Perhaps this weeks’ selection is a bit obvious, but I couldn’t stifle my admiration for this record and Steely Dan for much longer. I enjoy Steely so much in fact that I opted to miss the Friday of P4k to see them instead. Aja is not only my favorite record in their discography, but it has also been featured in a certain periodical’s “best albums of all time” list. (here) Combining elements of jazz, rock & roll, R&B and funk in a way only Steely Dan can, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker weren’t messing around on this album. From the first note in “Black Cow” you find yourself being immediately thrust into an impenetrable groove where you’re quickly made aware that things are about to take a turn for the funky.
Do you like horn sections and BIG boastful sounds? Does the idea of vocal harmonies so good you can taste them excite you? Are you the type that gets off on thought provoking & wildly imaginative lyrics? If you answered yes to any of these Aja should undoubtedly become a staple in your repertoire. With every subsequent listen of this record I discover something I’d never heard before. Example, I had never noticed the clavinet on “Black Cow” until I began reading the liner notes and preparing this article, once again that funky bass line sucks me right in, but its inclusion is GENIUS. I must have heard “Peg” one-hundred times before I finally noticed the guitar SHREDDING in the background on the outro; you really have to strain your ears for it. The story told in “Deacon Blues” is legendary, although a little knowledge of college football is required. I think I would break the Internet if I listed every nuance and component that I savor in this record, perhaps another day.
There is another element to this record outside of melodies and lyrics that, on a personal level, deems it deserving of its place in the Freezer. Aja was one of the first vinyl records I bought and it taught me the importance of forgetting about the “skip” button on my iPod, iTunes or iWhatever. In today’s age of digital media I feel that we take for granted the importance of track-order and allowing a record’s natural progression. Songs were put in a certain order FOR A REASON, people (!), and “skipping” around an album is like reading chapters of a book out of order. This thought process has come with a downside, however; more often than not I know a song as #1, #2, #3, etc., rather than its actual title. If this title-lacking brain is the worst thing to come from listening to records the correct way, so be it.
Give Aja a spin this weekend and thank me later, cheers.