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Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

March 24, 2015

[Album 387/1001]Aja_album_cover

One advantage of back to school? Witnessing the “A-ha” moment.

The sight of light-bulbs illuminating, the moment where students noticeably get it.

For the remainder of this post, I’ve decided to ignore Steely Dan’s pronunciation of the word Aja.  Instead, I’ll conveniently pretend the ‘j’ is pronounced like an ‘h’ as it is in Spanish, making Aja sound like “A-ha.”  As in the aforementioned “A-ha” moment.  Or “A-ha” like my favourite Norwegian pop trio.

They say the third time’s the charm.  In my case with Steely Dan, it’s true.*

After non-scathing nor praising reviews of Can’t Buy a Thrill and Pretzel Logic, my Steely Dan A-ha moment happened this week, as luck would have it, with Aja.

Though to give credit where it’s due, it’s partially due to the 2014 Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team, a team I once named Canada’s finest ever.


I had prepared a 2-tome comparative analysis (just kidding, but not really) of that gold medal team & Steely Dan.  Out of respect for your time here, I’ve boiled it down to the thesis: Steely Dan is that not-so-exciting-yet-talented-&-effective hockey team.

From what I gather, the band by this stage was really just two core guys accompanied by la crème de la crème of studio players.

There are no look-what-I-can-do solos.  The two band members (Donald Fagen & Walter Becker) may have been flashier in their solo efforts but here, their parts contributed nicely to the whole.

Much like Alice in Chains, Steely Dan has their own instantly identifiable vocal harmony.  Not to mention an equally distinct overall band ‘sound,’ regardless of who appears on the recordings.

Was it exciting to listen to Aja?  It was exciting for me to figure out that additional excitement wouldn’t make the record any less effective.


*Wondering what an Aja/A-ha face looks like?  In the continuing Cupface tradition, here’s a recreation of my Steely Dan light-bulb moment. 😀


From → 1970s

  1. Hackskeptic permalink

    What an album! Fagen and Becker gather the best session musicians around and pull out the best fusion of jazz and pop I have ever heard.

    Highlight: On a decent hi fi system Steve Gadd’s drum performance on the title track is astonishing.

    • Which is where I thought the Olympic Hockey comparison fit well – like the Aja musicians, stars that don’t usually play together end up meshing really well!

  2. I really enjoyed this

    • Much appreciated 1537 – I try to approach these posts through the lens of “what would I want to read?” – so it’s nice to hear people enjoy reading them too!

  3. When I compiled my favourite albums of all time at the beginning of the millennium, ‘Aja’ was either #1 or #2 behind ‘Revolver’.

    When the task was repeated ten years later, it was #2 behind ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (US LP).

    Glad you found something there to enjoy Geoff.

    • That’s pretty good company!
      A pair of wonderful records – The White album remains my benchmark. A flawed mishmash to be sure, but what a mishmash!

  4. I’ve never heard this one. Always been one that I’ve had on my list to pick up at some point, but just never have … sounds like it’s a winner.

  5. ianbalentine permalink

    I nominated you for The Creative Blogger Award. If you’re interested please accept this award, and if you’re unable to for whatever reason, please accept the recognition and my sincere thanks.
    Here is the link:

  6. I love Aja. I enjoyed this. Great contribution to the cupface tradition! 🙂

    • Thanks Sarca – I like how the tradition continues to evolve from cups to swonchos & everything in between!

  7. I’ve probably heard songs from this, but have never owned or heard the album on purpose. In fact, I haven’t ever thought about any of their records before this. It’s 2015. Imagine… nyway, you make me wanna, and therefore this is FTW.

    Also: nice Record Face.

    Also: Big points for the Pavement t-shirt!!

    • Wowee Zowee!
      They seem to be one of those groups people either really enjoy or don’t see the appeal – after Aja, they’re one of those groups I really appreciate.
      The good news is, you can usually find this used on LP in the $4 range!

  8. There are many who disparage Steely Dan and their slickness and smugness. I overlook these qualities and revel in their inventiveness. I wore out side 1 of Aja, and, although I prefer the earlier and rawer Countdown to Ecstasy, I think Aja was the realization of what Becker & Fagen were trying to get to all along. (Then they kinda lost it.)

    • And this is their last one on the 1001 – can’t buy, countdown, and pretzel also made the cut. I believe Fagen has a solo record on the list as well.
      I like the inventiveness lens, I’ll try to approach countdown to ecstasy with that in mind!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy (1973) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. Forty Year Friday – STEELY DAN “AJA” | KamerTunesBlog
  3. 1977 | 1001albumsin10years

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