitiated the songs on the four albums may sound similar to one another - probably because the lead vocals are all Fagen's and, unlike the subject matter, the range of musical styles is fairly narrow. However, the layers of each song run very deep with such complexity that the listener will hear previously-undiscovered nuances each time the song is played.

Part 2: Sunken Condos has been in my car CD-player for several weeks now and it's not going to be changed over any time soon. Like Morph the Cat and the last two Steely Dan albums, I have found that some of of the tracks take a while to grow on me but with others it was love at first hearing. Eventually, the musical artistry and the creative complexity of the compositions start to win me over like a persistent but initially unattractive suitor whose personality eventually becomes irresistible. What I loved instantly about Sunken Condos are the tracks Miss Marlene (an up-tempo retro-Steely Dan style tune with great vocals which for me would have been the single), Out Of The Ghetto (a vibrant, funky disco tune written by Isaac Hayes which should be playing in clubs NOW) and Weather In My Head (wonderful guitar-heavy blues). Slinky Thing, Memorabilia, The New Breed and I'm Not The Same Without You are the are the second phase with their wonderfully combined jazz, bizarre lyrics and fine vocals. Slower burners for me are Planet D'Rhonda and Good Stuff but on a collection as fine as this it's all relative and, like the persistent suitors, their intricate layers of fine musicianship are already starting to turn my head.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 13 February 2013
I'd like to say I love this album, and give it five stars, as I've always felt I loved Donald Fagen, and that he couldn't put a foot wrong. But, as a drummer, I have to say that I share the reservations of some reviewers I've read on't interweb; given the stringently high standards required of his drummers in the past, both with The Dan and solo, having drums that sound 'assembled' as opposed to played (I suspect the drum tracks are, at very least, 'collaged' from numerous takes, if perhaps not outright sequenced) isn't the best modus operandi to be adopted by DF.

Still, at the end of the day, Michael Leonhart (aka Earl Cooke, Jr) has put together very good rhythm tracks, however he did it. However, some reviewers are saying the recording sounds more warm and organic than previous DF dishes, and I can't really see that, especially not with what amounts to robotic drumming underpinning the whole subaquatic edifice.

As already mentioned, I love DF - his music has brought me countless hours of joy (and more than a few tears too) - and it's clear to me that, as a reviewer I read somewhere put it, he put the 'Steely' into the The Dan, especially if one notes the continuity of vibe between Dan material and Don's solo output. As DF himself said in an interview with a Stateside DJ, these days his material more or less writes itself. That's tantamount to saying he's found formulae, and that's effectively saying he's repeating himself. Which he is.

The only notable exception being the cover of Isaac Hayes' Out Of The Ghetto, which DF has described as being an 'Ashkenazi' take on the original, reclaiming the ghetto for a Jewish identity. Fagen's work in the NY Rock and Soul Revue, and his jamming at Levon Helm's place (an association one might not have expected, if based purely on musical pedigrees) seem to have softened him up enough to go back to a cover. Whilst not without precedent -the last time being his sublimely harmonious Ruby Baby, on The Nightfly - he chooses a very different song, and gives it a very different treatment here.

If, like me, you like The Dan and the Don, more of the same isn't all bad, but I think there are really only two, perhaps three, standout cuts here: Memorabilia and Miss Marlene being the best, with the blues of Weather In My Head coming up in third place. Memorabilia harks back to Nightfly themes of Cold War nuclear ideas ('souvenirs of a perfect doom'), done as only Don knows how, with a mellow, laid back groove akin to (albeit more 'swung') Kamakiriad's Snowbound.

Miss Marlene manages to rise to the alchemical level of his best golden nuggets, with his evocation of the tragic Miss M rolling bowling balls along moonbeams at the local alley: 'Can't you hear the balls rumble? Can't you hear the balls rumble?' He sings, reaching a high soulful register against a pillow of easy horns. Classic Don, nuff' said! Weather In My Head is as frank and confessional as DF has ever been, the 'burned out hippie clown' of Slinky Thing now has to 'live with the pain'. In the interview I alluded to earlier he mentions that he's on antidepressants. The tortured soul of the artist. A sad but familiar refrain.

Elsewhere there are more neutral genre pieces, such as Good Stuff, where a gangster yarn allows Fagen to strut his verbal stuff, to excellent if less moving effect. There's his trademark dry wit, on the back-to-front or inside-out reinvention of a lost love song, recast as ode to liberty and rejuvenation, that is I'm Not The Same Without You. Slinky Thing and New Breed show DF worriedly aware of the ageing process, the first redeemed by the upbeat groove, whereas the latter over-eggs the cyber-soufflé, for me at any rate, and is the closest the album gets to filler (altho' some seem to feel Ghetto is filler too).

I've never bought DF's whole trilogy schtick, regarding his previous three solo albums. Nightfly remains, for me, the most consistent and best of all of them thus far. Kamakiriad's not quite as good, but I do go back to it quite a lot. Never gotten into Morph The Cat (his most pristine and hi-fi recordings ever, sonically*, but the ones that least involve me emotionally), even after trying it again having listened to Sunken Condos.

