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Kamakiriad (1993)
Donald Fagen

Available at Amazon.com >>

User Rating: 4 / 5 [ Add Your Rating ]


Name:  Dan Belcher <djbelc01@louisville.edu>
Rating:  4 / 5
Comments:  Donald Fagen's second solo effort, 1993's highly-anticipated and often-delayed "Kamakiriad" is... interesting. I'd like to start by saying that if you have a 5.1 surround setup and a DVD player, don't waste your time getting the CD verison -- get the DVD-Audio disc. If there's ever been an album that absolutely comes alive in surround sound, this is it. Sure, it does sound absolutely incredible on its own in 5.1 surround, but it really shines when compared to the standard 2-channel stereo CD mix. Now, moving on, this album has a sound unlike any other Donald Fagen effort--it's very, very cold and mechanical. The drums are all real, but they practically sound like drum machines. There's a lot of odd instrumentation that shows up, particularly in Trans-Island Skyway, Countermoon, and Teahouse on the Tracks. However, to go along with that, there's some really warm harmonies, great vocals, and of course, a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Each song tells part of the story in an interesting concept of the narrator taking a trip in his brand new steam-powered car, the Kamakiri, in the near future. The opening track, Trans-Island Skyway is a static one-chord vamp during the stanzas, but there's some Rhodes action carrying the song through that part. Countermoon uses a lot of one-chord repetition in the stanzas, but introduces some dramatic chord changes as it nears the chorus and that works in its favor. Springtime is an upbeat, bouncy tune that's almost too happy for its own good, but the intro is the total opposite -- a low key, soft, melancholy Rhodes-driven masterpiece with sad horns and a bit of acoustic piano. However, the album truly starts to shine on the delightful seven-minute tune Snowbound, a song co-written by Walter Becker of their Steely Dan duo. Becker picks up the bass and also plays solo guitar on this tasty piece with some percussive Rhodes playing. The chord progression, melody, and arrangement on this song are incredible. A true treat. The next song, Tomorrow's Girls, comes on strong with a strong groove, a catchy melody, and one of the better interludes in Donald Fagen's songwriting career. Some great Rhodes absolutely carries that part of the song. Florida Room, co-written by wife Libby Titus, is an insanely catchy, upbeat song with some awesome percussion and a singalong chorus. The only disappointment here is an emphasis on a painfully annoying keyboard that would have much better been served as the Rhodes piano. The penultimate track, On the Dunes, is a really interesting piece. The song has some surprisingly emotional sounding lyrics with a sad, lonely music backdrop that ends with a long outro with music that goes back and forth like the waves on the sea by the dunes. However, in true Donald Fagen fashion, you can feel his detachment in the song--he's merely an actor playing the part. It just wouldn't be Donald Fagen if he actually got too involved in the song! And finally ending the album is the interestingly-arranged Teahouse on the Tracks (where we see the return of that damnable keyboard from Florida Room being placed on top of the Rhodes!). The song has a long fadeout that brings the album to a close, leaving the listener fulfilled to some extent, but left wanting more after such a surprisingly weak beginning, but such a strong middle and end to the album.