Aja (album)

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Studio album by Steely Dan
Released September 23, 1977[1]
Recorded January to July 1977;
at the Village Recorder, West Los Angeles, California;
Producer's Workshop, Hollywood;
Warner Bros studios, Burbank;
ABC recording studios, N.Y.C.;
Sound Labs, Hollywood;
A&R studios, Manhattan
Genre Jazz rock
Length 39:58
Producer Gary Katz
Steely Dan chronology
The Royal Scam
Singles from Aja
  1. "Peg"
    Released: November 1977
  2. "Deacon Blues"
    Released: 1977
  3. "Josie"
    Released: 1978

Aja (/ˈʒə/, pronounced like Asia) is the sixth album by the jazz rock band Steely Dan. Originally released in 1977 on ABC Records, it became the group's best-selling album. Peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. charts and No. 5 in the United Kingdom, it was the band's first platinum album, eventually selling over 5 million copies[citation needed]. In July 1978, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording. In 2003, the album was ranked number 145 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. It is widely regarded as a good test recording for audiophiles because of its excellent production value.[citation needed]

Donald Fagen has said the title of the album comes from the name of a Korean woman who married the brother of a high-school friend of his.[2] The cover photo by Hideki Fujii features Japanese model and actress Sayoko Yamaguchi.[3][4]

The album features several leading session musicians. The eight-minute-long title track features jazz-based changes and a solo by saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Aja is the subject of one of the Classic Albums, a series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. The documentary includes a song-by-song study of the album (the only omission being "I Got the News," which is played during the closing credits), interviews with Steely Dan co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (among others) plus new, live-in-studio versions of songs from the album. Becker and Fagen also play back several of the rejected guitar solos for "Peg," which were recorded before Jay Graydon produced the satisfactory take.

When DTS attempted to make a 5.1 version, it was discovered that the multitrack masters for both "Black Cow" and the title track were missing. For this same reason, a multichannel SACD version was cancelled by Universal Music. Donald Fagen has offered a $600 reward for the missing masters or any information that leads to their recovery.[5]

On April 6, 2011, the album was deemed by the Library of Congress to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" and added to the United States National Recording Registry for the year 2010.[6]


The sessions for Aja produced several outtakes, including "You Got the Bear". The song was never officially released, but would later be played live on their 2011 Shuffle Diplomacy tour.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[8]
BBC Music (positive)[9]
Robert Christgau B+[10]
Drowned in Sound 10/10[11]
Q 5/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[13]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars[14]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[15]

Summarising the style of the band at the time the album was released, music critic Andy Gill said: "Jazz-rock was a fundamental part of the 70s musical landscape.. [Steely Dan] wasn't rock or pop music with ideas above its station, and it wasn't jazzers slumming... it was a very well-forged alloy of the two - you couldn't separate the pop music from the jazz in their music."[2]

Describing the album in 1999, British musician Ian Dury said: "Well, Aja's got a sound that lifts your heart up.. and it's the most consistent up-full, heart-warming.. even though, it is a classic LA kinda sound. You wouldn't think it was recorded anywhere else in the world. It's got California through its blood, even though they are boys from New York.. It's a record that sends my spirits up, and really when I listen to music, really that's what I want."[2]

Analyzing the band's song-writing style, Dury said: "They've got a skill that can make images that aren't puerile and don't make you think you've heard it before... very "Hollywood filmic" in a way, the imagery is very imaginable, in a visual sense" and of their musical style: "Parker, Mingus, Blakey, I can hear in there.. Jazz Messengers I can hear in there, Bobby Timmons... the subject matter doesn't matter, it's the sound they're making." [2]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

Side one
  1. "Black Cow" – 5:10[16]
  2. "Aja" – 7:57
  3. "Deacon Blues" – 7:33
Side two
  1. "Peg" – 3:57
  2. "Home at Last" – 5:34
  3. "I Got the News" – 5:06
  4. "Josie" – 4:33




  • Executive Producer: Stephen Diener [ABC Records]
  • Producer: Gary Katz
  • Engineers: Roger Nichols, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt, Bill Schnee
  • Assistant engineers: Joe Bellamy, Lenise Bent, Ken Klinger, Ron Pangaliman, Ed Rack, Linda Tyler
  • Mastering: Bernie Grundman
  • Production coordination: Barbara Miller
  • Sound consultant: Dinky Dawson
  • Consultant: Daniel Levitin
  • Horn arrangements: Tom Scott
  • Art direction: Vartan Reissue
  • Design: Geoff Westen
  • Photography: Hideki Fujii (cover photo), Walter Becker
  • Liner notes: Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
  • Reissue coordination: Beth Stempel



Year Chart Position
1977 Pop Albums 3
1977 UK Albums 5

Pop Singles

Year Single Label & number Position
1978 "Peg" (B-side: "I Got the News") ABC 12320 11
1978 "Deacon Blues" (B-side: "Home at Last") ABC 12355 19
1978 "Josie" (B-side: "Black Cow") ABC 12404 26


Grammy Awards

Year Winner Category
1977 Aja Best Engineered Recording, Non Classical


  1. ^ Crowe, Cameron (December 29, 1977). "Steely Dan Springs Back: The Second Coming". Rolling Stone (New York City: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (#255): 11. Retrieved October 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d Classic Albums: Steely Dan - Aja (Video 1999), Directed by Alan Lewins, Eagle Rock Entertainment, ASIN: 6305772649 [1]
  3. ^ "http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/blog/album-cover-of-the-week-aja". Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  4. ^ Steely Dan: Reelin in the Years by Brian Sweet – page 130
  5. ^ "http://www.broberg.pp.se/sd_aja.htm". Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  6. ^ National Recording Preservation Board, 2010 Selections
  7. ^ Baltin, Steve (July 9, 2011). "Steely Dan at the Greek Theater: Concert Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Aja review allmusic.com. Retrieved on July 3, 2011.
  9. ^ Easley, Daryl. BBC Music review 2011-08-09.
  10. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 31, 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ Jonathan Rawcliffe. Drowned in Sound review 2001-11-25.
  12. ^ Q June 2000, p.131
  13. ^ Duffy, Michael. Aja review 1977-12-01. Retrieved on July 3, 2011.
  14. ^ Sputnikmusic review
  15. ^ Steely Dan: Aja
  16. ^ A Black Cow is an Coke float (it also can refer to a root beer float - root beer and vanilla ice cream)
  17. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Steely-Dan-Aja/release/368605, also the liner notes to the digitally remastered edition. And http://www.broberg.pp.se/sd_aja.htm. The last two references have no difference whatsoever in describing the personnel

External links[edit]