Morph the Cat

Studio Album by released in 2006
Morph the Cat's tracklist:
Morph the Cat
Send Ringtone
H Gang
Send Ringtone
What I Do
Send Ringtone
Brite Nitegown
Send Ringtone
The Great Pagoda of Funn
Send Ringtone
Security Joan
Send Ringtone
The Night Belongs to Mona
Send Ringtone
Mary Shut the Garden Door
Send Ringtone
Morph the Cat (reprise)
Send Ringtone

Morph the Cat review

Morph The Cat is another contemporary classic from Donald Fagen

Donald Fagen was one of the two masterminds behind Steely Dan, the seminal jazz-pop band of the '70s. Fagen's solo work has been a continuation of the band's work of the early '80s –carefully constructed and arranged, intricately detailed pop songs that are more substantial than their stylish surface may indicate. Fagen’s strained, nasal vocals have the cynical detachment of Dylan; his warm chord sequences owe more to Broadway and the Brill Building. His first solo album in 13 years, Morph The Cat, is another contemporary classic from half of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame duo. Fagen’s previous solo records were "concept" albums: each had a definite theme that followed through each of the tracks. Morph The Cat is also something of a concept album, although in a looser way. The title track sets the stage for what could have easily been called "New York City Stories," with various characters dealing with their dreams and fears of post-9/11 America. Fagen's trademark keyboards and bass abound throughout, but one immediately notices the prominent role of electric guitars on the disc. There's "real" brass (vs. electronically reproduced instruments) on several tracks, as well as an organ and real piano. The music is uniformly tight, occasionally surprising, and never dull.

The album represents the final part in a solo trilogy

Blending jazz, soul and a plethora of other musical influences with extended grooves and ever changing musical textures, Morph The Cat has already been compared to the Steely Dan classic Aja set in contemporary Manhattan. The themes of Morph The Cat range from impending mortality and assorted apocalyptic scenarios to homeland security and the ghost of Ray Charles. Chilled title track Morph The Cat with its cool and jazzy feel starts a trend, which continues throughout the album. According to Fagen, the album represents the final part in a solo trilogy. Where 1982's The Nightfly and Kamakiriad from 1993 were about youth and middle age, Morph The Cat signifies death. Fagen's renowned lyrical darkness once more comes to the fore throughout the new album. Always a clever lyricist, Fagen weaves a number of encounters with the grim reaper into Brite Nitegown. Verses about sickness, murder and drugs are contained in one of the most upbeat tempo songs on the album, with its great groove and guitars. But there are more positive themes to be found as well, such as the thrill of getting frisked by an airport security guard described during the sassy Security Joan. H Gang, meanwhile, offers up the most infectious song on the album – a very melodic track, which recalls classic Steely Dan.

Fagen stays true to his musical style and his ironic-sardonic worldview

Morph The Cat was recorded in New York City and Kauai, Hawaii. The album features an extraordinary line-up of backing musicians, many of who have previously worked with Fagen and his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker on stage and in the studio. Fagen performs lead and backing vocals and plays keyboards. He grooves just a little deeper on his own than he does with Becker, giving the darker subject matter a veneer that has you bopping your head along, even as he talks of alien invasion and death – a quality that has always made both his and Steely Dan’s albums so intriguingly paradoxical. The most enduring notion to be taken from Morph The Cat is that no matter how bad things may get, the best way to surmount tribulations is by locating the essential truth of one's character and staying faithful to it – just as Fagen has stayed true to his musical style and his ironic-sardonic worldview. Which is a quite heartening message to glean from an album so pervaded with thoughts of the end. In terms of product placement, Morph The Cat may be undeservedly lumped in with smooth jazz, but make no mistake: this is an album that deserves serious consideration for its topical lyrics, natural grooves and outstanding performances. Morph The Cat is the newest chapter chronicling the most sophisticated music in rock.