Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Deep Album Tracks: Aja


Steely Dan: Aja


Music Appreciation 401: Final Exam - Counts for 25% of your final grade

Compare and contrast the previously posted "Livin' On The Fault Line" with Steely Dan's "Aja". Explain why this song would be on your desert island list.


Both songs were released in 1977.

Both songs were the non-hit title tracks off their respective albums.

Both songs are in the genre known as jazz-rock.

Extra credit: Both songs feature vibe player Victor Feldman.


The Doobie Brothers exemplified the 70's laid-back California rock sound, whereas Steely Dan represented the New York City temperament: intellectual, slightly cynical, sophisticated, with a dash of sangfroid.

Aja, the song, features some of the best jazzmen around. Steely Dan (basically Walter Becker and Donald Fagan), arguably one of the best studio groups, like, ever, were known for their expertise in selecting primo sidemen. Take a look at the impressive roster for this song:

Wayne Shorter, saxophone (with Weather Report at the time)
Larry Carlton, guitar (in The Crusaders circa 1976; he was also spectacularly featured on Kid Charlemagne)
Denny Diaz, guitar Steely Dan's most consistent side member.
Joe Sample, electric piano (long-time member of The Crusaders)
Steve Gadd, drums
Michael Omartian, piano
Victor Feldman, vibes Featured in many session recordings from Frank Zappa to Miles Davis.
Chuck Rainey, bass I can't even begin to list the groups he's played with.
Timothy B. Schmit, vocals. Better known as one of The Eagles.

I'd bring Aja to any desert island exile because, well, Wayne Shorter and Larry Carlton on a Steely Dan song have got to be the pinnacle of wonderful in my eyes. And hell, they've got one of the Eagles as backing vocalists. When I wasn't listening to the Aja track, I'd be grooving on Deacon Blues because it has both Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour on guitar. Or I'd be groovin' on Peg, with Tom Scott and vocalist Michael McDonald, who is also featured on Livin' on the Fault Line, and do I get extra credit for mentioning that, too? I wouldn't be the only one with Steely Dan on an island sojourn: Rolling Stone Magazine lists it as one of their top 500 albums ever, and our very own Darius has posted 4 Steely Dan songs here, so he must love them, too!

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