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AJA

Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Steely Dan Aja album cover
4.08 | 177 ratings | 30 reviews | 46% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Black Cow - 5:10
2. Aja - 7:57
3. Deacon Blues - 7:37
4. Peg - 3:57
5. Home at Last - 5:34
6. I Got the News - 5:06
7. Josie - 4:33


Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians


* Walter Becker - bass, guitar, electric guitar, vocals
* Chuck Rainey - bass
* Timothy B. Schmit - vocals
* Donald Fagen - synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, background vocals, whistle
* Paul Griffin - keyboards, electric piano, vocals, background vocals
* Don Grolnick - keyboards, clavinet
* Michael Omartian - piano, keyboards
* Joe Sample - keyboards, electric piano, clavinet
* Larry Carlton - guitar, electric guitar
* Denny Dias - guitar
* Jay Graydon - guitar, electric guitar
* Steve Khan - guitar
* Dean Parks - guitar
* Lee Ritenour - guitar
* Pete Christlieb - flute, tenor saxophone
* Chuck Findley - horn, brass
* Jim Horn - flute, saxophone
* Richard Slyde Hyde - trombone
* Plas Johnson - flute, saxophone
* Jackie Kelso - flute, horn, saxophone
* Lou McCreary - brass
* Bill Perkins - flute, horn, saxophone
* Tom Scott - conductor, flute, tenor saxophone, lyricon
* Wayne Shorter - flute, tenor saxophone
* Bernard Purdie - drums (Home at Last, Deacon Blues)
* Steve Gadd - drums (Aja)
* Ed Greene - drums (I Got the News)
* Paul Humphrey - drums (Black Cow)
* Jim Keltner - percussion, drums (Josie)
* Rick Marotta - drums (Peg)
* Gary Coleman - percussion
* Victor Feldman - percussion, piano, keyboards, electric piano, vibraphone
* Venetta Fields - vocals, background vocals
* Clydie King - vocals, background vocals
* Rebecca Louis - vocals, background vocals
* Sherlie Matthews - vocals, background vocals
* Michael McDonald - vocals, background vocals


Releases information

1977 ABC
1999 MCA

Thanks to micky for the addition
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AjaAja
Remastered
MCA Records 1999
Audio CD$1.83
$1.10 (used)
Definitive CollectionDefinitive Collection
Remastered
Geffen Records 2006
Audio CD$3.80
$4.33 (used)
Can't Buy A ThrillCan't Buy A Thrill
Remastered
Mca 1998
Audio CD$1.85
$0.85 (used)
Pretzel LogicPretzel Logic
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$1.79 (used)
Katy LiedKaty Lied
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.77
$0.99 (used)
GauchoGaucho
Remastered
Mca 2000
Audio CD$1.83
$0.99 (used)
Very Best of Steely DanVery Best of Steely Dan
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$5.57
$9.00 (used)
Steely Dan Countdown To EcstasySteely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Remastered
Mca 1998
Audio CD$1.81
$2.00 (used)
The Royal ScamThe Royal Scam
Remastered
Mca 1999
Audio CD$1.79
$1.78 (used)
Everything Must GoEverything Must Go
Reprise / Wea 2003
Audio CD$10.20
$2.97 (used)
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STEELY DAN Aja ratings distribution


4.08
(177 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(46%)
46%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(30%)
30%
Good, but non-essential (21%)
21%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

STEELY DAN Aja reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 1. Black Cow - 5:10 2. Aja - 7:57 3. Deacon Blues - 7:37 4. Peg - 3:57 5. Home at Last - 5:34 6. I Got the News - 5:06 7. Josie - 4:33

Undoubtedly, the pinnacle of this great band's career. I've always seen SD as being a prog band through and through, and now that Miles Davis has been added to PA's massive discography, it has made way for more and more jazz rock bands that are not as highly recognised in the prog world as say, Mahavishnu Orchestra. I am very pleased with this, and the direction PA's now going in. Now on to the actual tracks.

There isn't a single bad song on this album, as with all legendary albums of any era. Black Cow is a stunning chilled out number with what sounds like Bernard Pretty Purdie on drums, splendid Fender Rhodes and some great backing vox. This is one of my favourite songs by Steely Dan. But then comes the all time classic, arguably one of the best song EVER, Aja is a masterpiece in the highest of rights. From the very first notes on the piano, it is the perfect progression that demonstrates the songwriting genius of Donald Fagen. The jazz style guitar is truly brilliant and the drum solos... Oh my god! The drum solos, courtesy of the great Steve Gadd, are world class and should be listened to by every self-respecting drummer! I really mean it. Enough said, you have to listen to it yourself: a true epic.

Deacon Blues eases down into mainstream territory, but still keeps the musicianship of the previous two songs on a high. A fantastic tune with one hell of a saxophone solo to close it off. Only Steely Dan coined this style of song perfectly, and if you like jazz then you will, without a doubt, love this. Peg is a funky number that puts me in a good mood everytime. The rhythms portrayed by Bernard Purdie and Walter Becker are truly dancing quality and extremely tight. Complex vocal harmonies elevate the chorus to the standard of the rest of the album, so this is yet another strong SD track and a favourite at live shows.

