Leave it to a guy who spent the most artistically rewarding part of his career ensconced in a studio to release two live albums simultaneously.
On his own since the death of his Steely Dan co-conspirator Walter Becker, Donald Fagen has continued the duo’s post-reunion touring efforts and the result is the Nightfly Live, credited to Fagen, and Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live!
Fagen’s first solo album, released in 1982, was pretty much perfect. And while the Nightfly Live isn’t that, Fagen and the Steely Dan Band construct a fine representation with enough changes to make it worthwhile and enough fidelity to keep it so.
“Green Flower Street” boasts a series of false endings to keep the audience guessing; “Ruby Baby” features a slight lyrical adjustment in the chorus; and Fagen turns “Maxine” over to his female background vocalists. For fans who know every sonic nook and cranny of the original, the Nightfly Live has some interesting twists, but there’s still nothing like the real thing.
This is even more true in Northeast Corridor, which finds Fagen in hollower voice and the band kicking in additional horn charts and vocal arrangements on tracks such as “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Peg,” respectively. Fagen, meanwhile, opts for melodica over keyboards in some key places, like “Aja,” and the inclusion of “Things I Miss the Most,” from the post-Gaucho era is a mistake.
Though it runs 38 minutes to Northeast Corridor’s 62, the Nightfly Live is the aural representation of quality over quantity.