Depending on the day, Aja
is my favorite album of all time or in the top 3. So, I, of course, was annoyed to see it here at 145 and not in the top 100 on the list. I love this album with my whole being. It encapsulates a world which I started creating in my childhood in the late 70s. This life of a bachelor spending his sunsets with the sun reflecting off the ocean, driving fast cars on tight roads, and having sophisticated drinks with his social scene. I fell in love with the singles from this album which I heard on the radio. I know of no one from my childhood who owned or played this album around me. It wasn't until after college, when visiting a friend (Danny Walker), that I found out who the band was that did “Black Cow,” “Deacon Blues,” “Peg” (I thought it was Doobie Bros because of the Michael McDonald), and “Josie”.
Yes, I understand how some people don't like how much the pair spent in the studio; how songs were re-recorded over and over in various alternative takes trying to find just the right sound. Yes, this is the strongest that jazz had played in Steely Dan's sound and it was a softer jazz. There is no denying that this album belongs in the category of “yacht rock”. But, most of those above reasons are why I love Aja
. Donald and Walter's efforts to create a perfect idyllic album fits perfectly into my own soundtrack for my childhood idyllic adulthood.
But before we get the whole jazz thing blown too much out of proportion, one cannot deny the funkiness of “Peg” and the rhythm section of nearly every song. It is no wonder that “Peg” is but one of several Steely Dan songs which have been repeatedly sampled in hip-hop since De La Soul's Three Fee High and Rising
. As a bass-loving guy, I am grateful with how high in the mix the bass gets in most of the songs. The groove laid down stutters, stops, slips, slaps, and swaggers out of the speakers. The drumming/percussion on Aja
is and should be studied and copied by those learning to drum. Between the syncopated jazzy flourishes and the funky thumping, the percussionists get to demonstrate their chops with some style.
COMPLETELY TANGENTIAL ANECDOTE:
When Nigel was a baby and had difficulty sleeping, I would throw him into the back of my car. As I pulled out of the driveway, Aja
went into the CD player. I would make my way to the Parkway, where the street lights shining in would add to the soothing music and vibration of the ride. I would make my way out to the Huntsville International Airport, do the loop through the drop-off area, and then head right back home. That trip and Aja
is about 45 minutes long and so the CD finished as I returned home on my street (although there were two times it ended as I got onto my driveway).
Songs I Knew I Liked: EVERYTHING
Songs I Now Like: Nothing new
Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None