Home At Last is a ballady type number with some tasteful piano and quite a cropped arrangement, once again a skill that is easily recognisable in Donald Fagen. I Got The News is another funky number with some splendid electric guitar and some really solid jazz influences. Underneath the vocal line, i perceive this as quite a complex song with a very classy rhythm in the backing. It almost reminds me of the small jazz groups of the 50s like The Dave Brubeck Group etc... Josie tops the album off very nicely indeed, and is a personal favourite of mine out of the entire SD catalogue. Some brilliant rhythm guitar is a pleasure to listen to, tight drumming and a stylish use of brass even more so. Recommended!

Altogether one of the best albums of all time, for jazz, rock, pop and even prog, there is something for everyone. Of the prog community, you will probably favour Aja the most for its progressive jazz nature, but all the songs are splendid in their own right. 5 stars, a masterpiece of music, let alone prog.

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Send comments to The Pessimist (BETA) | Report this review (#180690) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars AJA.

''Black Cow'' is the album's opener, and wow, what a song! The chorus is very catchy while still managing to put a new twist on typical song structurer and direction. The drumming featured in this song is quite contagious (go, Paul Humphrey!), while the rest of the instruments are on top of their game, as well. The vocal harmonies work extremely well here, and not one note sound out of place. Truly wonderful.

''Aja'' - is the album's title song, starting out with some of the most beautiful jazz piano work I have ever heard, and the punchy bass lines along with vibraphone really helps fill out the sound. The guitar work here isn't bad, either, and the mysterious, moody vocal melodies can't really be beat. The riff tham cones in at 02:20, then comes to full realization at 02:30 gives me true shivers, and the bluesy guitar solo that immediately follows sends me into a trance. If this album is anything, it is proof that Steely Dan, whatever incarnation, can always play their instruments with an equal amount accuracy and passion. A very beautiful song, complete with sax, keys and some mad drumming from Steve Gadd by the time it's all over. This song is quite the epic, as well, clocking in at nearly ten minutes. The chorus is so dreamy and pleasant that I don't see how anyone could dislike these guys or this album, but hey, it takes all kinds, so perhaps AJA's bad review has yet to be written. You certainly won't see it coming from me, however. As an entire album, Aja truly works, but the title song alone is enough reason to buy it. I truly mean that. Everything dies down with a hauntingly weird yet appropriate keyboard riff helping encase all of the madness during the final fadeout.

''Deacon Blues'' is already wonderful within the first ten seconds of the track. Great, great riff. May I add that the guitar playing on this record is unrivaled in places? No, not in speed, but in emotion. Some really great stuff to be found here across the entire board, but the guitars especially really add something to the exprience. This is a very uplifting song at its core, yet it could be taken as meloncholy if not in the correct mindset at the time of listening. Probably my favorite track on the whole record, along with the title track. The simplicity of Aja also should not be overlooked. The guys in Steely Dan are managing to make these tracks feel extremely epic and 'full' without having to over-play. That is something few other prog bands (or indeed, ANY bands) have been able to pull off over the decades, so it is always a treat to hear it pulled off so effortlessly here.

''Peg'' is probably the most straightforward 'jazz' song to be found on the record, sounding incredibly random at times while also remaining together and never feeling unorganized. The main riff playing so eloquently in the background really gives me a sense of rhythm and joy that sends my heart soaring every time I hear it. Again, a track that COULD be taken as being a 'bummer', but when listened to in the right mood on the right day, nothing could be more enjopyable and uplifitng. ''And when you smile for the camera, I know I love you better, Peg.''

''Home at Last''. Ooh, great, and I mean GREAT piano work here at the start, and all throughout, really. Much mellower and chill, this track is potentially the weakest on the record, and that is saying something indeed, since it's still of fantastic caliber despite the shortcomings. I guess my biggest complaint for this one is that it has already gotten repetetive for me. There isn't enough substance or growth to justify its length. That's just my opinion. The tune is still lovely, and the playing is top-notch as always, but except for the synthed-up bridge in the middle, I don't find it all that compelling or interesting. At least not enough to sit through five minutes and thirty-five seconds of it. Still, on its own, the song could rival anything on the radio these days, so these complaints are trivial, frankly. Still much better than most stuff.

''I've Got the News'' - The drum and bass work here is truly groovy. I think this song gives the best example of Rainey's prowess on his instrument. Ed Greene does great cymbal smashing work as well. Overall, a good track. Very compelling, always adding layers. I never got bored.

''Josie'' serves as the album's closer, and something about it is very 'seventiees' to me, for whatever reason. I like it. I like it alot. Not really much can be said about it other than the fact that it closes yet another master work that I am very proud to have in my collection. Gets many spins, this record. Well deserved, if you ask me. Is it Steely Dan's best? Perhaps, but for me the jury is still out, since I have yet to scourge through their entire back catalogue. Most likely, though. It's certainly the best of theirs I have heard so far.

AJA is truly a masterpiece, with just enough Jazz elements to keep us guessing, and all the rocking elements that make it worthy of being called 'progressive rock'. What truly great a debt we owe to masters like Steely Dan for not being afraid to completely start over in their line-up and sound. The result was AJA, and it was a monumental moment in music. Despite its couple of small hiccups, it is still perfect by most standards. I can't give it any less than a perfect score. Truly essential.

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Send comments to JLocke (BETA) | Report this review (#180704) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2008

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In my review of The Royal Scam I stated that that album is along with this one the best of Steely Dan's entire discography. It really is in my opinion and that also means that 1976/77 is the peaktime of the band.

