Donald Fagen & Walter Becker Solo Albums Ranked

Donald Fagen & Walter Becker Solo Albums Ranked

Photo: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our Donald Fagen and Walter Becker solo albums list takes a look at the the solo albums of the legendary Steely Dan founders released throughout their career. Both these brilliant musicians have not released a lot of solo material. Walter Becker released only two solo albums. Walter Becker’s first album was released in 1994 entitled 11 Tracks Of Whack. Walter Becker did not release another solo album for another 14 years when he released Circus Money in 2008. It would be his final solo album as Walter Becker passed away in 2017 at the young age of 67. Donald Fagen on the other hand has released twice the amount of solo albums that Walter Becker released, although since Walter Becker only released two albums that means that Donald Fagen obviously only released four solo albums.

Donald Fagen’s first solo album was released in the early 80s. Not long after Steely Dan had released their final album at the time entitled Gaucho in 1980. In 1982, Donald Fagen released to critical acclaim his Nightfly album. To an untrained listener or perhaps even some music fans who did not know the Steely Dan material that well, songs from The Nightfly album sounded very similar to many of Steely Dan’s latter-day recordings which meant there were some meaning amazingly spectacular songs on The Nightfly album. It’s hard to separate songs like I. G.Y. (What a beautiful world)” and “Green Flower Street” from the The Nightfly album from many other Steely Dan albums.

It would be another 11 years before Donald Fagen returned with his second solo album Kamakiriad. The 1980s were a lonely period for Steely Dan fans as both Donald Fagen and Walter Becker pretty much disappeared. Many of us thought we would never hear from them again, so it was really enjoyable to receive a new Donald Fagen album in 1993. Little did we know that seven years later Steely Dan would return with a new album entitled Two Against Nature in 2000. Six years after the new Steely Dan album, Donald Fagen released his third solo album entitled Morph The Cat on March 7th 2006. In 2012, Donald Fagan released his most recent solo album entitled Sunken Condos.

All the music that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker released together as Steely Dan and on their solo albums were songs that were carefully written, constructed and performed at the highest levels of pop music. These weren’t just throw away songs and stuff that you can just walk into a studio and record in a few hours. These are timeless songs full of depth that took time to write record and perform. It’s why so much time would pass by in between their recorded works. But it was all worth it, because these are all brilliant albums.

# 6 –  Circus Money

We open up our Donald Fagan and Walter Becker albums with Walter Becker’s second solo album entitled Circus Money. The album was released on June 10th 2008. Unless you were really a diehard Steely Dan fan and paid very close attention to what the band was doing at all times, you probably missed this one. Many people were not aware Walter Becker had released another solo album. The album featured Steely Dan’s great road and studio guitarist John Harrington and longtime session player for Steely Dan Dean Parks. The album also featured two great jazz pianists in Jim Beard and Larry Goldings. Keith Carlock played drums on the album. This is a good Walter Becker album featuring the great songs “Door Number Two,” “Paging Audrey,” and “God’s Eye View.”

# 5 – 11 Tracks Of Whack

Continuing with our Walter Becker section on our Donald Fagen and Walter Becker albums list, we present Walter Becker’s first solo album entitled 11 Tracks Of Whack. It took a while to get used to this one because fans weren’t too used to hearing Walter Becker commonly sing. Yet, the man could sing in time and in tune, many people just weren’t too happy with his voice. Nonetheless, the album was filled with great songs, brilliant melodies and witty lyrics. The production was superb. Like any Steely Dan album there were great guitar solos. Dean Park played guitar on the record. The man stands as one of the great guitar players of all time having played with so many famous artists including Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Billy Joel, Bob Seger, David Lee Roth, Paul Simon, Crosby and Nash, The Monkees, Diana Ross, America, George Benson, and so so many more. The album also featured Donald Fagen on keyboards. 11 Tracks Of Whack was released on September 27, 1994.

