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If you were an audiophile in the late 1970s, you owned Aja. Rolling Stone, which ranks 1977’s Aja at No. 63 on its latest 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, says “this was Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s no-holds barred stab at becoming a huge mainstream jazz-pop success.
“And sure enough, thanks to sweet, slippery tracks like ‘Deacon Blues,’ and ‘Peg,’ this collegiate band with a name plucked from a William Burroughs novel and a songbook full of smart, cynical lyrics became bona fide superstars, shooting to the Top Five and selling platinum. And yes, Aja even won a Grammy for Best Engineeed Album.”
Fagan and Becker would assemble a revolving cast of almost 40 session musicians to play on the album, consisting of some of the all-time greats, including Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, Wayne Shorter, Steve Gadd, Lee Ritenour, Timothy B. Schmidt — it’s a long list. It’s a Who’s Who of session superstars.
The album name and its title track were inspired by a South Korean woman whom a high school friend’s brother had married after serving in the army in her country. The chord progressions and melodies are so unique and so typically Steely Dan. The drum solo at the end of the title track by Steve Gadd is also astounding.
Founded by core members Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards), Steely Dan’s popularity rose throughout the late 1970s on, and their seven albums throughout that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. Becker and Fagen, with producer Gary Katz, gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring session musicians to record their compositions. The duo didn’t perform live between 1974 and 1993. But their popularity nevertheless grew throughout the ’70s as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of Adult Oriented Radio and pop radio stations.
After a brief battle with esophageal cancer, Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017 at the age of 67. Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. VH1 ranked Steely Dan at No. 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Musical Artists of All Time. Rolling Stoneranked them No. 15 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
This stereo UHQR reissue will be limited to 25,000 copies, with gold foil individually numbered jackets, housed in a premium slipcase with a wooden dowel spine.
1. Black Cow
3. Deacon Blues
5. Home At Last
6. I Got The News