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Steely Dan Aja: Classic Albums

Donald Fagen , Walter Becker    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 15.98
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Product Description

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This profile of Steely Dan's elegant 1977 masterpiece, Aja, is a feast for Dan fans, a thoughtful, satisfyingly detailed assessment of the album and its bejeweled fusion of jazz, R&B, rock, and pop. Better yet, the documentary's producers elicit atypically straightforward, revealing interviews from the group's stealthy principals, songwriters Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who jettison enough of their signature sarcasm to touch on the autobiographical threads, cultural anomie, and serious musical ambition audible in their work. In that respect, the production rivals any extant interviews with this proudly cerebral, occasionally evasive musical team.

The duo, along with producer Gary Katz, engineer Roger Nichols, and a generous cross-section of the crack New York and Los Angeles musicians featured on the sessions, dissect the sleek layers of the songs both musically and lyrically, both in modern performances featuring the original players and in control-room playbacks of the original multitrack master tapes. Becker and Fagen prove articulate, self-aware, and dryly funny subjects, and the subtlety and richness of the music offer an ample canvas for discovery. --Sam Sutherland

Special Features

Originally produced for cable and home video as a documentary project, the Classic Albums series offers in-depth profiles of enduring rock and pop albums built around first-person interviews with the artists, producers, and musicians that created them. That audio focus creates an ironic, largely perceptual problem for DVD release, since the segments aren't intended to replace the original audio recordings, only to expand upon them: these are conventional DVDs, not harbingers of true audio DVD optimized for sonic resolution, and they are not mixed to exploit surround playback. If you haven't heard these albums, nearly all of them landmarks in late-20th-century pop, then this isn't the place to start, and Aja magnifies that issue through the very high standard of the original audio recording, itself a true audiophile work. If you do know the album, however, the Classic Albums presentation is a handsomely produced, revealing companion. --Sam Sutherland