# 4 – Morph the Cat

We merge into our Donald Fagen section on this list presenting Donald Fagen’s third studio album entitled Morph The Cat. The album was released on March 6th 2006. It had been thirteen years since Donald Fagen had released a solo album. The Morph The Cat album is Donald Fagen’s darkest record. Age, mortality and an impending sense of doom lingered throughout the record. The album was recorded in the years just past 9/11. One can’t help but feel how that tragedy had an effect on Donald Fagen as it it did on all of us, especially those of us from New York. In many ways, this seems to be the next Steely Dan album as just about the entire band that played on their comeback album Two Against Nature is found on this record. The album is slick, sounds amazing and of course is simply stunning in all the right spots.

# 3 – Sunken Condos

Moving along on our Donald Fagen and Walter Becker albums list we now turn to the most recent solo album released by Donald Fagen. On October 16th 2012 Donald Fagen released the album Sunken Condos. The album was produced by Michael Leonhart and Donald Fagen. Michael Leonhart is a great jazz musician who has worked with so many musicians and artists including Steely Dan. The impact of Michael Leonhart on the album played a significant role in the records heavy jazz overtones as well as the additions of Walt Weiskoph on alto sax, Charlie Pillow on tenor sax, Rodger Rosenberg on baritone sax and Jim Pugh on trombone. These guys really lit up the album. John Harrington also plays bass and guitar on the record. The album opened up with the track “Slinky Thing” which is a tale of an older man dating a younger woman. A topic often approached in Donald Fagen’s writing. This was a heavily produced album filled with great musicians, great songs, superior production values, and perfect sound quality. One doesn’t find too many albums like this in the past 10 years.

# 2 – Kamakiriad

We wondered if we would ever get another Donald Fagan solo album again. We figured we would never get another Steely Dan album again so this was our only shot. We celebrated in the streets, in the bars, in the ocean, in our kitchens, in our cars and just about everywhere, when we discovered that Donald Fagen was releasing the album, Kamakirad on May 25th 1993. It was the first new music by Donald Fagen since the Nightfly album in 1982. 11 years had passed since we heard Donald Fagen singing a new song.

The Kamakirad album opened up with the killer track “Trans-Island Skyway.” A six and a half minute 6 1/2 extravaganza of pure Steely Dan style music. This was very much to us a Steely Dan album because it featured Donald Fagen on keyboards and vocals and Walter Becker on bass and lead guitar. Walter Becker even produced the album. The Kamakirad album also featured the great Randy Brecker on trumpet and the legendary Cornelius Bumpous on tenor sax. It also included Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax. The album’s first single was entitled “Snowbound.”  “Tomorrows Girls,”was also released as a single. While there were no big time hit singles on the record Donald Fagen’s, Kamakirad  album wound up being his first and only top 10 album on the US Billboard top 200. The album also went gold in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

# 1 – The Nightfly

We close out our Donald Fagen and Walter Becker solo albums list with the great album The Nightfly. The album was released on October 1st 1982. Many of the songs on the album were based on Donald Fagen’s upbringing. What’s most notable about The Nightfly album is the absence of Walter Becker who is nowhere to be found. However, Donald Fagen followed Steely Dan’s lead in the type of musicians that band always utilized in the studio and employed some of the greatest musicians on the planet to record with Donald Fagen. This included the Brecker Brothers, Larry Carlton, Rick Derringer, Steve Jordan, Steve Kahn, Marcus Miller, Jeff Porcaro, Dean Park and many more. Many of these musicians were Steely Dan studio alumni.

Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly album stands as his biggest selling record of his solo career. It is his only solo album to go platinum. The album’s first single entitled “I. G.Y. (What a beautiful world)” broke the US Billboard Hot 100’s top 40 peaking at number 26. Two more singles were released from the album including “New Frontier,” and “Ruby Baby.” The Nightfly album was an extraordinary work from Donald Fagen. It could be argued that it’s just as strong as some of the best Steely Dan albums. It stands as one of the great records released in the decade of the 1980s and easily Donald Fagen’s greatest work outside of Steely Dan.

Donald Fagen Albums Ranked article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021

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