Donald Fagen's second solo album is a song cycle of sorts, following the adventures of an imaginary protagonist as he travels the world in his car, a brand-new Kamakiri. It is an odd concept, and one that is not obvious to the listener, but reflection upon Fagen's liner notes while listening to the album does tend to evoke a vision of a non-apocalyptic near future, where swingers sip cocktails and fresh vegetable juices as they groove to synthesized jazz-rock. Evocative or not, this is not Fagen's best effort. The songs on Kamakiriad are mainly static one-chord vamps, with little of the interesting off-beat hits or chord changes that characterized most of Steely Dan's corpus (although, it must be said, Two Against Nature isn't too far conceptually from what Fagen is doing here). There is a slightly antiseptic feeling to Kamakiriad. Although the drum tracks are not synthesized, they sure sound that way, and even the horns sound electronic at times, a far cry from the lush arrangements of Aja. Another shortcoming of this record is the fact that the verse melodies don't sound very developed. The choruses are as catchy and cryptic as you would expect from Donald Fagen, but the verses are less than memorable. Walter Becker, who produced the record, as well as contributing bass and guitar, also co-wrote "Snowbound." Perhaps not surprisingly, it does the best job at evoking classic Steely Dan. Kamakiriad is pleasant as background music, but in the end it doesn't provide enough interesting moments to rank as a must-have. The static grooves, coupled with the long song lengths, and general lack of dynamic movement makes this record one of the least essential of Fagen's recorded output. However, Steely Dan completists will certainly find enough here to keep them happy.
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AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre