Steely Dan “Aja”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#446 in the Series, #22 in the Whale Wednesday Series) is Steely Dan, Aja

1977, that’s when Steely Dan, Aja was released. Yes, in 1977.  Does it really seem like 34 years ago? Well heck no, not only does it not seem like 34 years ago, but give this a listen again. It also seems hardly true from a musical and recording standpoint.  Aja was recorded in 1977. It just seems hard to believe.

This is jazz-rock at its finest.  These are the finest written songs, with the finest musicians giving life to those songs.

Some people like their music straight forward in three minute pop tunes, so do I. Some people like Americana, taken straight off the front porch, so do I.  Some people want angst and the telling tales of struggles in their music, so do I. Yet there are times when I want to hear the best musicians play their instruments, and play them well together as en ensemble “until the cows come home,” and from what I can tell, so do many of you.

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

Aja was their sixth studio release. They would release one more, Goucho, and they say goodbye for quite a long time. They would not record again as Steely Dan until 2000 and the Two Against Nature album. They did record some live stuff in the mid-nineties.

One of the strange things about Steely Dan was that they pretty much stopped touring in 1974. You never saw them on the road after that point until the 90s. Then they get back together in 2000 and you can’t get them off the road. Doesn’t it seem like they’re always on the road now? Good for them!

There were just seven tracks on Aja. What were the highlights? The seven songs that were on Aja, those were the highlights. “Deacon Blues”, “Peg”, “Josie”, “Black Cow”, “Home at Last” and “I’ve Got the News.” See what I mean? All are fantastic.

Rolling Stone magazine agreed to the point of ranking this the 145th best album of all time. Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

There was one more accolade worth mentioning. On April 11th, 2011, The Library of Congress claimed that Aja was “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” to be added to the National Recording Registry.  There you go… Congratulations to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker for such a great honor.

— Larry Carta (Dedicating it to Stephen Dalrymple’s friends that know good music….)

 Track listing

All songs written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

Side one

  1. “Black Cow” – 5:10
  2. “Aja” – 7:57
  3. “Deacon Blues” – 7:37

Side two

  1. “Peg” – 3:57
  2. “Home at Last” – 5:34
  3. “I Got the News” – 5:06
  4. “Josie” – 4:33


  • Donald Fagen – synthesizer, keyboards, vocals, background vocals, whistle
  • Walter Becker – bass, guitar, electric guitar, vocals
  • Chuck Rainey – bass
  • Timothy B. Schmit – vocals
  • Paul Griffin – keyboards, electric piano, vocals, background vocals
  • Don Grolnick – keyboards, clavinet
  • Michael Omartian – piano, keyboards
  • Joe Sample – keyboards, electric piano, clavinet
  • Larry Carlton – guitar, electric guitar
  • Denny Dias – guitar
  • Jay Graydon – guitar, electric guitar
  • Steve Khan – guitar
  • Dean Parks – guitar
  • Lee Ritenour – guitar
  • Pete Christlieb – flute, tenor saxophone
  • Chuck Findley – horn, brass
  • Jim Horn – flute, saxophone
  • Richard “Slyde” Hyde – trombone
  • Plas Johnson – flute, saxophone
  • Jackie Kelso – flute, horn, saxophone
  • Lou McCreary – brass
  • Bill Perkins – flute, horn, saxophone
  • Tom Scott – conductor, flute, tenor saxophone, lyricon
  • Wayne Shorter – flute, tenor saxophone
  • Bernard Purdie – drums (“Home at Last”, “Deacon Blues”)
  • Steve Gadd – drums (“Aja”)
  • Ed Greene – drums (“I Got the News”)
  • Lee Price – Fire Shards
  • Paul Humphrey – drums (“Black Cow”)
  • Jim Keltner – percussion, drums (“Josie”)
  • Rick Marotta – drums (“Peg”)
  • Gary Coleman – percussion
  • Victor Feldman – percussion, piano, keyboards, electric piano, vibraphone
  • Venetta Fields – vocals, background vocals
  • Clydie King – vocals, background vocals
  • Rebecca Louis – vocals, background vocals
  • Sherlie Matthews – vocals, background vocals
  • Michael McDonald – vocals, background vocals


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Posted by Larry Carta


  1. Levi (27 Jul 2011, 14:21)

    Nice, I’m all signed up and logged in. I’m Michael on the Facebook page and to my mom, otherwise it’s Levi.
    Aja is a good album, but Steely Dan is a great group. Not their best effort.

  2. Levi (27 Jul 2011, 14:36)

    Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour and Denny Dias on guitar.Tom Scott and Wayne Shorter on horns and Steve Gadd on drums… I don’t remember all that info on the LP, and I usually read every word.

  3. Larry Carta (27 Jul 2011, 14:48)

    Not to mention Timothy B Schmit on vocals. Bernard Purdie and Rick Marotta on drums….

    Denny Dias was actually a band member in the early days. Before they became a two man effort.

  4. Susan Huff (27 Jul 2011, 18:38)

    Isn’t that Jon Hetherington on every song playing guitar?

    • Larry Carta (30 Jul 2011, 11:53)

      Susan, I know he played on some of their stuff, but I don’t see him in the credits on this effort.

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