Take this album: it contains three smashing songs and four very good ones. The three best are Deacon Blues (great jazz !), Josie (very nice atmosphere) and of course the title track that is also the most progressive song they ever produced I believe. Peg is also a classic but a little bit less for my taste and the other three (Black Cow, Home at last and I got the news) are relatively new for me (few years ago) but sound absolutely fantastic maybe with exception of I got the news which is the least for me.

This means we are talking about a near masterpiece here, it ends up with a rating of some 4,4/4,5 so I will have to give 4 but that's not with pleasure !

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Send comments to progrules (BETA) | Report this review (#180851) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review by Rivertree
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions
4 stars It took quite a long time until I began to listen to my Steely Dan stuff again because it was pushed into the background by other music spontaneously in the past. I'm really convinced of the album's high standard. They started off in 1972 with catchy sophisticated soul and jazz drenched rock/pop music. First of all during the 70/80's they were highlights on parties and filled the dance floors with the debut album hit 'Do it again' and 'Rikki don't lose that number' from the album 'Pretzel Logic'. Donald Fagan and Walter Becker as the masterminds began to expand and modify their style noticably with their next album 'Countdown to Ecstasy'. 'Aja' from 1977 won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording and is the one with the most leanings to progressive rock for me.

Fagan and Becker are known for their meticolous work and the strong intention to reach perfectionism. They even have been able to drive some musicians to desperation whilst recording the songs. But it worked finally. This album proves their songwriting capabilities at the creative peak and they gathered the who is who of jazz (rock) for the recordings - for example Larry Carlton and Joe Sample (Crusaders) or such as Michael McDonald who is one of my alltime favourite vocalists. Speaking of vocals - they always have a dominant role in their albums and 'Aja' is not an exception even though we have longer instrumental passages here and there.

The lyrics don't contain very substantial messages - or they are using metaphors and I don't get it. The opener Black Cow for instance is expressing some sadness dealing with the common subject drug use - 'You were high, it was a cryin disgrace' - and of course with this special eponymous drink - vanilla ice cream combined with root beer - which I've never tried in my life (probably I have to come to the States for that?). Musically a typical SD track I would say - jazzy electric piano and brass dominated and comparable with the Crusaders output.

My favourite track Aja is truly prog, varied, fusion infected and nearly epic with a complex structure and more instrumental portions featuring Wayne Shorter delivering a great saxophone solo - extraordinary drum playing by Steve Gadd included. When you use your headphones you are able to catch all the details without being diverted - a moment of glory. Deacon Blues a very smooth jazzy song is often noticed as another album highlight and for the sake of clarity I listened to it again and again but can't approve this. A nice mellow one but also mainstream all through.

After that the band comes back to familiar surroundings - groovy songs with a high ratio of jazz are following, excellently arranged with catchy melodies and technically skillful without any doubt - Peg for example is convincing with the help of some well-known backing vocalists and together with Josie they are really candidates for animating people to enter the dance floor on your party.

Great album. An extensive prog rock collection should also contain some related examples though - why not? Four stars are well deserved for this extraordinary album.

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Send comments to Rivertree (BETA) | Report this review (#180873) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Like a sleeping giant. Aja is an album that oozes class. Jazz rock with heavier progressive inflections all over it make it debateably their most progressive album to date. Adding to their already perfectionist ' behind the scenes' studio indulgences, Aja took a different direction and in many respects followed on from the ' Royal Scam' track off the same titled previous release. Except Aja has no jagged edges, it is so smoothe you will probably slip off the couch just listening to it. ' Black Cow' sets the album off onto a quality note, great chorus work and note the ubiquitous prescence on Timothy B Schmit of Eagles fame adding vocal work. No bass this time but his voice contributing to the overall vocal sounds. The next song is ' Aja' and is the finest and most complex song off the album. Great keyboards, strong jazz sounds and this song needs to be listened to, to be fully appreciated. ' Deacon Blues' another firm favourite, great melody and distinct sounds. ' Peg' and ' Josie' are more returns to the jazz funky elements but for that steady slowburn emotion ' Home At Last' and ' I Got The News' revisit the Aja soundscape. As I said Aja is a sleeping giant, complex, slumbering but oh so smoothe. Seldom visiting my archives of sound does anything come close to being quite as slick and sophisticated as Aja. Unless you are familar with their following album Gaucho! A solid four and a half stars.

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Posted Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review by Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The 1970s were my decade. I was a relatively free adult, burdened with only a few responsibilities. Music was my world. I ate, drank, slept, lived and breathed music. I must have bought an average of an LP per week for those ten years. I listened to and absorbed all kinds of great (and not so great) aural art. So when I say that Steely Dan's "Aja" is the best American album from the 70s you'll know that I don't bestow that grandiose title lightly. It is the perfect combination of the high level of creative composition, musicianship, and studio recording technology that had grown by leaps and bounds since the revolutionary sixties came to an end. It has endured and aged incredibly well. It still excites my senses today every bit as much as it did when I first put needle to vinyl back in September of '77.

The humble, simple beginning of "Black Cow" belies the magnificence that lays in wait for your anxious ears. The ever-morphing entity known as Steely Dan creates a fitting, somber aura to surround the heartbreaking storyline that defines the song. It's about a man finally having to turn his back on the girl he loves with all his heart because he's come to realize that the object of his adoration has problems that his commitment to her will never solve. He has become her enabler. "I can't cry anymore/while you run around/break away/just when it seems so clear/that it's over now/drink your big Black Cow/and get out of here," Fagen sadly sings. Victor Feldman's electric piano solo flows effortlessly and Tom Scott's horn arrangement is subtle but effective. When Mr. Scott delivers his fluent saxophone ride over the female chorus's soft refrains of "so outrageous." you share in the poor protagonist's sorrow-filled surrender to the painful truth of the matter.

