This will be quite possibly the LEAST controversial choice I will make as Aja is recognized worldwide as a timeless classic and a joy to listen from beginning to end.
The maniacal duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker arrived to Aja ala Pink Floyd Dark Side of The Moon, meaning a steady crescendo of incredible studio albums starting with Can’t Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic (which I am struggling to keep it off this list), to Katy Lied and finally Royal Scam. This musical journey peaked with Aja in which over 12 Master Class musicians were used to fill in specifically chosen sections of the record leading to perfection in every section of the record.
But apart from their notorious musical meticulousness and complexity Steely Dan’s “Aja” is an easy to sip record from beginning to end and you will never tire of listening to it with Jazzy, Blues, Pop Rock fusion lines, off-beat tempos, and incredibly tight drums by Steve Gadd and company.
The only question which lingers is of course if this album should ever be played outside of a Turntable and even though Tondo is an Analogue Purist, I must admit that I have listened to this record in every possible setting and it has never failed me. I remember a 1982 train ride to the Sigonella U.S. military base for a basketball game with Aja on a Panasonic Boombox and we literally wore the tape off. In 1987 while on a flight to Chicago via Iceland on a Sony Disc-player and there too, wore the disc off. A late 2002 Late summer nightmarish trip from Des Moines to Oklahoma City on my Ford Econoline yielded much the same result, and of course each and every time I put it on at home on my Rega Planar it is always a reason for joy.
Lastly, can a Side B start off any better and more happily than “Peg”? I think not.
A must have.