So, if you like Fagen (and/or Steely Dan), you'll probably like this. Some more great music from DF, but only a few tracks that are really exciting new additions to his illustrious catalogue.

* Apparently several numbers off Nightfly, I forget which, became standard sound-man PA testing fare. Are they still, I wonder? They certainly lack the rich bass and crystalline clarity of Morph, which is a brilliant album to use if you ever need to compare a bunch of speakers!
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on 11 December 2012
For any fan of Steely Dan and/or Donald Fagen this is a must buy CD. It is the fourth solo CD by Fagen and in my view is by far the best since the magnificent 'Nightfly'. As always with Steely Dan and Fagen the arrangements are outstanding and the recording and production are superb. The quality of the playing by the usual gang of top-notch session players that Fagen gathers for his recordings is immaculate, and the arrangements are always really imaginative whilst supporting the flow of the song. Fagen's lyrics are deliciously cool, hip, often sardonic and full of wit. The opening track, 'Slinky Thing' lyrically recalls "Hey Nineteen' with its references to an older man with a younger woman; "...Some punk says: Pops you better hold on to that slinky thing..." Fagen's idiosyncratic vocals still sound really strong, despite his age, and the background harmony vocals are beautiful. For my money the stand-out soloist is guitarist Jon Herrington, who has been Fagen & Becker's go-to guitarist for several years now. He has the jazz chops of Larry Carlton, but definitely has his own voice. Michael Leonhart co-produced this album with Donald Fagen, and he also contributes keyboards, trumpet, vibes and backing vocals, but overall this has the reliable stamp of a Donald Fagen recording.

In my view the only relatively weak track is Isaac Hayes' 'In the Ghetto'. On the classic 'Nightfly' recording Fagen included a brilliant version of Leiber & Stoller's 'Ruby Baby' and that worked well in the context of the original compositions - 'In The Ghetto' has not stood the test of time so well.
Nevertheless this is an absolutely brilliant album, and I cannot recommend it enough. BUY IT!!
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2015
One hundred and thirty eight reviews already - do we need another one? Probably not, but for what it's worth, here goes: Not as good as Morph the Cat, but Fagan solo outings (rare as Unicorn horns) are all worth owning. This one is a kind of career (solo and Steely) reprise - some tunes somewhat Morph-like and others morphing right back to Can't buy a Thrill and Pretzel Logic, with sprinklings of Kamakiriad peppered about. I've dropped a star because I feel it tends to easy-listening at times (for which we can just go back to Bacharach), lacking that deep and hypnotic Morph-type funk. But nice clear production as usual, lots of musical interest and classy musicianship make it a winner.
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on 24 November 2012
Only just got this having heard a track on Radio 2 and being a big fan.I have to say it does not grab you straight away following the usual formula Donald has crafted over the years.There again Kamakiriad took some getting into after the Nightfly.As always sound quality is excellent but I feel the cardboard case is a little cheap and seems to be the way a lot of labels are promoting their albums now as I suppose they expect more people to download, not me I am a diehard analogue fan who took a long time to wait for cd to come good only to be abandoned now by the industry and its fickleness with formats.Stick with this if you are a fan.
Update 03-12-12 I have listened to this album twice more and it gets better each time.Superb production which needs several listens to pick up all the little details, especially good on a decent hi-fi.
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on 13 March 2013
Give it time to appreciate, which is not shorthand for saying it is not in the mould af past classics. S.C has great muscianship and relaxed vibe and is not overproduced, or underproduced for that matter. Again, that is not to say there are not identifiable tunes, they hit you more gradually which means you will not tire of the music so quickly. I jumped to this and missed Morph the Cat, so I am not comparing there. Elevator music ? You are in a darn fine elavator sir ....

At around £5.00 on Amazon, its definately 5 stars, If it was £12.00 I would err towards 4 stars, if one can judge artistic merit on price that is.
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on 21 July 2015
I know Donald is getting a bit long in the tooth like us all, but after my three tester plays I feel it doesn't hold the excitement and playability I'm used to from The Dan. I only bought Sunken Condos because I didn't have it, not from reviews. I still play ' Nightfly ' continually when I drive any distance.
Maybe I'll warm to it later, who knows ? I'm just gad they are still around and making music.
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on 11 March 2013
I've left the review for a couple of weeks. Having grown up with Fagan/Steely Dan I know that all the layers are not obvious on the first, or even tenth listening. Sure enough it's really under the skin now. Of a piece with his previous excellent work there are no obvious surprises here. I'm a little irritated by those reviewers who seem to think musicians should 'progress' since they often seem to be talking about the surface sound of the music. Fagan is too wily to worry too much about this but buries his feelings and ideas under a smooth shimmering surface.
Sunken Condos indeed
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