The mystical atmosphere of "Aja" is almost beyond description. I'll say this. Anyone who thinks that Steely Dan isn't prog hasn't really listened to this amazing track. Like all fine progressive music, the tune takes the listener on an eight minute journey and this one is as good as it gets in Jazz Rock/Fusion. Here Fagen & Becker let their words about fidelity and loyalty ("When all my dime dancin' is through/I run to you.") take a back seat to the wondrous collaboration of musicians they brought together for this recording. While the saxophone work of Wayne Shorter is brilliant, it is the heavenly bliss of Steve Gadd's drumming that ushers this piece into the sacred halls where legends dwell. It's not a drum solo. Not at all. He plays his finely-tuned instrument completely within the framework of the song, displaying not only awesome technique but an unbelievable ability to maintain the tune's strict tempo requirements. And that's just the halfway point! When Steve shakes, rumbles and rolls like a force of nature over the exciting piano accents and the near-psychedelic drone during the end segment and subsequent fade out it's like watching and hearing a powerful storm moving away over the horizon.

Donald and Walter's beautiful ode to musicians, "Deacon Blues," is next and it's my all-time favorite composition by that duo. It speaks to all artists who have dedicated themselves to their calling, but especially those who seek to manipulate sound waves. Opening with those intriguing "Steely Dan guitar chords" that you never forget once you learn them, this tune features Tom Scott's elite horn section as they create a lush background as full as a cathedral organ under Fagen's soulful vocals and the soaring female chorale that backs him. The message pulls no punches. If you are an artist, you will be an outcast in the eyes of society, not to mention your own family. You choose to live on the fringe. "You call me a fool/you say it's a crazy scheme/this one's for real/I already bought the dream," he admits. But what Gadd did for the previous cut, saxophonist supreme Pete Christlieb does for this one. He injects all the passion, blood, sweat and tears of a musician's life into his horn and it is sublime. It sends chills up my backbone. During the fadeout I always form a mental picture of a musician just getting off work at the nightclub, strolling down an empty street in the quiet pre-dawn hours on his way back to his modest, lonely apartment. Fagen's final verse always hits me where it means the most. "I cried when I wrote this song/sue me if I play too long/this brother is free/I'll be what I want to be." Amen.

"Peg" is one cool, funky dance number. (And it's okay for proggers to dance.) Here the rhythm track supplied by drummer Rick Marotta and bassist Chuck Rainey ignites the studio with their irresistible groove. If you don't understand why they used Chuck so often then take a moment and lend an ear to what he's playing on this tune. The words are a stinging, sarcastic poke at just one of the horde of disillusioned starlets they probably ran into on the streets and in the cliques of Hollywood each day. Michael McDonald's unique tenor is unmistakable on the chorus and Jay Graydon's spectacular guitar break is one that never gets old. The story is that for this song's solo he was the seventh professional session guitarist to attempt to dazzle Don & Walt and the only one that succeeded.

"Home at Last" has always been special to me. In that autumn of '77 I had turned my existence upside down by moving lock, stock and barrel to Los Angeles in a last-ditch effort to go nationwide. The first year out there went so splendidly for me that I easily related to Mr. Fagan when he sang "could it be that I have found my home at last?" I especially admire their use of open space between Feldman's opening piano jabs to build anticipation. The melody and vocal delivery are both superb and, once again, Tom Scott's horn arrangement creates a soft but dense wall of sound as deep as that of a Mellotron. In a rare occurrence, the writers step in to supply the leads with Donald tossing in some playful synthesizer and Walter displaying his underrated, nimble guitar style.

"I Got the News" is a very up-tempo jog through the suburban streets of the city with various instruments jumping in and out of the mix. The bridge, with Michael McDonald's trademark chops rising to the surface again, is a surprise turn and the lyrics about pretty ladies who believe they could get away with murder are very tongue-in-cheek. "Broadway Duchess/darlin', if you only knew/half as much as/everybody thinks you do." Fagen & company sings. "Josie," with its familiar chiming guitar intro, takes the album out on a celebratory note. This cut has a funky feel that's truly infectious and its catchy hook line made it a hit that will never leave the airwaves. I don't know who Josie is but the hometown folks are happy to see her return. "Strike at the stroke of midnight/dance on the bones till the girls say when/pick up what's left by daylight/when Josie comes home." (I might add that I didn't get that kind of reception when I retreated to the homestead after my California experience 3 years later. But few do. P.S. I don't regret a thing.)

True artists aim for immortality with their every creation. They are constantly driven to sculpt a Pieta, paint a Starry Night or compose an Ode To Joy with every try. For Steely Dan, this is their magnum opus. In a career that can only be considered extraordinary, this album of songs towers above the clouds like Mount Everest. I will never grow weary of hearing its magic and I suspect that it will still be respected and revered a thousand years from now. It exists forevermore on a lofty plane inhabited by only a handful of other albums and, thusly, it should most definitely inhabit a place on your shelf.

