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Steely Dan - Aja [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Walter Becker, Ian Dury, Donald Fagen, Gary J. Katz, Michael McDonald
  • Directors: Alan Lewens
  • Producers: Bous De Jong, Martin R. Smith, Nick De Grunwald
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Ilc
  • DVD Release Date: 1 Oct 1999
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CZH9
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,754 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Originally produced for cable and home video as a documentary project, the Classic Albums series offers in-depth profiles of enduring rock and pop albums built around first-person interviews with the artists, producers and musicians that created them. That audio focus creates an ironic, largely perceptual problem for DVD release, since the segments aren't intended to replace the original audio recordings, only to expand upon them: these are conventional DVDs, not harbingers of true audio DVD optimised for sonic resolution, and they are not mixed to exploit surround playback. If you haven't heard these albums, nearly all of them landmarks in late 20th century pop, then this isn't the place to start, and Aja magnifies that issue through the very high standard of the original audio recording, itself a true audiophile work. If you do know the album, however, the Classic Album presentation is a handsomely produced, revealing companion. --Sam Sutherland

From the Back Cover

Steely Dan's Aja has proved to be one of the most outstanding jazz-rock albums in the history of poular music. This is a vivid portrait of a 70's record that is still as fresh and as memorable more than two decades after its release, a true classic album.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 May 2002
Format: DVD
The only reason I didn't give 5 stars to this dvd is that there is absolutely NO FOOTAGE from the actual making of the album - I was rather disappointed about this. Otherwise it's brilliant - Don and Walt browse through the original multitrack tapes and comment on individual parts - they also get together with some of the original musicians and re-perform songs from Aja in a rehearsal studio (sound quality is not excellent however). Some interesting interview snips with Larry Carlton, Dean Parks, Mike Macdonald, Denny Dias, Chuck Rainey, Rick Marotta, Wayne Shorter, Bernard Purdie. Just keep in mind that they are all RECENT clips and not from the days of Aja.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Jan 2001
Format: DVD
A very revealing portrait of Fagen and Becker in their natural habitat - the recording studio. Candid interviews with not only Don and Walt but also with the session glitterati who performed on the original tracks give a unique, first hand insight into how the Dan recorded one of the most influential albums of the 20th century. The Dan were often criticised for their treatment of studio session players (they would call it a quest for perfection) and we get to hear some of the solos that 'got away' for the first time.
A real treat for any fan or any serious musician who would wish to see how a true classic was put together, told by two of the most secretive men in the business...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 April 2000
Format: VHS Tape
If you bought a video guide to the Louvre, what would you expect to see in it ? A trip round all the treasures of Medieval art, the sculptures etc, but one thing for absolutely sure....the Mona Lisa. And you'd be pretty disappointed, nay outraged, if it wasn't in there, right ? Well, that's what we've got with this video. Ask any Dan fan what the most spectacular feature of Aja is, and they'll tell you. In fact, anyone knowledgeable about rock and pop will probably tell you too: it's the drum part by Steve Gadd on the title track. This has gone down in pop music history as the single most impressive display of studio drumming ever accomplished (and in one take too !). Yet, incredibly, astonishingly, it merits no so much as a single interview, mention, or even sample, in this otherwise great video. Yes, of course every Dan fan should own this. But just be warned: it's got everything but the Mona Lisa.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Mar 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Donald & Walter strip the 'Aja' album naked for all to see and hear, in this fascinating insight into their private world. It's a thrill to see our two heroes assembled in a studio with Bernard Purdie, Dean Parks and Chuck Rainey as the house band, playing 'Josie'. This is 1999 and Dan lives!
Donald and Walter sit at the mixing board, playing back isolated instrumental parts, to illustrate how these individual parts came to make the whole. Their frequent completing of each other's sentences show how these two are really one. One liners and anecdotes from Donald and Walter, permeate the video throughout, and this humour gives the video a good, warm feeling.
There are snippets of Dan live (in '93) and my reason for giving this video four rather than five stars, is that 'Deacon Blues' and 'Aja' are dubbed with the 1977 album recording. The live sound would have been more interesting.
Overall, a well informed, well researched programme, featuring the two guys that actually created all this music, speaking for themselves, telling us as it was / is. The musicians featured on Aja: Wayne Shorter, Bernard Purdie, Chuck Rainey, Dean Parks, Larry Carlton, producer Gary Katz and engineer (the immortal) Roger Nicholls all contribute interesting dialogue that supports Donald's and Walter's presentation.
Essential for every 'Dan fan!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 102 reviews
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Oh nothing, just the deconstruction of a masterpiece... 26 Feb 2001
By Jon Ell - Published on
Format: DVD
This DVD is a must-see/must-own for any serious fan of the Dan. Aja remains the duo's landmark album; more than that one of the shortlist of truly significant, groundbreaking "rock" albums of the '70s. Presented in a documentary style, it gives a brief background into the history of the band, then proceeds directly to the music itself. Donald and Walter attempt to break it down song by song, track by track, supplementing their revealing insights with interviews with the individual session players on each song, e.g., Larry Carlton, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Wayne Shorter, Michael McDonald, etc. I've shown this DVD to friends not intimately acquainted with SD and turned them into instant fans of the music. Btw, this makes a great companion to the Two Against Nature DVD. Although it lacks "2vN's" lush DTS 5.1 sound, it more than makes up for it with a truly revealing look at a remarkable album for all time.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
An Education in the making 17 May 2007
By S J Buck - Published on
Format: DVD
This is a marvellous DVD on the making of Steely Dans great album Aja. All of Walter Becker and Donald Fagans legendary perfectionism is on display.

