Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

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Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby SteveC » Sun Jan 11, 2015 12:56 pm

Review date 25th January - ease keep thread free for reviews.

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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby SteveC » Sat Jan 24, 2015 4:52 pm

Intro courtesy of Billyray:


So why did I put this forward as a classic album?

I think I see it that way because it is one that I come back to on a regular basis.  I love the laid back production, in that way it is of a previous age.

There is a layering to the recording which is now rare and in some ways is old fashioned.  Those tinkling bells suddenly in the middle of a track. Lyrics that you can hear and understand. Muted cornet. Harmonica anyone?

Backing singers and harmonising.

Although the word is now misused IMHO the album is Lush.
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby SteveC » Sun Jan 25, 2015 10:53 am

I listened to this album a couple of times, Streamed at CD quality from my Stream X2.

What struck me immediately was the extremely high quality of production and sound quality, with an metronome like quality to the beat.  Very much part of the Steely Dan canon.

The opening, and title, track is almost pergect pop/AOR.  As I progressed through H Gang, I rather liked the saxophone solo.  By What I Do, it became apparent that all the tracks have the same 'faux funk' feel about them.  By Brite Nitegown (yuk, hate the spelling!) it all became a bit boring.  Not much to add regarding The Great Pagoda Of Funn.  Security Joan has a nice guitar solo, but it is VERY safe.  Nothing to make you sit up up and take notice.

It all became a bit like a desert - very beautiful, but it is all the bl**dy same!

I listened to the words on Mary Shut THe Garden Door.  It caught my attention because it started with a different bass line.  The lyrics are a total nonsense.

The best track for me was Morph The Cat - The Reprise.  It was mercifully short.

Overall, very listenable and pleasant.  I used to like Steely Dan and still do, but I think that my musical tastes have changed over the years.  There are no highs and lows, I thought it just sounded all the same, with little to distinguish one track from another.  Unfortunatey, I cannot describe the album as other than well engineered Muzak. 
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby blair207 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:51 am

I am a big Steely Dan fan and think The Nightfly is superb.
This very boring, not a standout song on it. It has a great sound is well played but the songs are very poor.

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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby crimsondonkey » Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:19 pm

I know bits of this album quite well from hanging around with IanS1 ;D

We've used Morph the cat as one of a regular set of audition tracks over the years.  My main conclusion is that it sounds a lot better on Ian's system than mine!

I err found a 24bit  FLAC just lying around on the internet somewhere  :-[

Production overall is excellent, the mastering allows you to turn it up and get rewards from higher volume and greater contrast.  Its very smooth overall with no hard edges but I don't mean rolled off - percussion comes through very crisply. 

However its not my cup of tea musically.  I appreciate bits of it but largely its inoffensive background music that neither irritates or grabs my attention.  I think the faux funk description that SteveC gave is kind of closest to what I was looking for - my descriptor is  80's wine bar funk, listened to by preppy chaps with sweaters draped over their shoulders, bobbing their hair in time to the easy beats  ::)

If I had to choose a track I would pick 'Mary shut the garden door' just because it has a bit of atmosphere about it.

Should Sade wish to mount a mainstream comeback album I would recommend the production team from this album!
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby argustimewas » Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:42 pm

My impression is much as has already been said.

The sound quality is fantastic.

However the music is boring and lacking in excitement. I can't pick out a most or least preferred track because they all sound the same.
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby julianh » Sun Jan 25, 2015 3:50 pm

Most of my thoughts have already been covered by the comments above. The album is extremely well played and recorded but too many od the tracks sound alike. And too many could have done with being around 90 seconds shorter. For example Brite Nitegown would be a much better song without what seems to be an overly long outro. Maybe the presence of Walter Becker in the production team was what kept Steely Dan on track and his input may have tightened this album up.

All that said, a much more pleasurable listen than the last three we've had.
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby GeeGee » Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:23 pm

Listening to a CD quality rip on the SB Touch through the DACXP.

I think Steve C summed up my thoughts. elevator music.

I have an image of a bunch of men with perms and moustaches sitting in a studio smiling at each other and putting most of it down in one take.