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Posted Monday, September 01, 2008

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars Aja is the album that introduced me to Steely Dan, although I must say that it's mostly through AOR FM airplay, and to be truthful I didn't think much of these slow/smooth jazz for the third age, or so I thought at 14. So I must say that outside the hit of Peg, that allowed me to peg down (pun intended) every other SD songs I'd already heard as SD, I set the group aside and vowed to return at retirement should I survive that long... Little did I know that the previous Royal scam was also a small chef d'oeuvre. But some 15 years later, a girlfriend got me to reassess SD's oeuvre although I certainly didn't start with this one. My new reassessment confirmed to me a few things, but allowed me to see that SD's music was always immaculate and the songwriting, although mostly standard, always impeccable and implacable, too professional in many ways. And indeed with Aja, SD reaches the top of the profession's professional peak: rarely has an album sounded so slick and smooth-gliding, so industry and radio-friendly, so commercially viable.. In a way sickeningly professional, although the album's almost all black artwork was intriguing, but not enough for me to find out what it was about.

I believe that more than half this album hit the airwaves in one way or another, and so I now realize that I have been very familiar to this album: indeed the title track (either edited or in its full length), Deacon Blues, Peg had gone to gain heavy rotation airplay, but even now I understand why I didn't like it at age 14. What puzzles me most, is that neither Becker nor Fagen play much on this album, Donald content on singing and playing the odd synth and Becker bassing it up once and taking three lead guitar solos. Minimal input, really!! For the rest, the album calls upon the usual suspect studio rats and therefore this album takes its whole dimension as a professional music industry product. With Aja, we are in 77 and next year is coming out Toto's first album, a similar product that will also hit the airwaves

After a relatively unremarkable opening Black Cow (another song about drugs), the lengthy title track is a relatively quiet, borderline boring jazz piece with some fake Caribbean feel (the percussions and whistle in the background) that only brightens up with a dynamic last minute ending with some diabolic drumming. But ironically that great ending is underlining just how twee and listless the rest of the track was: not bad per se, but they could've made it all so much better. Almost as long (and almost as boring, if not more so) is Deacon Blues, a song that filled the airwaves in all its length or part of it. , which will brig the same reaction

On the flipside, of course past the usual top 40 hit song Peg (and its usual awful Mike McDonald choruses) and its slightly disco/danceable feel, the album was certainly not going to waste itself entirely as the album's best track (IMHO) is the excellent Home At Last, a brass-laden jazz rock track that simply is irresistible and its lyrics flowing at an incredible rate, while the brass section is superb and Becker's guitar solo at the end is outstanding AND astounding. . The bimbo-dedicated I Got The News is a full piano and drums groove (most likely it's deceptively simple and very intricate) that doesn't do that much to change the album's generally smooth and gliding and it's not the closing Josie, which after a jazzy intro, sails on an intricate and complex funky and reggae-ish groove, a bit like its predecessor.

Fundamentally my mind hasn't changed much: Aja is still a boring album, but an impeccably-played album. And despite my relatively bad comments above, I still view this album as SD's apex, and it is certainly an excellent album by most standards, even those that progheads call their own, including yours truly!!! BUT, this album takes its whole dimension as a professional music industry product. With Aja, we are in 77 and next year comes out Toto's first album, a similar product and more proof that the music scene was moving away from freedom and into the industry's stranglehold that it had lost back in 65...

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Posted Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Aja is the sixth studio album from US pop/ rock act Steely Dan. Their last album The Royal Scam ( 1976) was a return to form after a couple of weaker albums and Aja continues the good laid back jazzy pop/ rock style of its predecessor.

The music is unmistakably Steely Dan but the technical level and the jazzy approach is a bit more obvious on Aja than it has been on any other of the preceding Steely Dan albums. All songs are well composed and even better performed but the title track does stand out with its tasteful and challenging instrumental mid-section. There´s even a fusion like ending to the song. Really interesting.

The musicianship is as usual excellent. There are so many layers in the music.

The production is excellent. Probably the best production Steely Dan ever had and that says a lot because every album from this band/ project is outstanding if you like polished and detailed productions.

I´m not totally blown away by Aja, but it´s as close as Steely Dan will ever get to making an excellent album IMO. 3 BIG stars is well deserved. I would start with Aja if I was new to the band.

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Posted Monday, November 17, 2008

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Dan pinnacle, part 2: The favorite

"This is the day of the expanding man."

And that brings us to Aja. More than anything that preceded it Aja represents the culmination of where the boys wanted to be. On the perch, high above the other music of the day and finally on the receiving end of the near-universal acclaim they deserved. They had delivered their masterpiece and a piece of work they would never top again. The level of sophistication and elegance in the arrangements was staggering, the perfectionism of the sound pushed to positively fascist degrees. There is absolutely no trace left of the musical five o'clock shadow that filled their earlier albums. Aja moved further towards fusion and introduced more progressive elements with longer pieces and more elaborate jamming and yet is retains the pop sensibilities that gave the band such a large audience. As mentioned in my Royal Scam review this is where the music turned much dryer for better or worse, the dry sheen would carry into Gaucho making the two albums twins in style.