Fortunately for us all the tapes of their sessions were saved, so we are able to hear some of the fabulous guitar solos they rejected for Peg; but then when you re-hear the original you understand why. There are interviews with many guest musicians: Jazz Tenor great Wayne Shorter.

Drummer Bernard Purdie who demonstrates his uniquely funky drumming style.

Michael McDonald talks about some the fiendishly difficult backing vocals he multi-tracked with himself.

This is an essential purchase for the Dan fan or for anybody generally interested in the music making process by two of the most fascinating musicians in the business.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"Aja" Uncovered For Steely Dan-aholics 21 Sep 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Verified Purchase
When I learned that this video existed, I couldn't get my hands on it fast enough. I am a bonafide Steely Dan fanatic, although most of my fanaticism over the years has centered around "Aja". Having listened to this album thousands of times over the years,I'd always wanted to know more: who were the musicians used, and what did they have to say; how were various tracks constructed, and how did Becker and Fagan actually feel about their own masterful creations. This video does that and more. If youre' looking for an in-concert video, you might be somewhat disappointed, as this video rarely features completed, polished verrions of any songs. You will, however, get great insights into the minds of Donald and Walter, who are in my opinion to of the most ingenious users of the studio in music history. Their intellectual senses of humor are also on stage in this piece. The bottom line is this: I couldn't wait to rip the celophane off and get the tape in the VCR -and it was worth the wait. Grab this and keep it forever.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
scattershot and kind of lacking but PRETTY DARN GREAT anyway 21 Jan 2005
By Missing Person - Published on
Format: DVD
I really don't get where some of the other reviews for this video/ DVD are coming from, saying that it's a good 'sleeping aid' or things of this nature. A big part of what makes the "Aja" album such a landmark is the way it put to use such spellbinding musicianship from a long list of different players, and the sophisticated elegance and beauty of the songs themselves--this really IS fascinating stuff, even though many fans unfortunately don't seem to give a damn, and if that's the case, I don't know why they are bothering with this DVD in the first place. Another reviewer commented that you've got to really LOVE Steely Dan to really enjoy this DVD--well you know what, people do love Steely Dan and for good reason--if you come to this DVD expecting mindless entertainment to watch while you throw back a few beers, you're out of your mind. This DVD gives you a thrilling peek into the making of the album, demonstrating some of the musical techniques that were used--the way the bass was doubled on guitar on "Josie", and the layering of Michael McDonald's background vocals on "Peg" to point out a couple examples. McDonald gives a highly intriguing, if ever-so-slightly derogatory discussion of his performance on "Peg", and you also get great interview/ performance segments from Chuck Rainey, Rick Marotta, Dean Parks, Denny Dias, and Bernard Purdie, as well as great segments from guitarist/ arranger Larry Carlton, producer Gary Katz, master engineer Roger Nichols, and of course, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker themselves. Also, the appearance of the late Ian Dury is a shock (he died right around the time this DVD was released), although not an unpleasant one--it's quite strange since he wasn't at all involved in the making of the album, nor is he even someone you associate in the slightest with the West Coast pop-rock scene of the 1970s. The interviews with Fagen and Becker and seeing them dissecting the tracks... GREAT stuff--priceless, really. Fagen & Becker for once go easy on their supreme sarcasm and are shown in great spirit, great humor, and are even movingly reflective at times--wonderfully intimate stuff from a true genius team. All that said, any TRUE Dan fan will indeed appreciate this DVD and LOVE having it in their collection. On the other side of the coin, there are some drawbacks to the DVD for sure. For one thing, it's rather scattershot--Becker mentions early in the DVD how the only other original Steely Dan member still working with them by the time of "Aja" was guitarist Denny Dias, and then, over halfway through the DVD, they get back on the topic of Dias, discussing how they hooked up with him which ultimately lead to the beginning of Steely Dan. They do basically move from one song to the next, but the sequencing could have been a lot better. However, this would have been a virtually ignorable issue had this DVD been more thorough. Quite frankly, this DVD left me hungry for more--it's painfully far off from being fully comprehensive. As other reviewers have already stated, the fact that drummer Steve Gadd's name isn't even mentioned in the DVD is a damn shame indeed, and that's just for starters. I wish there was even more interview stuff with McDonald, Nichols, Dias, etc... So, in the end, the DVD does leave me a little unsatisfied, but I'm still thrilled with the great stuff that it does offer, and I think any serious Steely Dan fan ought to feel the same.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A true Masterpiece 30 Mar 2000
By Gordon Majack - Published on
Format: DVD
A must-see not only for die-hard Dan fans, but for all discerning audiophiles as well. No matter how much you dig Steely Dan - and especially this landmark album - you'll have a much deeper appreciation for both after experiencing this production. Among the many revelations, you'll be left with 2 distinct lasting impressions: 1) the utterly Masterful instrumental prowess of all the great session musicians employed by Becker and Fagen; and 2) the truly amazing musical and artistic vision of the 2 principals themselves: this is a duo - and an album - for the ages. Perhaps the highest accomplishment any artist can aspire to is the creation of a work that outlives the time in which it was created. No problem there...this album will sound incredible a hundred years from now. Kudos to the producers of the Classic Album Series; it's a wonderful concept brilliantly rendered. See also the Stevie Wonder selection in the series.
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