There is no doubting the musicianship, but the content just doesn't stand out.

Good production, though a little "smooth" for me, doesn't jump out of the speakers. Bass goes very deep in places though, Security Joan made my doors rattle.

A bit like Joni Mitchell, most people on here will already know the Donal Fagin/ Steeley Dan sound and will have already decided if they like it or not. It is pleasant background music. Not for me though.


To sum up, if he had said "Rickie don't lose that number" at any point on the album, I would not have been surprised.

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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby simbo » Sun Jan 25, 2015 7:25 pm

Format: 320kbs Spotify on iPhone / Shure SE530

Some will be rolling their eyes seeing I listened to such an incredibly well recorded and mastered album using mp3. However, even in that format it is obvious how well this has been done.

Agree with many others though - doesn't float my boat, a bit lame, no cool or edge in my view.

I think SteveC alluded to it - its too perfectly timed. It sounds like its been quantized to hell by computer. Clearly that is a compliment to the musician's technical abilities as I assume no computer was used to make such corrections. But for me it doesn't make music I can 'get into'.

First track the best in my opinion, not really bothered about the rest. But will use that first track to demonstrate good recordings in future (with a caveat that it being used for that purpose only  :P)
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby SteveC » Sun Jan 25, 2015 7:27 pm

Ahhh... missed this, sorry Simbo!
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby Bolts2109 » Sun Jan 25, 2015 7:58 pm

Listened on QoBuz - agree, super recording. I like Steely Dan a lot and Fagen, but compare it to the The Nightfly and this is just too comfy. I wouldn't go as far as elevator music, it's much better than that; for me good background music which would add to the ambience of a decent bar, maybe that's what it was aimed at? I'll stick to the Nightfly (also a top notch recording).
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby STodd » Sun Jan 25, 2015 10:41 pm

Format: CD rip FLAC, 44.1k/16bit
Recording quality: very good

So back to a well-worn path - an album I don't know well...I had bought it off the back of the final list of albums on the list, and as I was unfamiliar I thought I'd take the plunge.

Well....I tried really hard to like it. Honestly, I did. I think I managed 7 listens. I tried different times of the day. I even stuck it on in the bedroom system a couple of nights...and promptly fell asleep. Good musicianship, good production, but very little spark to keep me interested.

Highlights: If pushed, What I Do, and the funky beats of Brite Nitegown
Low points: None really - just too 'samey', like someone thought "here's a good formula, let's give it the 'Dead Horse' treatment"

2/5 - good for background (and therefore sleeping) but just not my cuppa at all.
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Re: Classic Albums - Donald Fagen, Morph The Cat

Postby abozo » Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:15 am

Format Mostly Spotify 320 (& once with probably the same FLAC 24 that the donkey also tripped over  :-[)
Recording quality: Excellent

Well, I think that you're all wrong!  So there.  ;D

This is a classically great album.  And one I that had never heard before SteveC started this process.  So, thanks again to Steve and the proposer.

I do admit that I very nearly wrote it off after once or twice through.  But I'm so glad that I persisted.

The seemingly "jazz lite" style of music is SO NOT my cup of tea.  I like heavy classical and heavy rock.

The on the surface upbeat style of Morph goes against all principles that I hold holy.  But wow, I can really appreciate the sheer quality of this record in so many aspects.

After starting to dig into the lyrics it soon becomes clear that there are some very heavy issues, inlcuding political brainwashing, mortality, etc, which are very cleverly discussed.  I really love the strange conflict of the head bopping musical style with such lyrically dark subjects!

The musicianship on here is really quite outstanding.  Lots of lovely guitars.  Wonderful solos.  The song writing is often very clever.

I'm not saying I'll be playing this album a lot, but I see it as sheer quality music.  Respect.

Highlights: Lots.  If I have to choose one: The Great Pagoda of Funn - Marvin Stamm's one-minute trumpet solo is so utterly perfect that it brings tears to my eyes.
Lowlights: None, once you've given it the attention is deserves.  (Though I'm never very keen on ...- Reprise.)