Steely Dan is an American jazz rock/rock band consisting of core members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Rolling Stone has called them "the perfect musicalantiheroes for the Seventies."
The band's music is characterized by complex jazz-influenced structures and harmonies played by Becker and Fagen along with a revolving cast of rock and pop studio musicians. Steely Dan's "cerebral, wry and eccentric" lyrics, often filled with sharp sarcasm, touch upon such themes as drugs, love affairs, and crime. The pair are well known for their near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio, the most extreme example being that Becker and Fagen used at least 42 different studio musicians, 11 engineers, and took over a year to record the tracks that resulted in 1980'sGaucho—an album that contains only seven songs.
Steely Dan toured from 1972 to 1974, but in 1975 became a purely studio-based act. The late 1970s saw the group release a series of moderately successful singles and albums. They disbanded in 1981, and throughout most of the next decade Fagen and Becker remained largely inactive in the music world. During this time a cult following remained devoted to the group. In 1993, the group resumed playing live concerts; later Steely Dan released two albums of new material, the first of which earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001
Aja (pron.: /ˈeɪʒə/, pronounced like Asia) is the sixth album by the jazz rock band Steely Dan. Originally released in 1977 on ABC Records, it became the group's best-selling album. Peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. charts and No. 5 in the United Kingdom, it was the band's first platinum album, eventually selling over 5 million copies. In July 1978, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording. In 2003, the album was ranked number 145 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.
Donald Fagen has said the title of the album comes from the name of a Korean woman who married the brother of a high-school friend of his. The cover photo by Hideki Fujii features Japanese model/actress Sayoko Yamaguchi.
The album features several leading session musicians. The eight-minute-long title track features jazz-based changes and a solo by saxophonist Wayne Shorter.
Aja is the subject of one of the Classic Albums, a series of documentaries about the making of famous albums. The documentary includes a song-by-song study of the album (the only omission being "I Got the News," which is played during the closing credits), interviews with Steely Dan co-founders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (among others) plus new, live-in-studio versions of songs from the album. Becker and Fagen also play back several of the rejected guitar solos for "Peg," which were recorded before Jay Graydon produced the satisfactory take.
When DTS attempted to make a 5.1 version, it was discovered that the multitrack masters for both "Black Cow" and the title track were missing. For this same reason, a multichannel SACD version was cancelled by Universal Music. Donald Fagen has offered a $600 reward for the missing masters or any information that leads to their recovery.
On April 6, 2011, the album was deemed by the Library of Congress
to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" and added to the United States National Recording Registry
for the year 2010.