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Steely Dan - 1977 Aja

ARTIST: Steely Dan
LABEL: ABC Records
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1984, MCA, MCAD-37214 * 1988, Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 515 (remastered) * many more..


LINEUP: Refer credits below.. Click here..

TRACK LISTING: 01 Black Cow * 02 Aja * 03 Deacon Blues * 04 Peg * 05 Home At Last * 06 I Got The News * 07 Josie


A couple of months back, Eric took a first stab at reviewing a Steely Dan record for this website. It jolted a few memory leaks for me, considering the band were a big thing during the 70's with their run of popular albums and frequent hit singles and equally frequent trips through the maze of the Billboard Charts. Steely Dan were always a hard band to pigeon-hole. Not quite AOR, nor West Coast, nor jazz fusion or country rock. They were perhaps a mixture of all of them, avant-garde in their ability to be free thinkers in a musical world of clichés and copycats. Snobby discographers will put Steely Dan toward the top of the pile in terms of music history, though I doubt Donald Fagen and Walter Becker could be bothered, instead focusing on turning out some great music for the (then) FM airwaves. 1977's 'Aja' is a case in point. The other artist plying similar territory at the time was L.A's Boz Scaggs, who's radio appeal was popular at the time.

The Songs
A quite beautiful album, with just about every track a timeless masterpiece (there's only seven of them), appealing across the entire musical divide. Leading off with the cruisy Boz Scaggs sounding 'Black Cow', this song borders on 'cool', with an Airplay meets Chicago like brass section used as an accompaniment. Title track 'Aja' (pronounced 'Asia') is even more restrained and laid back, some passages similar to past material which makes this an easy fit. The piano is used as a lead instrument, and Larry Carlton's guitar parts fill this one out. 'Deacon Blues' emphasises the acoustic guitar, making for some great Californian sunset music. 'Peg's is one of the two popular tracks on the album. The shuffle beat created by drummer Rick Marotta is the backbone of the song, with some funky bass work and clever vocal phrasing all round. A terrific easy-on-the-ear song for sure! The heavy piano and jazz feel of 'Home At Last' reminds me Alfie Zappacosta in places, or could it be the other around? lol! I loved the urban funk extravaganza of 'I Got The News' which sounds like a bunch of extremely talented musos going at a musical composition in ad-lib style. The closing 'Josie' is probably my favourite track on the album, the familiar motif throughout the song would nominate it fairly highly on my all time list of favourite Steely Dan tracks.

In Summary
As mentioned, a very easy-on-the-ear album, and one that was well liked during 1977. The band would use up the rest of the decade taking a break, and would return some three years later with 1980's 'Gaucho', thereby missing the end of the disco era, bypassing the punk and new-wave scene, and conveniently tacking onto the burgeoning radio rock era that would only last fleetingly. Unlike Steely Dan who have navigated the passages of time, leaving a trail of classic pop/rock albums in their wake.

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#1 | Eric on February 19 2012 15:03:42
Like 'Hotel California' and 'Rumours', this album was so-ooo overplayed on the AOR radio and in time I grew tired of it. Only in recent years have come back to the album, appreciating 'Aja' like never before. Amazing stuff.

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