Steely Dan are noted for creating their own brand of Jazz-Rock fusion which has been historically interesting for them. Although they have notably changed their style quite a bit over the years, this is the best-known and best-loved release from their career. It was seen as an instant classic and propelled Steely Dan into Rock and Roll history. The name of the album refers to the far east, obviously and interestingly so as one would generally equate Rock music to western culture. Let’s take a listen to this album and hear if it still sounds good to this day.
Black Cow begins this album with a bass guitar-heavy, sleazy funky groove. It sounds like nothing else ever recorded. Soon enough, singing emerges that sounds really terrific, along with some female soul-style backing vocals. This is very much a product of the 1970s but sounds extraordinarily amazing, even today. This is a cool and nicely textured listen throughout, and to be fair, it is not that dissimilar to the music of the Eagles, just sonically different. A cool, slow tempo and interesting listen, complete with gorgeous saxophone which adds some sonic excellence present to this tune. There is a gorgeous brass section solo, followed by a gracious keyboard solo to take your mind elsewhere. A really neat piece of funky Jazz Rock, this does sound very, very good. There are numerous saxophone solos towards the end, and this track finishes off very well. A classic tune from start to finish, excellent work.
Aja is the title track and the longest track on this album, running at eight minutes long. It begins with unforgettably amazing piano and slide guitar to match, along with loose bass parts. Some visionary lyrics then enter, and this piece gets going. Singing about the far east, this piece sounds beautiful, dramatic and wonderful. This is likely about being passionately in love with either the Asian continent or an Asian woman, likely the former. The playing and instrumentation are very 1970s, but also amazingly superb. It just sounds top, and this album and this song deserve nothing but praise. Soon enough, this tune launches into a decent guitar-driven instrumental section that suits the overall concept of the music perfectly. A very audibly tasty listen, Steely Dan proves their worth here. The guitar soloing present in this song is really note-perfect and amazing. The whole thing sounds like a joyful and wonderful effort that stands the test of time. Indeed it does so, Steely Dan were musical professionals. The superb guitar soloing, along with other supporting instrumentation continues on for some time, and it is really cool to hear. Soon enough, a tempo change occurs and a saxophone solo emerges, along with some precise and dramatic drum fills. Both the drums and saxophone fight it out for the spotlight towards the end, and both are at a win-win in these circumstances. Before long, the singing resumes and the song goes back to the awesome lyrical story about the Asian continent and its joys. This piece has a great outro that sounds a lot like The Who and has some truly awesome sonic sounds and thunderous drum rolls. This finishes up with a long fade-out. Excellent song from start to finish.
Deacon Blues begins with some late 1970s wah-wah sounds, clean electric guitars and hi-hats. The song quickly launches into a great piece of music that sounds like a real quality piece of tunefulness. Like the previous song, it is fairly lengthy being over seven and a half minutes long. Still, this retains interest throughout, which is great. This sounds rather Burt Bacharach-like and references playing the saxophone and drinking scotch whiskey all night long throughout, which is super classy. A wonderful and pretty tune, Steely Dan do impress very well and they succeed every time here. Keeping great music alive, the sounds present here are nothing but amazing. A refreshing and enjoyable tune, this is a great song without question. The solo sections in the middle of the song are glorious and heartwarming, and this piece of songcraft still sounds as though it could have been made today. That’s how good it is, an extremely impressive listen. An entertaining piece of music with perfect lyrics and music to match, this does sound refreshing and amazing. Influenced by primarily Jazz-based music, but also music at a larger scale, Steely Dan succeed. The mixture of Jazz and wah-wah groove makes this tune come alive. A very good tune, complete with a lengthy and suspenseful fade-out. Great work.
Peg is the shortest and most popular piece from this album. It has a short intro, before launching into a very clear and concise piece of music that again sounds amazing to this day. This tune does really sound fresh and fantastic, and the Jazz-Rock tunes here match the lyrics perfectly, and the whole song sounds fresh, fun and amazing. There is a great solo section near the middle of the song, complete with some overdriven electric guitar that sounds really cool and expertly played. This is a really upbeat, pleasant and excellent piece of music that, like the rest of the album, deserves listening to. With references to one’s favourite foreign movie in the lyrics, this song is awesome. Again, there is a long fade-out, this time with expressive electric guitar solos being played. Excellent.
Home At Last begins with loose piano parts that are dual tracked, along with some interesting drum rolls, before a saxophone gets going as well as this song. This is a really cool piece of music to rival the Hotel California album by the Eagles and for good reason. The song again sounds like the excellent product of some great hard work and is enjoyable and loveable for any listener out there. A great tune to hear when one is at home, this is really fun and cool to hear. Enjoyable music to the full, the midsection has a cool piano-driven part with touches of saxophone and electric guitar. Soon enough, this gets going into a strange dual solo section with a keyboard first, then electric guitar playing. This is undoubtedly awesome, and let nobody else tell you otherwise. This is a really cool piece of music that still shines bright today, there is an air of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album towards the end of this tune, as it has some majestic solos. An excellent job and one worth repeated listens. Fine music.
I Got The News comes next and has a funky and driven groove with piano, drums and bass guitar. Soon enough, singing emerges that is really cool and fantastic, addressing a lover. This is joyful and listenable music throughout, although this is the least popular track on the album. Having said that, this still sounds awesome to this day. There are some lovely dual-tracked saxophone parts here, followed by singing with some female backing vocals that are double-tracked. A neck pickup Fender Stratocaster-style guitar solo emerges to blow your mind. This is followed by some more excellent singing and some interesting retro sounds that still sound fantastic today. Steely Dan has nailed their sound on this album, and this is a very near-perfect listen throughout. Towards the end is a pleasant-sounding interaction between piano and guitars, as this piece fades out. Excellent work.
Josie is the last song on this album. It has some strange guitar-based melodies, sounds of stardust and interesting keyboard playing before launching straight into it. There is some cool funky guitar to match this song, and it all sounds really clever and amazing. A cool and intellectual listen, Steely Dan makes excellent music on this album. Singing about longing said girl who is named in the title of the song, this is a great upbeat and Funk/Disco styled piece by Steely Dan. There is some interesting instrumentation throughout, such as a bluesy slide guitar solo present here. Excellent, fun and enjoyable, this tune sounds great. There is a beautiful guitar solo in the second half of the song as well. This is followed by the chorus, the riff from the intro and a logical conclusion of this tune. A slow and gradual fade-out is here to finish off this fantastic album, of which is always worth hearing.
Undeniably, this is fantastic listening. Steely Dan made their best effort here and they made a real effort that paid off for the group. This is seen as one of the finest albums of the late 1970s, and a classic in its own way. You must give this album a listen, particularly if you are a fan of Rock music or Jazz. In any case, there are many audio treats for the listener here. The concept of Aja itself refers to the sexuality and promiscuity of the far East. Regardless if you dig that or not, get into this album today. You will not be disappointed.