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Appreciation for "Aja" now runs EVEN deeper! Sept. 21 2002
Format:DVD
If I were a tree, one or more of my rings would be taken up with Steely Dan's masterpiece "Aja," as every microscopic note has infiltrated my soul over the last quarter century. That said, seeing how this album was recorded behind the scenes lends an even greater appreciation. Listening to the world's funkiest drummer, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, dissect his Purdie Shuffle is nirvana for this drummer. Rick Marotta's groove on "Peg" is also a wonder to behold. Becker and Fagen are truly masters at getting the right performance from the right person and integrating them into the most amazing whole. Whereas most musicians this meticulous would get a soulless performance, Becker and Fagen get one for the ages. My only quibble is that "I Got The News" was only played during the closing credits, and not discussed at all, since it's just as strong as the other tracks. Still, make a great album even greater and pick this up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The analysis of a musical masterpiece Dec 15 2003
By Glenn
Format:VHS Tape
For anybody who loves Steely Dan and especially appreciates their "Aja" CD, I highly recommend this video.
This video goes into great detail on the methods and mixing of most of the songs on the "Aja" CD (all except "I've Got The News"). They include appearances of "guest" musicians who they used in some of the songs. Took each component of each song separately, then showed how they all blend in together to make the final product.
A very interesting video enhanced by Becker and Fagen's dry witty humorous remarks along the way. The only disappointment was that they omitted a full analysis on "I've Got The News" instead just playing that song with the closing credits.
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Format:DVD
It's cliché to talk about what a masterpiece AJA is. We should just consider ourselves fortunate to have the characters who created what Modern Recording Magazine called "Genius at Work" still around and willing to dissect this album. For those involved in the process of recording (Musicians, Producers, Engineers), this DVD provides an invaluable look at the recording process under the guise of the ultimate perfectionists (Becker and Fagen). We also see how the elements that result in such a classic album run the gamut from cheesy little synthesizer riffs (which embellish horn lines), to the fanatical recording and re-recording of the guitar solo on "Peg". For a bass player, this DVD is especially valuable, as the sequence of events that resulted in many of AJA's bass lines are shown at an almost microscopic level. As a drummer, my only disappointment is the sparse information about the actual song Aja. But this is a minor drawback that will be quickly forgotten once you are overcome by the trance-like spell that this amazing DVD casts...
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not even a good documentary June 9 2001
Format:DVD
Take heed of other reviewer's comments as well as the description above. THIS IS A DOCUMENTARY NOT A CONCERT OR DVD VERSION OF THE ALBUM. To want this CD, you must either be a rock historian or a Steely Dan fan that must own everything produced about them. If you are expecting this to follow the excellent Gaucho DTS DVD (which I am listening to as I write this), you will be sorely dissapointed.
I am only considering this DVD's quality as a documentary when I rate it two stars. As for the audio/music quality, I'd barely give it one star. The video is of mediocre quality and the studio sequences are staged not spontaneous. Just when you think thats over and you can enjoy the music, the experience is ruined by interweaving of dialog and video cuts of the musicians. There are excellent examples of rock documentaries that show case both the artist(s) and the music. This is not one of them.
If you are considering this for the music your better off buying the audio CD. For me, I'll play the vinyl version I bought 20+ years ago and recall the first time I heard this album. (I own the CD too.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Aja" Uncovered For Steely Dan-aholics Sept. 21 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For the aficionado July 23 2000
By A Customer
Format:DVD
After receiving Two Against Nature, and going through the apparently common experience of hating it then, over time, loving it, I went on a serious Steely Dan kick and kept playing all their CDs over and over again. So this DVD came out at the right time. Musicians and Steely Dan aficionados will appreciate this disc the most. We are given insight into the production and creativity behind the second greatest SD album ever (behind Gaucho). The previous reviewer criticized it for being "hardly spellbinding". Skip to the section where session drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie is highlighted, and watch him list all the greats, for whom he's helped make hits ("you done hired the Hitmaker"). Still need more? Just wait a few, and he goes into how HE answered Walt and Don's quest for the perfect backbeat to Home At Last (the Purdie Shuffle): "BOOM. UH. BOOM. UH. BOOM TA KA TA TA KA TA BOOM. UH!" That's mesmerizing! (By the way, this "quest" for the perfect Home At Last back beat is a neat subtextual metaphor for the song's allusion to Ulysses' on quest to go home).
Other great sections include the alternative guitar solos for Peg, where you can see the quandary that Walt and Don are in trying not to dump on these unacceptable solos, all by session greats (quote of the disc goes to Don who, after playing one solo track, just shrugs and says "enough said on that one, really."). Also, Chuck Rainey playing five string bass for us.
Criticisms? Doesn't cover all the songs, gives you the sinking feeling that they won't do a DVD Classic Albums of Gaucho, and makes you realize how much of a hack "musician" you are in comparison to these guys. I really needed that.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Detail
This series which covers over 30 different albums now, is usually very good and this DVD is no exception. Read more
Published on Dec 24 2011 by drumforfood
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Presented DVD....A Classic Album? Now That's Debatable
A very well done dvd and a must view for any Steely Dan fan. No fan of the band will be disappointed with this purchase. Just be prepared for more "words" than music. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by "The Woj"
5.0 out of 5 stars A cool inside look at the people and the process behind Aja
If you are a Steely Dan fan, you have to buy this. The insights into how the pair work in the studio, hearing Fagen play back and discuss discarded guitar solos for Peg, hearing... Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Looooooved it!
This one is definitely a must for any musician/Steely Dan fanatic. The interaction between Donald and Walter behind the board is priceless and a window into their songwriting... Read more
Published on Nov. 5 2002 by "funkycharlie"
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic on DVD&Album
Steely Dan are One of the Coolest,baddest,Tightest Acts I've Ever Heard.I truly enjoy&get a Kick out of there Musical&Lyric Presentation. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2002 by mistermaxxx08
4.0 out of 5 stars Deconstructing the Dan
This is a fascinating documentary about a fascinating band: Steely Dan. A must for Dan fans, this DVD takes apart the dense arrangements of the Dan classic recording Aja. Read more
Published on May 24 2002 by Lisa Smith-Brooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
This is one of the very best music documentaries ever. After 24 years, I still listen to "Aja" regularly. Seeing how it was created has made it new again. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002 by "knickchick"
5.0 out of 5 stars How all the pros play the game
I was pleasantly surprised by how good this documentary is, especially considering the potential for this format to go to cheese. Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2002 by The Feefmeister
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, simply wonderful.
how marvelous this dvd is. a superb documentry about the music and musicians involved. Not what colour pants they were wearing at the time or what drugs they were taking. Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by mr andrew park
2.0 out of 5 stars This is not Two against nature
Home movie sound and picture quality is good for nostalgia , but not so good for dvd . If you have to have all things steely dan, buy this,if not let this one go. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2001 by "nman69"
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