The album took a year to record with Gary Katz at the helm. The process was sometimes grueling as they would do take after take with various musicians looking for the one that was just right. Five of the seven tracks are radio favorites which gives the album a bit of a "Rumours" overkill factor for some, yet the songs hold up very well today. Both Fagen and Becker love "Josie", Fagen saying it reminds him of the great R and B he so loves, "stuff like Charlie Parker." All of these classic songs are beneficiaries of nuance and precision yes, but with the mission of also being something you want to hear. That's what they emphasized in the documentary I just watched. Yes, they were shooting for perfection, but they wanted to take it beyond that by loosening it up and making it an album that would be enjoyable to hear. Last, they noted that on their previous albums they were New York transplants in LA, writing songs about New York characters to help them deal with being homesick. They acknowledged feeling a bit like characters in a Woody Allen movie where LA made them neurotic and disoriented. Then by the time they were ready to head back to New York in the late '70s, they were writing songs about California and maintain that Aja captures that California vibe. You be the judge.

Lyrically the album is another ode to characters of all sort, women and nostalgic fountain drinks. They claim Deacon Blues is the closest to autobiographical as they would ever get. Familiar characters are discussed, some aspiring losers and fading hipsters they would acknowledge freely. But as Becker said, referring to his character's philosophies in these songs: "whose to say they're wrong?" Indeed.

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Posted Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Smooth

Those familiar with Steely Dan know their style - pleasant jazz/rock with a hint of prog that makes for a very nice listen. While this is not what all proggers are looking for in their music it certainly makes for a nice combination and a good addition to the crossover category. Aja is often considered to be Steely Dan's best offering out of their limited discography, and it's not hard to see why. The euphoric blend of sounds makes for an album to sit back and indulge in, and while it may not be the most demanding piece of music ever written it still makes fora good time.

One of the most notable qualities of the music is just how 'unoffensive' it is. This works as both a plus and a minus, really - it means that you can put this album on in the background and walk away from it, let it play and come back a little bit later and comment how nice of an experience that was, but it also means that if you're looking for a sonic barrage that could be put on by the likes of Gentle Giant with their complexity, or the aggression of other groups then you're very much in the wrong place. Aja is quite radio friendly (which is probably the best way to put it), and while it may be high ranking on the list of sophisticated jazzy pop-rock it will never have the same amount of oomph as other, more dense records that catch on with the 10th listen and change your life when they do. With this album it's more of a ''what you hear is what you get,'' and while that is some good pleasing music, it never really makes you want to run home and slam the album on so that you can partake in its mysteries.

Still, what they do, they do very well. The musicianship on this album may not be wildly experimental like other seminal artists, but it is very tight and well written. The album is very 'soft' in its approach, but it does go strait to the heart with its melodies, so while it may not be an album that yells at you to listen to it again it does hit the spot when you finally find the time to put it on. The first side of the album is particularly impressive, with opuses like the magnificent title track, Aja and the melodramatic Deacon Blues carrying its sad notes throughout. The second side tends to be a little more 'accessible' with more traditional structures and songs that you've probably heard played to death on fm radio. Peg has some pleasing saxophone stings in the short and catchy tune while Josie is a little bit more upbeat and fun. Home At Last probably makes the best use of the sax in the context of the album, and moments of it even feel like more traditional jazz before coming back into the more rock aspects of it.

In the end this is a very good album. Worth many listens, but it will probably never grab the average prog head quite like other releases will be able to do. 3 stars out of 5 for a good album - recommended for those who enjoy some jazzy rock, but people who may consider the softer end of the rock spectrum to be boring should be warned, because they may just find themselves calling the album just that.

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Posted Friday, February 13, 2009

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Aja is best SD album, I think. It's jazzy comfortable, but very intelligent sound. Golden melodies, perfect arrangements. It is almost unpossible find weak points in album music.

Yes, I think it is not for everyone taste: clever pop-rock in very professional jazzy clothes. Warm and comfortable music, but it has more layers, than it looks from the first listening.

To be honest, it took a long for me just to accept Steely Dan in general. For a long it was just classy pop-band for me, and it wasn't very big mistake. If you never listened their music, I think that your first impression will be the same.

Don't be affraid of it, just take your time, return back when you will be ready to read deeper layers of their music.

One day I realized, that they are whatever you want: it depends on what you want to find there in their music. For classy pop-song or soft rock fans they are idols of the style. If you will try to find difficult arrangements and briliant technics under their catchy,but pop melodies- you will do it.

I think they are both: a bridge between pop-rock and jazz-rock of their own formula.

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Posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review by Matthew T
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars They got a name for the winners in the world I want a name when I lose . Well that was not the case for the slick sixth album that was released by Steely Dan in 1977 with a sound that seemed just right for the time. Heavily influenced by Funk,Jazz and Rock and considered the bands best album by many of the critics.

Once again Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are at the helm and are Steely Dan as there is no one left but Denny Dias on guitar from the the original band and his appearance would be the last. Denny Dias was a true original as he could have been considered the actual founder of the band as it was he who advertised for the two main members. The three girls are here. Venetta Fields.Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King and a few others,including Mike McDonald doing backing vocals. There are seven guitarists alone making contributions to this album including Walter Becker and a different drummer is used on every song except Bernard Purdle ( Highly regarded session musician) gets to do two, Deacon Blues and Home at Last. Massive Production that had to be as close to perfect that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker could achieve as usual with thir approach to recording. An absolute giant of Jazz makes a contribution that being Wayne Shorter who provided the solo to the title track Aja and most likely at the time was glad to have the work.

Black Cow is the song that gets the album underway and is one funk cocktail from begining to end with the backing vocalists singing the highs and Donald Fagen doing the rest.. The title track is up second with a jazz and rock influence and Wayne Shorter leaves his stamp on the tune and could be considered the best track of the album but for me the following Deacon Blues and the song Home at Last are really the only primarily straight rock songs on the album and too this day are still my favourites as they were back in 1977 when I purchased the record. There is not a shabby track on this album either as the prevoius album The Royal Scam but this was the album that made the band a legend in modern contempary music.

