Still, after Steely Dan's tour in support of (MCA, 1974), the group was disbanded and Steely Dan became a studio-only group, with Becker and Fagen developing a reputation as perfectionists who were prepared, after conducting sessions with a particular line-up, to discard the sessions entirely and start again from scratch.
Subsequent Steely Dan albums, most notably the outstanding triptych of (MCA, 1980), may have been created from lengthy sessions with a seeming cast of thousands, but what made them so successful and, thirty-plus years on, so enduring, is how they combined sharp lyrics, uncompromisingly sophisticated music that had as much to do with jazz as it did pop, and undeniable groove.
In the realm of popular song there are few writers - with the exception of his partner in Dan, Walter Becker - who embody the spirit and soul of Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building as well as Donald Fagen; honoring the tradition while bringing it forward into the 21st Century.
Their heyday was the late-60s, but the band has been reincarnated several times with various members.Fagen's lyrics are no less cryptic, but there's a greater romanticism, even as he continues to demonstrate a unique way of turning a phrase.But what makes Fagen's albums as producer, bassist/lead guitarist and co-writer of one tune), and ties them together as a small but significant body of work, is an even greater jazz-centricity than found on most Steely Dan albums, making the bringing of the three titles together as a logical move.One can accuse Becker and Fagen of being perfectionists, and the music certainly sounds flawless; but equally, there's none of the sterility one might expect from work of such consideration and detail. While there's really nothing conceptual to link Fagen's three solo albums together, there are differentiators that distinguish the music from Steely Dan.The sleek production values are similar and, while Fagen's pencil could hardly be called anything remotely resembling dull, a defining characteristic of Steely Dan's lyrics has always been an acerbic and, at times, idiosyncratic wit.Of course, The Nightfly still recalls Steely Dan more than anything.