A portrait of the artist as a young man, The Nightfly is a wonderfully evocative reminiscence of Kennedy-era American life; in the liner notes, Donald Fagen describes the songs as representative of the kinds of fantasies he entertained as an adolescent during the late '50s/early '60s, and he conveys the tenor of the times with some of his most personal and least obtuse material to date. Continuing in the smooth pop-jazz mode favored on the final Steely Dan records, The Nightfly is lush and shimmering, produced with cinematic flair by Gary Katz; romanticized but never sentimental, the songs are slices of suburbanite soap opera, tales of space-age hopes (the hit "I.G.Y.") and Cold War fears (the wonderful "The New Frontier," a memoir of fallout-shelter love) crafted with impeccable style and sophistication.
Carl Orff's Stravinskian rabble-rouser retains its appeal. The pagan high-jinks, driving rhythms, and dips into semi-hysteria can be irresistible given the right performance. And, of course, with its dynamic range, from delicately colored quiet passages to heaven-storming climaxes, it's tailor-made for showing off hi-fi systems. Telarc is known for its outstanding sound, and this one's well up to the house standards.