Aja (album)

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Aja album cover.jpg
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
Label ABC
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
Music sample

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.[2] 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 high production standards.[3][4][5]


Donald Fagen has said the album was named for a Korean woman who married the brother of one of his high-school friends.[6] The cover photo by Hideki Fujii features Japanese model and actress Sayoko Yamaguchi.[7][8]

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

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.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[10]
BBC Music (positive)[11]
Robert Christgau B+[12]
Drowned in Sound 10/10[13]
Q 5/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[15]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[16]

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."[6]

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."[6]

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."[6]


In 2010 the Library of Congress selected Aja for inclusion in the United States National Recording Registry based on its cultural, artistic or historical significance.[17][18] The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[19]

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.


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.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Cow" 5:10
2. "Aja" 7:57
3. "Deacon Blues" 7:33
Side two
No. Title Length
4. "Peg" 3:58
5. "Home at Last" 5:34
6. "I Got the News" 5:06
7. "Josie" 4:33


Steely Dan[edit]

  • Donald Fagen – lead vocals (all tracks), synthesizer (all tracks but 4), police whistle (2), backing vocals (2, 5, 7)
  • Walter Becker – bass (3), guitar (2), guitar solos (5, 6, 7)

Additional musicians[edit]



  • 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


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. ^ "Steely Dan Biography". billboard.com. Retrieved 2016-07-18. 
  3. ^ "The 30 best hi-fi audiophile albums ever | Tech Features | Stuff". www.stuff.tv. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  4. ^ "What Are the Top 10 Digital Tracks for Testing Speakers? - A Journal of Musical Things". A Journal of Musical Things. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Vinyl Me, Please | 52 Essential Albums to Own on Vinyl (Add Your Own) «". vinylmeplease.com. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d Classic Albums: Steely Dan - Aja (Video 1999), Directed by Alan Lewins, Eagle Rock Entertainment, ASIN: 6305772649 [1]
  7. ^ "Aja". Retrieved September 9, 2008. 
  8. ^ Steely Dan: Reelin in the Years by Brian Sweet – page 130
  9. ^ "Aja notes". Archived from the original on May 5, 2009. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Aja review allmusic.com. Retrieved on August 14, 2015.
  11. ^ Easley, Daryl. BBC Music review 2011-08-09.
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 31, 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  13. ^ Jonathan Rawcliffe. Drowned in Sound review 2001-11-25.
  14. ^ Q June 2000, p.131
  15. ^ Duffy, Michael. Aja review 1977-12-01. Retrieved on July 3, 2011.
  16. ^ Steely Dan: Aja
  17. ^ "Complete National Recording Registry Listing - National Recording Preservation Board | Programs | Library of Congress". Loc.gov. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  18. ^ National Recording Preservation Board, 2010 Selections
  19. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  20. ^ Baltin, Steve (July 9, 2011). "Steely Dan at the Greek Theater: Concert Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  21. ^ "Steely Dan - Aja (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  22. ^ Liner notes to the digitally remastered edition
  23. ^ "Aja Album". Broberg.pp.se. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 

External links[edit]