I've moved a lot in my life. I mean a lot. I had moved 13 times before I finished kindergarten... And that was a relatively stable period. Over the past 30 years or so of multiple abodes I developed a tradition. Whenever I moved into a new place I set up the stereo and as I began unpacking the remainder of my belongings the first thing that was played through that stereo was this album. It started because I liked it. Later, during my sonic tweeky phase, its stunning clarity was an ideal test for the system setup. Eventually it became habit. The songs are not played in their proper order and the last song I always schedule (appropriately enough for my rootless existence) is Home At Last.
I relay this little quirk of mine as a means of saying that Steely Dan in general (and Aja in particular) is probably the only huge mainstream act for which my pleasure is entirely guiltless. I don't often play it anymore (partly because I haven't moved in the last 6 years), but when I do I am warmed to my very soul. I grew up with this music. I heard it endlessly on the radio or on my stereo. It is slick and clean and cozy, but touches me deeply nonetheless, probably as much for what I bring to it as it brings to me.
Aja is simply the best example of 70's west coast, studio music ever produced.
And that ought to be enough for the Forest.
amg (on the title track):
Aja the album is rightfully considered Steely Dan's masterpiece, the album on which Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's notorious studio perfectionism is placed in the service of the duo's strongest batch of songs. And although the other two songs on side one of the album, "Black Cow" and "Deacon Blues," are more likely to show up on FM classic rock radio, and the bookend tracks on side two, "Peg" and "Josie," were the hit singles, "Aja" the song holds a special place in the hearts of Steely Dan fans. The longest and most musically complex song Becker and Fagen ever attempted, "Aja" is an eight-minute mini-suite that starts and ends as a Latin-tinged soft rock shuffle with fanciful Asian-themed lyrics ("Chinese music always sets me free/Angular banjos sound good to me") and features a coda starring drummer Steve Gadd in one of the least boring drum solos ever to appear on a '70s rock album. In between those sections, however, "Aja" turns into something else entirely: literally, in fact, as the middle section of "Aja" was actually scavenged from an early, unused Steely Dan song called "Stand By the Seawall." In this incarnation, the tune begins as a showcase for a long, lyrical solo by original Steely Dan guitarist Denny Dias, which then leads into a remarkable tenor sax solo by Wayne Shorter that is the purest jazz Steely Dan ever recorded. While not an instant crowd-pleaser along the lines of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," "Aja" is an absolute masterpiece, not only one of Steely Dan's finest songs, but also a pinnacle of '70s studio rock.
Indulge your inner 70's, breezy, coke-snorting, convertible-driving, california demon.
Sceptics may entertain themselves here.