Ajaby Steely Dan
By this late stage, Steely Dan was less a band than an all-star aggregation of studio musicians assembled to perform the works of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. On AJA, the two leaders assembled one of their finest units and made them sound like a road-tested, hard-bop quintet (and in fact, the band included legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter). Though the lyrics on "Aja" and "Black Cow" were typically oblique, the Steely Dan sound touched a pop nerve, as proved by the staying power of the latter song's billowy bass line, sampled in the late '90s for hits by Tatyana Ali and Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz. And when Fagen and Becker turned wistful on "Deacon Blues" -- particularly the verse, "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide/Call me Deacon Blues" -- they created an enduring hit. "Peg," "I Got the News," and "Josie" also found their way onto certain radio formats, but, sadly, this recording marked the end of a glorious era for Steely Dan: The duo released one more album before moving on to solo projects and, ultimately, the obligatory reunion efforts.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsSteely Dan Primary Artist
Donald Fagen Synthesizer,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals,Whistle (Instrument)
Michael McDonald Vocals,Background Vocals
Larry Carlton Guitar,Electric Guitar
Pete Christlieb Flute,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Victor Feldman Percussion,Piano,Keyboards,Electric Piano,Vibes
Don Grolnick Keyboards,Clavinet
Plas Johnson Flute,Saxophone
Steve Khan Guitar
Bill Perkins Flute,Horn,Saxophone
Joe Sample Keyboards,Electric Piano,Clavinet
Tom Scott Flute,Conductor,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Lyricon
Wayne Shorter Flute,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Paul Humphrey Drums
Chuck Rainey Bass
Clydie King Vocals,Background Vocals
Jim Keltner Percussion,Drums
Walter Becker Bass,Guitar,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Gary Coleman Percussion
Venetta Fields Vocals,Background Vocals
Chuck Findley Horn,Brass
Steve Gadd Drums
Jay Graydon Guitar,Electric Guitar
Ed Greene Drums
Paul Griffin Keyboards,Electric Piano,Vocals,Background Vocals
Jim Horn Flute,Saxophone
Richard Hyde Trombone
Jackie Kelso Flute,Horn,Saxophone
Rebecca Louis Vocals,Background Vocals
Rick Marotta Drums
Lew McCreary Horn
Michael Omartian Piano,Keyboards
Dean Parks Guitar
Bernard "Pretty" Purdie Drums
Lee Ritenour Guitar
Timothy B. Schmit Bass,Vocals,Background Vocals
Denny Dias Guitar
Slyde Hyde Brass
Paul Humphrey & the Cool Aid Chemists Drums
Lou McCreary Brass
Sherlie Matthews Vocals,Background Vocals
Technical CreditsDonald Fagen Liner Notes
Tom Scott Horn Arrangements,Horn Conductor
Walter Becker Liner Notes
Irving Azoff Contributor
Gary Katz Producer
Roger Nichols Engineer
Elliot Scheiner Engineer
Bill Schnee Engineer
Michael Diehl Reissue Design
Dinky Dawson Sound Consultant
Stuart Dinky Dawson Sound Consultant
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This is just great music. Black Cow stands out. The sax and drums jam on the title track is awesome. Good memories from the seventies.
If you have Style, Class, and Taste... This magnum opus is for you. This album broke new ground in '77. When I heard it for the first time, I was amazed at the depth of feeling, and scope of intellect. A beautiful work that is a true classic.
This album marks the end of the first stage of Steely Dan's many incarnations. All previous albums led to this work, and for all that has followed by Becker/Fagen, this album is seminal. The players, all well known on their own, would form an all-star band on their own, and, since most had worked with B/F before, were well seasoned as to what they were expected to add to the mix. The performances of Steve Gadd, Wayne Shorter and Bernard Purdy alone are reason enough to buy this album. The songwriting talents of the two composers are at their pithy, bittersweet and cynical pinnacle, and Fagen's idiosyncratic voice has never sounded better. If a listener is interested in the best of Steely Dan, or the best of what some call "jazz-rock fusion," than this album is a "must have."
'Aja' is about as sophisticated and professional that rock music got during the 1970's, and the high point of Steely Dan's recorded works. I remember first hearing the 'Aja' hits "Peg" and "Josie" when there were first on FM rock radio in the late '70s and how different they sounded from anything else at the time (and to this day). It's always been hard to describe Steely Dan music, but their influence has loomed large on 'lite jazz' music (i.e. much of what appeared on the GRP label, jazzers who have a leaning for pop styles), and any rock acts that wanted to reach for more highly developed musical pastures and professional studio craft (i.e. Billy Joel, Doobie Brothers, Eagles), just as the Beatles did in the late '60s when (just like Steely Dan later) ceased touring to concentrate on studio recording. Similar to how after hearing Edward Van Halen and Randy Rhoads (the late guitarist on the first two solo Ozzy Osbourne albums), that the hard rock and metal guitarist had to re-evaluate his thinking on the genre, after hearing 'Aja', anyone who was a studio musician had a new benchmark to reference (not that previous SD albums weren't amazingly brilliant, 'The Royal Scam' in particular). The title track has arguably the finest Steve Gadd drumming ever; plus the song itself is just about perfection in every way imaginable.
There is no question that this disk will evoke many fond memories of Steely Dan's earlier hits. The sound quality for the vocals and musical accompanyment was excellent and the recording was true to the material and performances of Steely Dan of yesteryear. While playing the album, I realized that I no longer had the patience nor the inclination to listen to several of his longer arrangements such as "Black Cow". I proably would have enjoyed shorter and more up-beat hits such as "Ricky Don't Lose that Number". There is no question that music such as Steely Dan's Aja remains true to its time and place; however, our tastes in music, for example, may change as swiftly as the constantly moving beat of our own lives over time.
Almost all 'albums' I have listened to over the years have a few songs which I didn't like or took a while to grow on me. This album took hold of me cut by cut and has never let go 20 something years later. It is a tight, polished masterpiece and should be in anyone's collection.
Clearly, this is the one of the finest albums of the 1970's and of jazz-rock music. Simply put, Deacon Blues is one of the greatest fusions of different music styles ever recorded.