I often wonder at the time of release if the music would have been funked up as much if the music scene at the time was not primarily disco and soul and that was really the only style getting the majority of airplay but whatever it really was a hybrid sounding album and one that I immediately liked and around then for me rock music and prog were in a bit of a decline.

Masterpiece definitely but no more than their other albums that I have reviewed and I started to miss the more rock and pop sound of the band from earlier days. All the same this is a must have album and one that I still play 32 years later.

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Posted Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars When jazz gets this smooth, we've started down a very slippery slope indeed.

Somewhere in the pursuit of perfection and precision, Steely Dan has lost a bit in the way of melody, texture and soul. Everything is just a little too perfect--the snare just a bit too tight, each vocal harmony just a bit too perfect, and each horn accent just a tad to in sync. The resulting sound have a very sanitized--perhaps at times bland--feel to it.

Of course, I wouldn't be complaining if the songs were great, but Deacon Blues is the only song from Aja that I would truly consider to be great. Peg is certainly toe-tapping, if formulaic, and the instrumental section in the title track is high quality, but I am excited by very little else on the album. There's is definitely nothing that's poorly done or a glaring weakness--indeed, far from it!--but the precision and production, along with the relatively simple rhythms, siphons most of the soul and energy from the tracks.

And so Steely Dan's conversion to the yacht rock genre is nearly complete with Aja, and in my opinion, to the detriment of true progressive jazz fusion.

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Posted Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review by The Quiet One
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars A-ha! The Greatest Pop Album!

Is it really blasphemy to call Steely Dan pop? Well, it really depends on your definition of pop. In this case I use it meaning that the music is instantly catchy, light/smooth in the melody department and tends to have the verse-chorus format. However, Donald Fagen, Walter Becker & Co. are not any catchy pop affair, they have really surpassed themselves and the "pop genre" with their 1977 release, Aja.

Not only the music is catchy and smooth, but the quality of the playing and arrangements is top-notch and that's what makes it one of the finest pop albums ever, in my opinion of course, though have in mind that I'm not the biggest pop aficionado. But Steely Dan not only played pop in a refined and talented way, it's damn original with its nod to jazz.

Donald's vocals, the smoothness, the catchy hooks and occasional original solo, it's just all perfect and up- lifting, it's really hard not to like this. Although Aja is strong throughout, there are definitely some highlights, as you should expect, these are the longer tracks, the title track and Deacon Blues where the musicianship really shines and you really can't say what is better, the hooks or the instrumental parts. Anyway, in terms of catchiness and groove, each listener will have a different favorite; all seven tracks are flawless pop music and of different kind.

The conclusion to this review is a no-brainer, this is simply a must-have record for music fans. Might not be a Prog fan's favorite, but undoubtedly it's an enjoyable ride for anyone. It's pop and it's awesome.

5 stars: sophisticated pop masterpiece with jazz tinges that I recommend to anyone who likes once in a while some really fine smooth music with groove and great instrumental playing.

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Posted Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was having difficulty explaining what it was about the "Royal Scam" that turned me off but one listen to "Aja" revealed the answer.1977 and 1978 were not the best of times for me being an insecure 16 / 17 year old trying to fit in and at the same time trying to find that special band or album I could call my own. Sure I had LPs of bands like HEART, STEVE MILLER BAND, STYX and other AOR bands that I liked but it wouldn't be until 1979 when all hell would break loose (in a good way) for me both musically and in my life. I soon found out that those bands I mentioned and many more didn't even compare to groups like RUSH, LED ZEPPELIN, PINK FLOYD, BLACK SABBATH and so on. I had found myself and my music. Is it a coincidence that it happened at the same time ? Liitle did I know that these bands were just the tip of the iceberg. Anyway back to "Aja" which unfortunately reminds me of that time as did "Royal Scam" to a lesser degree. I still remember working at this small airport (cutting grass and pumping gas) on weekends. I was 17, and at lunch time I would sit in my dad's truck he let me borrow and listen to all the crap that was on the radio back then. Well a couple of tracks on here really remind me of that time.Thankfully there are a couple of tracks on here I really like while the rest are just okay.

"Black Crow" is funky to start until the vocals join in. Horns after 2 1/2 minutes followed by piano. Horns are back late to end it. "Aja" is a top two track. I like the way the tempo picks up each time on the chorus. Nice little drums show as well before 5 minutes. Horns and guitar follow then the vocals return. "Deacon Blues" is not good for me at all. Shmaltsy is the word even if it's not a real word. I hated this song back in the day.The backing female vocals don't help either. "Peg" is okay, a catchy little number. "Home At Last" is pretty good, I like the drums, piano and bass. "I Got The News" is one I don't like in the least despite the good drumming. "Josie" is the other top two. I like the intro and the way it is reprised before 3 1/2 minutes.

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Posted Monday, May 30, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I readily acknowledge that Steely Dan - and Aja in particular - isn't for everyone. There are plenty of people who find the band's blend of smooth jazz and soft rock intolerable, particularly on Aja, which has so much studio polish it gleams with the stuff. Words like "overengineered" could be fired at the album with some credibility.

