The last Fagen track on the last Fagen album — or for that matter, any Steely Dan-related album — doesn’t pretend to be anything special or epic. Of course with Fagen or Becker, even their understated stuff is great compared to the contemporary garbage a lot of pop star put out.
While Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat album seemed to lose steam towards the end, his 2012 release Sunken Condos hit high gear in the second half. Both “Miss Marlene” and “Good Stuff” are among his best in terms of lyrics and funkiest. While “Planet D ‘Rhonda” may not be as great as the former, it does end the album on a strong and convincing musical note.
Fagen makes a strong and effective use of his clavinet, while Michael Leonhart locks in tight with bassist Lincoln Schleifer. Leonhart provides subtle vibraphone textures while Jon Herington moved things along with his rhythm guitar.
Guest guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel spices things up with his Becker-like guitar solo while the usual cast of Steely Dan background vocalist float along with the melody. Rosenwinkel’s contributions remind the listener of Mark Knopfler’s contribution to Gaucho’s “Time Out Of Mind” in its understatedness and restraint. Technically interesting, but not exactly inspiring “Planet D ‘Rhonda” leaves a small musical footprint.Lyrically, Fagen is working is weird magic:
Sometimes she’s vicious – sometimes rude
You got to be a mind reader just to guess her mood
But when you need big lovin’
She never stops
Yes it’s Monkey Time – twenty four –seven
Then of the planet:
Planet D’ Rhonda”
Lyrically, we find Fagen continuing the direct word play started with the lead off track, “Slinky Thing.” Let’s hope Becker and/or Fagen continue to contribute new music to add to their excellent musical legacy.