RECORDS / New Release: Donald Fagen: Kamakiriad (Reprise, LP / tape / CD)

The Nightfly dealt with the past (Fagen's Fifties adolescence) and yet still sounds contemporary 11 years later. That's the trick of a true artist, and its long-awaited successor suggests he has pulled it off again, from the opposite perspective. Fagen swivels round and looks into the near future, tracing a journey through a millennial world of good intentions - hi-tech and eco-consciousness - undermined by human frailty, a Ballardian landscape that suits him perfectly. Considering his reputation for preppy cynicism and clever-dickishness, there's a touching wonder in his voice. The music is a practically flawless concoction of smooth grooves, nifty guitar figures, impossibly fluid bass-playing, irresistible drumming, varied keyboard textures, and subtle horn arrangements, carefully tended by the producer, Walter Becker, his former Steely Dan partner. At its languid, lucid best, the album recalls the sacred first side of Aja; compliments come no higher.