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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Music > Rock > Jazz > Pop > Album > Classic Albums: Steely Dan – Aja (Eagle remaster)

Classic Albums: Steely Dan – Aja (Eagle remaster)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C-     Episode: B+



Give or take Can’t Buy A Thrill, Aja just might be the masterpiece of the ever-enduring Steely Dan.  With their earlier 1972 classic, they had a band where they were the co-leaders and with hits like Do It Again, Reelin’ In The Years and all the rest of the songs playing heavily on radio, it was brilliant song after brilliant song.  Paired down more into a pair by 1977, Aja had less tracks, but was no less powerful.  Michael McDonald did backing vocals on some of the classics like the hit Peg, while Deacon Blues and Josie became also became hits.  Eagle Vision has reissued the outstanding installment on the album from the Classic Albums series and at nearly an hour, few episodes have equaled it and none have surpassed it.


Like the best installments of this show, it begins with the brief early history of the act involved up to the album, then talks about why the album was such a breakthrough.  It is ironic that the duo did only one more studio album (Gaucho in 1980, reviewed in Super Audio CD elsewhere on this site) before going on a very, very long hiatus, but Aja was a tough act to follow.


In addition to some new performances, the show interviews other musicians who made the album possible and how the album proved they were more formidable than just a group that rode the counterculture wave of the early post-Beatles 1970s.  Only Van Morrison added Jazz elements to Rock the way they did (versus Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears, which was more about giant orchestrations like Progressive Rock from Yes or ELP). 


It is one of the great stories in American music at a time when the record labels were at their peak, run by people who loved music and had great taste, when the companies cared about their audience and the abundance of talent was only rivaled by the abundance of each artist making the best possible album they could before the industry got lazy and in the deep trouble it has been unnecessarily in since then.  It is also why Steely Dan was and is so great, talented beyond words and expectations.  From the exotic title song, to the change-of-pace Home At Last to the great Black Cow, each song is its own world of experience and depth, with the kind of heart & soul few ever knew how to create.  Aja just gets better with age and will also remain a gem in the Classic Albums series for a very long time to come.


The 1.33 X 1 image was shot in the analog PAL format as looks as good as the previous Image DVD, while despite the label stating Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for the sound, this has the same PCM 2.0 16bit/48kHz Stereo as that disc, so performance is the same.  A brief text piece is the only extra.  Besides being back in print, Eagle has replaced the annoying cardboard snapper with a hard plastic case, so this is the version to own.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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