Celebrating Steely Dan

Like The Beatles, Steely Dan is a group that is so much greater than the sum of its parts, and for whom the tools of the recording studio itself became in important and integral part of their art.

After producing two albums in the traditional fashion, with a few musicians working together in a studio, the core of Steely Dan, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, transitioned the manner in which they produced music.  Gone were the group sessions; instead, their albums became carefully crafted bits of musical art, with specific musicians called in to play specific little bits of music to Becker and Fagen’s exacting specifications of what each song was to be, with those bits carefully woven together to express their collective musical vision.

Their album Aja, released in 1977 is probably the apex of that art.   Aja represents the combined efforts of no less than 38 performers, including the likes of Larry Carlton, Michael McDonald, Timothy B. Schmit, Denny Dias, Lee Ritenour, Chuck Findley, Wayne Shorter and Jim Keltner.  Unsurprisingly, it won the Grammy that year for the best engineered, non-classical recording.   If you’ve never REALLY listened to Aja, take the time to do so, it is indeed art, a wonderfully rich assortment of musical vignettes.  But please, don’t just hear it, really LISTEN to it and you’ll find that you can detect the precision with which it was assembled and the beauty that lies within the composition itself.

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