In 1982 Steely Dan singer Donald Fagen took a solo break. Why? After all, his album “The Nightfly” hardly sounded any different than the albums he recorded with his Steely Dan special Walter Becker.
But that doesn’t mean that “The Nightfly” is a superfluous work. Quite the opposite. The eight tracks – from the casual opener “I.G.Y.” to the nostalgic finale “Walk Between Raindrops” – all have class and style and easily meet the highest Steely demands. On the album, Fagen tells the story of a lonely provincial DJ in the 50s; a chain-smoking jazz nerd wearing a tie, which the ingenious musician imitates on the cover photo. As a reminiscence of time and story, the highly talented songwriter on the album exceptionally lets himself down to a cover song: “Ruby Baby”, composed by the hit writer team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1955. Together with the usual suspicious studio musicians of the time – including guitarist Larry Carlton, pianist Greg Phillinganes and the Brecker brothers on trumpet and saxophone – he turns the aged material into a super-elegant, smoothly grooving shuffle. A song made for cocktail glasses and finger snaps. Fagen, the pathological perfectionist, must not have been able to stop in the control room. It is said that in order to create this springy rhythm, he superimposed the hi-hat from drummer Jeff Porcaro and the bass drum from his colleague James Gadson. Might sound exaggerated. A beautiful track is “Ruby Baby” in this arrangement anyway.