What makes “Miss Marlene” a great song? Is it Donald Fagen’s “H-Gang” like nostalgia for the protagonist? Is it Donald Fagen’s perfect vocal arrangement and use of Steely Dan singers, Carolyn Leonhart-Escoffery, Cindy Mizelle and Catherine Russell? Is it Jon Herington perfect Walter Becker-like lead/solo guitar? Is it the tasty interplay of the pseudonym-ed drummer and bassist?
Whatever it is, the song flat out works.
Lyrically, Fagen seems to step back into a time machine as the subject matter could have easily been incorporated in The Nightfly or Morph The Cat albums. This is not a bad thing. Indeed, the song is arguably stronger than most of Morph.
If you had told me I’d be praising a song about bowling three years ago I would have told you to shut your dirty little mouth. Yet “Miss Marlene” finds Fagen firmly in control of his muse, as all the elements are here for a classic Fagen song.
Apparently Fagen and co-producer Michael Leonhart kept the stew hot for next week’s track, “Good Stuff.”