Steely Dan - Aja (Vinyl)

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Steely Dan is an American rock band founded in 1971 by core members Walter Becker (guitars, bass, backing vocals) and Donald Fagen (keyboards, lead vocals). Blending elements of rock, jazz, latin music, R&B, blues and sophisticated studio production with cryptic and ironic lyrics, the band enjoyed critical and commercial success starting from the early 1970s until breaking up in 1981. Initially the band had a core lineup, but in 1974, Becker and Fagen retired the band from live performances altogether to become a studio-only band, opting to record with a revolving cast of session musicians. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies".

Aja (/ˈeɪʒə/, pronounced like Asia) is the sixth studio album by the American jazz rock band Steely Dan. It was released on September 23, 1977 by ABC Records. Recording alongside nearly 40 musicians, band leaders Donald Fagen and Walter Becker pushed Steely Dan further into experimenting with different combinations of session players while pursuing longer, more sophisticated compositions for the album. The album was produced by Steely Dan's longtime producer Gary Katz  and features several leading session musicians. The eight-minute-long title track features jazz-based changes and a solo by saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The album's title is pronounced like Asia. Donald Fagen has said the album was named for a Korean woman who married the brother of one of his high-school friends


While slick perfection was always The Dan's primary stock-in-trade, they never achieved it more fully than on Aja. This is an album of spotless, micromanaged clarity. Normally, that sort of thing would not appeal to me. To quote Grandaddy's great Christmas tune "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" 'my favourite songs have notes that are wrong.' Steely Dan are an exception to that rule, this album in particular. They are indeed the ultimate yacht-rock experience, if there can be said to be such a thing, but neither are they ever watered-down for mass consumption. The complexity is hidden in the sheer perfection of their songcraft, but the jazz side of their jazz-pop is never neglected (check that great sax solo in the midst of the title track and the strangely timed piano part of "I Got the News"), and there is a self-aware mischief running throughout their work as well.

For instance, take "Deacon Blues" which is arguably the high point of this album and certainly one of their greatest songs. The song is ostensibly about a struggling jazz musician who is embracing and mythologizing his own failure into a kind of purity, a satire of the prototypical hipster long before the current incarnation of the word came to be. There is something eerily perfect about a long, jazzy pop tune about embracing failure as an affirmation of one's dreams recorded right when the punk wave was about to hit. This album is, along with Rumours, utterly definitive of that point in time - slick and professional and smooth as butter on the surface but seething with all kinds of dark emotions and all crumbling to dust not far below.

This album is a perfect accompaniment to all the drinking and sadness of a seasonal affective disorder-riddled autumn and winter, so it has long meant a great deal to me. It makes me want to drink straight scotch or whiskey sours and watch old black and white films and just generally let the world flow around me without effect. Hymns of disconnection were never so clean and right-feeling.

By: JShopa

A1 Black Cow
A2 Aja
A3 Deacon Blues
B1 Peg
B2 Home At Last
B3 I Got The News
B4 Josie

Arranged By [Horns], Conductor [Horns] – Tom Scott
Art Direction – OZ Studios
Coordinator [Production] – Barbara Miller (2)
Design – Geoff Westen, Patricia Mitsui
Engineer – Al Schmitt, Bill Schnee, Elliot Scheiner, Roger Nichols
Engineer [Assistant] – Ed Rack, Joe Bellamy, Ken Klinger, Lenise Bent, Linda Tyler, Ron Pangaliman
Engineer [Executive] – Roger Nichols
Lacquer Cut By – Greg Moore (4)
Lead Vocals – Donald Fagen
Liner Notes – Michael Phalen, Steve Diener
Mastered By – Bernie Grundman
Photography By [Cover] – Hideki Fujii
Photography By [Inside] – Dorothy A. White*, Walter Becker
Producer – Gary Katz