Steely Dan AJA 101 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 6 Old 11-25-12, 09:10 AM Thread Starter
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Steely Dan AJA 101

I am a certified Steely Dan junkie and AJA fanatic. I own 11 copies pressed from around the world and the new Cisco release is the best IMHO. So here is a primer on AJA.

1) Black Cow

This track features memorable solo performances by the late, great Victor Feldman (fender rhodes) and a young Tom Scott (tenor sax). It’s also worth noting that Tom Scott wrote ALL of the horn arrangements on Aja, the first time his unique phrasing and styling were heard outside of his solo releases. Trivia fact: drummer Paul Humphrey made his mark on the old TV show “Name That Tune”.

2) Aja

The title track is part jazz and part rock structured almost like a three part symphony; musically speaking, it has a head and chorus, but what would be the bridge features some of the most virtuoso free-form Tenor Sax (Wayne Shorter of Weather Report fame) and Drum (all-time great session drummer Steve Gadd) solos ever recorded. In fact, studying the transcribed Steve Gadd drum solo this was one of those performances you “learn” how to play your instrument from. Trivia fact: if you listen carefully, you can hear Timothy B. Schmit’s (of Eagles fame) high backing vocals in support of Donald Fagen.

3) Deacon Blues

This track became an instant classic for both its lyrics and solo tenor sax performance by Pete Christlieb. In fact, you can still find this big band jazz arrangement in the performance books of many high-school and college jazz bands. This was the lone track featuring Walter Becker on bass, quite a departure from the band’s early days where he was the featured bassist. Trivia fact: remember those screaming sax solos you used to hear from the Tonight Show band coming out of commercial breaks? That was none other than Pete Christlieb.

4) Peg

This track was one of the two “hits” (along with Josie) from Aja. It’s been described as one of the most densely layered Top 40 recordings ever, again featuring a famous guitar solo in what is essentially a 13 bar Blues. It also featured a very memorable Michael McDonald falsetto refrain, coinciding with his emergence as a driving force (and Grammy winner) with the Doobie Brothers. Trivia fact: guitar soloist Jay Graydon (another Grammy winner) later went on to write and produce for such notable performers as Al Jarreau, George Benson, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

5) Home At Last

A clever re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey (Fagen was actually an English major in college), this track is best known for Bernard “Pretty” Purdie’s driving beat that became an instant classic among drummers (if you can lay down the Home At Last groove, you can play drums!). Purdie, who also played on Deacon Blues, was nearing the end of a career as a first-call studio musician that began in the 50’s and included some of the most famous R&B hits of the 60’s. It is also the only track on this release to feature solos by both Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Trivia fact: careful listening will once again reveal Timothy B. Schmit’s perfect backing harmonies.

6) I Got The News

While arguably the weakest track on the release, it never-the-less features a solid groove and steller background vocals by the now instantly recognizable Michael McDonald.

7) Josie

The other big hit off the release, this track is considered by some to be a rock classic. It combines typically cynical lyrics with outstanding guitar solos over yet another unique drum groove provided by Jim Keltner, another first-call session drummer from the 60’s & 70’s (who played with members of Cream and the Beatles to name a few). While the steady Chuck Rainey played bass on nearly every track, Aja features 6 different drummers on 7 tracks, unique even by today’s standards.

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post #2 of 6 Old 11-25-12, 10:02 AM
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Re: Steely Dan AJA 101

Thanks for the heads up, one of the best albums performances ever put to tape. Almost 40 different musicians, perfection from Becker and Fagen most probably beyond the limits of most session folks used in the album. But this perfection allows the music and visions of the songs shine.

Good Listening


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post #3 of 6 Old 11-28-12, 09:36 AM
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Re: Steely Dan AJA 101

The got a name for the winners of the world...

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide.

You know that has to be an all time favorite for Bama fans.

I have this on 180 gram, but not sure what release it is. I think it may be the same one. I just purchased it a few months ago.

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post #4 of 6 Old 11-28-12, 10:15 AM
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Re: Steely Dan AJA 101

I see HD Tracks have been uploading some of Steely Dans albums, just not this one yet
Gaucho in HD is fantabulous.

Good Listening


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post #5 of 6 Old 11-28-12, 11:23 AM
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Re: Steely Dan AJA 101

Also a Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fan.

The Gaucho CD is also well engineered. All of the 1998-2000 CD reissues are pretty good. I also love the Bodhisattva jam on the extended CD Gold.

I met Timothy B. Schmit in Ketchikan, AK in August, 1981. What a nice guy! Glad to see he is still quite active. Haven't yet heard his Every Night off the Linda McCartney tribute album.

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Last edited by jackfish; 11-28-12 at 11:28 AM.
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-29-12, 04:03 PM
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Re: Steely Dan AJA 101

I think Katy Lied was underrated.
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