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Album Review

Steely Dan hadn't been a real working band since Pretzel Logic, but with Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records. Instead, it's a measured and textured album, filled with subtle melodies and accomplished, jazzy solos that blend easily into the lush instrumental backdrops. But Aja isn't just about texture, since Becker and Fagen's songs are their most complex and musically rich set of songs — even the simplest song, the sunny pop of "Peg," has layers of jazzy vocal harmonies. In fact, Steely Dan ignores rock on Aja, preferring to fuse cool jazz, blues, and pop together in a seamless, seductive fashion. It's complex music delivered with ease, and although the duo's preoccupation with clean sound and self-consciously sophisticated arrangements would eventually lead to a dead end, Aja is a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest.

Customer Reviews

So good that...

...we named our second child Aja. This is Steely at it's maturity.

The closest thing to perfection?

I rarely award an album five stars, but if any album deserves such a rating, it's Aja. It took me a long time to warm up to the Steely Dan sound - the jazzy harmonies and sound of Fagen's voice can be acquired tastes, but they are certainly worth acquiring. Aja is probably SD's most popular album and it's easy to understand why: it just doesn't get any more solid than this. Each song on the album is a serious piece of work. Some people criticize Fagen and Becker's perfectionism with regard to this album, but such perfectionism is not at the expense of character. Each of these songs has plenty of character, courtesy of the song writing, arranging, producing and, not least of all, the musicians who lent their skills to the project. Also worth checking out is the "making of Aja" DVD. Brilliant and highly entertaining!

Aja = Greatest Hits

Aja really could be subtitled Greatest Hits. Each track memorable, distinctive, solid.


Formed: 1972 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions. Becker and Fagen never truly enjoyed rock -- with their ironic humor and cryptic lyrics, their eclectic body of work shows some debt to Bob Dylan -- preferring jazz, traditional pop, blues, and...
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