That's fine. Everyone's got their own tastes. Me, I can't get enough of this album. Sure, it's a slickly engineered product with crisp, commercial harmony vocals and poppish numbers like Peg and Josie rounding it out. But the compositions and their delivery are just too perfect not to win me over, particularly in the way they establish a calm, tranquil atmosphere quite at odds with the angry cynicism of the preceding Dan albums. Sure, it's plastic studio jazz-rock produced by an army of session musicians at the beck and call of Becker and Fagen, but sometimes slick 1970s yacht rock isn't all bad. Aja is one of those times.

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Posted Monday, October 24, 2011

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Sixth album Aja from 1977 is considered by many fans and listners their peak of their career. Well, I don't know, I really like Countdown to ecstasy and to me is their most consistent album from the catalogue. Aja as another reviewer said is not for everone, here the blend of smooth jazz and soft rock is very very polished and most of the time very hard to get into. For me this is my least fav Steely Dan album. Ok there are some ok pieces here like Deacon Blues or the Black cow but the rest are only ok to my ears, to smooth and slick to my taste. 3 stars is best I can give, good but far from the gretness of Countown.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#973584) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, June 08, 2013

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5 stars Whether or not you like Aja, or just don't like it as much as Steely Dan fans typically do, you can't deny that it is the album that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker tirelessly strove to make, the logical culmination of their style and approach to music. The duo have all but admitted as much an ... (read more)

Report this review (#1149257) | Posted by rogerthat | Monday, March 17, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars We should use 5 star ratings very sparingly in our reviews. A masterpiece should be a rare thing, otherwise the term begins to lose its meaning and effectiveness. There are perhaps a dozen bands/artists listed on Progarchives which are deserving of a 5 star rating. The fact that I give two St ... (read more)

Report this review (#1092173) | Posted by thwok | Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One such musical that transcends all boundaries. I believe that there are works that, beyond the musical style is appreciated by every good music art lover. Defining the word here with art music, composition, interpretation, performance, production, arrangements and lyrical. And obviously, the ... (read more)

Report this review (#969442) | Posted by sinslice | Sunday, June 02, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One of the previous reviewers was wondering if it was appropriate to classify Aja as pop. I guess it is, in a broad sense, and as long as there is no condescending undertone to it. Or, to be more accurate, you could call it smooth jazz-funk-pop. Elegant. Predictable. Reliable soul sound. Uno ... (read more)

Report this review (#830818) | Posted by Argonaught | Sunday, September 30, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I find Aja to be the most laid-back and romantic Steely Dan album. The most mellow, smoothed out tracks go down extremely well, the opener "Black Cow" and "Deacon Blues" are real gems, with snappy lyrics too ("I cried when I wrote this song, sue me if I play too long"). Two other favoutites are ... (read more)

Report this review (#591116) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It's hard to give this any kind of a bad review. Maybe the pinnacle of Steely Dan's work and a favorite along with their first. While this is a little too slick and smooth to rate as perfect it certainly deserves an easy 4 star rating. "Aja", "Deacon Blues", "Peg", "Home at Last",..all great tun ... (read more)

Report this review (#516989) | Posted by mohaveman | Wednesday, September 07, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Aja ? 1977 (3.5/5) 11 ? Best Song: Aja They'd always flirted with it, jazz that is. They'd taken the easy listening approach to its ultimate peak without becoming silly, and some would say that the Royal Scam was just that. But where Royal Scam delved so deep into the slickly overproduced s ... (read more)

Report this review (#440491) | Posted by Alitare | Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Though popular and get pop radio play, this album was, to me, a masterpiece of almost jazz fusion. I mean, look at the musicians involved with the project it reads like a Who's Who of the Jazz fusion scene in LA in the mid-70s: Joe Sample and Larry Carlton of the Jazz Crusaders, Wayne Shorter, Steve ... (read more)

Report this review (#406675) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Wow--I'm surprised that Steely Dan is even on Prog Archives! I first started listening to Steely Dan a few months ago starting with my dad's vinyl copy of the Steely Dan sampler GOLD. I enjoyed it (especially the songs FM, Black Cow, and King of the World). Then I started to hunt down some of the ... (read more)

Report this review (#208440) | Posted by volta3 | Monday, March 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4.5; Steely Dan's crowning achievement! Steely Dan has been a band I've always enjoyed since hearing some of their hits on radio when I was a little kid. Their music is great classic/soft/jazz/pop/? rock with an obvious uniqueness to it, evident from the fact it's hard to describe in precise la ... (read more)

Report this review (#186315) | Posted by Draith | Saturday, October 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I dont really understand why people have such a broad definition of prog. It really comes down sometimes, or so it appears, toif I like it, then its prog. Man, how can this be prog rock, if its barely even rock?!!! I dont know if the term even exists , but I would say this is something like pop-j ... (read more)

Report this review (#185071) | Posted by omarello | Wednesday, October 08, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I think this album is a little overrated, that is, it's superb but IMO not quite an out-and-out masterpiece, apart from the title track which I rate up there withe Starless, And You and I and Karneval 9 for top-drawer prog. Still, it's nice to see the Steelies here, recognising their originali ... (read more)

Report this review (#180762) | Posted by Greta007 | Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Perfect Album Ever since I picked up Aja, many years ago, it has never failed to impress me, more so than any other Steely Dan release. Start to finish, there is no song that is weak. My favorite is the title track. A moody and changing and somewhat epic at almost eight minutes highlights t ... (read more)

Report this review (#180699) | Posted by StyLaZyn | Sunday, August 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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