A vivid portrait of a '70s record that is still as fresh and memorable today as when it was released more than two decades ago. Pioneering pop/jazz band Steely Dan, formed by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in the early sev... more »enties, had already secured five Top 40 albums before the release of Aja in 1977. Aja, however, was to prove to be the biggest selling album of Steely Dan's illustrious career, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard chart and spending a year in the Top 40. Becker and Fagen, renowned for their relentless perfectionism in the recording studio, recall the history of an album that was a year in the making, but rewarded with a Grammy Award and three hit singles. Steely Dan's Aja has proven to be one of the most outstanding jazz-rock albums in the history of popular music and now its story is told in this fascinating documentary. 60 minutes.« less
"This insiders look at the recording process plus a peek into the Becker/Fagen persona is extremely well done. How the Aja album is able to simultaneously evoke southern CA and NY imagery starts making sense now. Hearing all those Peg guitar solos that never made the cut along with Don and Walter's commentary is something that any Dan fan or guitarist will appreciate. I always thought that the SD was largely Don Fagen and that Becker was sort of along for the ride but this DVD sheds new light on that for me. Walter Becker is an incredible producer and I would be willing to bet he contributes well over 50% lyrically. But where would they be without that Fagen voice?
I'm not sure where Aja stands on your list of favorite albums, but it's at the very top of mine. Listen to it a couple of times, then watch this video. You will have a new appreciation for the album--its creators Becker and Fagen and the many musicians who played on it."
Oh nothing, just the deconstruction of a masterpiece...
Jon Ell | Aliso Viejo, CA United States | 02/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a must-see/must-own for any serious fan of the Dan. Aja remains the duo's landmark album; more than that one of the shortlist of truly significant, groundbreaking "rock" albums of the '70s. Presented in a documentary style, it gives a brief background into the history of the band, then proceeds directly to the music itself. Donald and Walter attempt to break it down song by song, track by track, supplementing their revealing insights with interviews with the individual session players on each song, e.g., Larry Carlton, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Wayne Shorter, Michael McDonald, etc. I've shown this DVD to friends not intimately acquainted with SD and turned them into instant fans of the music. Btw, this makes a great companion to the Two Against Nature DVD. Although it lacks "2vN's" lush DTS 5.1 sound, it more than makes up for it with a truly revealing look at a remarkable album for all time."
Scattershot and kind of lacking but PRETTY DARN GREAT anyway
Dave | United States | 01/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I really don't get where some of the other reviews for this video/ DVD are coming from, saying that it's a good 'sleeping aid' or things of this nature. A big part of what makes the "Aja" album such a landmark is the way it put to use such spellbinding musicianship from a long list of different players, and the sophisticated elegance and beauty of the songs themselves--this really IS fascinating stuff, even though many fans unfortunately don't seem to give a damn, and if that's the case, I don't know why they are bothering with this DVD in the first place. Another reviewer commented that you've got to really LOVE Steely Dan to really enjoy this DVD--well you know what, people do love Steely Dan and for good reason--if you come to this DVD expecting mindless entertainment to watch while you throw back a few beers, you're out of your mind. This DVD gives you a thrilling peek into the making of the album, demonstrating some of the musical techniques that were used--the way the bass was doubled on guitar on "Josie", and the layering of Michael McDonald's background vocals on "Peg" to point out a couple examples. McDonald gives a great discussion of his performance on "Peg", and you also get great interview/ performance segments from Chuck Rainey, Rick Marotta, Dean Parks, Denny Dias, and Bernard Purdie, as well as great segments from guitarist/ arranger Larry Carlton, producer Gary Katz, engineer Roger Nichols, and of course, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker themselves. Also, the appearance of the late Ian Dury is a shock (he died right around the time this DVD was released), although not an unpleasant one--it's quite strange since he wasn't at all involved in the making of the album, nor is he even someone you associate in the slightest with the West Coast pop-rock scene of the 1970s. The interviews with Fagen and Becker and seeing them dissecting the tracks... GREAT stuff--priceless, really. Fagen & Becker for once go easy on their supreme sarcasm and are shown in great spirit, great humor, and are even movingly reflective at times--wonderfully intimate stuff from a true genius team. All that said, any TRUE Dan fan will indeed appreciate this DVD and LOVE having it in their collection. On the other side of the coin, there are some drawbacks to the DVD for sure. For one thing, it's rather scattershot--Becker mentions early in the DVD how the only other original Steely Dan member still working with them by the time of "Aja" was guitarist Denny Dias, and then, over halfway through the DVD, they get back on the topic of Dias, discussing how they hooked up with him which ultimately lead to the beginning of Steely Dan. They do basically move from one song to the next, but the sequencing could have been a lot better. However, this would have been a virtually ignorable issue had this DVD been more thorough. Quite frankly, this DVD left me hungry for more--it's painfully far off from being fully comprehensive. As other reviewers have already stated, the fact that drummer Steve Gadd's name isn't even mentioned in the DVD is a damn shame indeed, and that's just for starters. I wish there was even more interview stuff with McDonald, Nichols, Dias, etc... So, in the end, the DVD does leave me a little unsatisfied, but I'm still thrilled with the great stuff that it does offer, and I think any serious Steely Dan fan ought to feel the same."
An Education in the making
S J Buck | Kent, UK | 05/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a marvellous DVD on the making of Steely Dans great album Aja. All of Walter Becker and Donald Fagans legendary perfectionism is on display. Fortunately for us all the tapes of their sessions were saved, so we are able to hear some of the fabulous guitar solos they rejected for Peg; but then when you re-hear the original you understand why. There are interviews with many guest musicians: Jazz Tenor great Wayne Shorter. Drummer Bernard Purdie who demonstrates his uniquely funky drumming style. Michael McDonald talks about some the fiendishly difficult backing vocals he multi-tracked with himself.
This is an essential purchase for the Dan fan or for anybody generally interested in the music making process by two of the most fascinating musicians in the business. "
"Aja" Uncovered For Steely Dan-aholics
Dave | 09/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I learned that this video existed, I couldn't get my hands on it fast enough. I am a bonafide Steely Dan fanatic, although most of my fanaticism over the years has centered around "Aja". Having listened to this album thousands of times over the years,I'd always wanted to know more: who were the musicians used, and what did they have to say; how were various tracks constructed, and how did Becker and Fagan actually feel about their own masterful creations. This video does that and more. If youre' looking for an in-concert video, you might be somewhat disappointed, as this video rarely features completed, polished verrions of any songs. You will, however, get great insights into the minds of Donald and Walter, who are in my opinion to of the most ingenious users of the studio in music history. Their intellectual senses of humor are also on stage in this piece. The bottom line is this: I couldn't wait to rip the celophane off and get the tape in the VCR -and it was worth the wait. Grab this and keep it forever."