âYou know, theyâve got a name for the winners in the world, and the losers should have some sort of franchise as well,â Fagen has explained. I stayed in the Beverly Hills Hotel, Donald got me a Mercedes-Benz sports car and it seemed good, but we only recorded maybe once or twice a week. However, âDeacon Blues,â âAja,â and âPegâ are not only among the albumâs highlights, but also illustrate some of the musical and lyrical elements that make Aja so special.Â, For two lyricists who shied away from songs that allowed for easy interpretation, âDeacon Bluesâ was surprisingly clear and direct. That brings us to Aja, which was Steely Dan’s sixth album, released in 1978. Aja was Steely Danâs first platinum album, moving over three million copies and spawning three top-25 singles (âPeg,â âDeacon Blues,â and âJosieâ) in the year of Rumours, Saturday Night Fever, and Never Mind the Bollocks â no small feat for a set of intricately crafted, jazz-inflected meditations on nostalgia, mortality, and failure. ABC released it anyhow, and it became a top-20 hit despite its length.Â, ââDeacon Bluesâ was special for me,â Becker marveled years later. Finding it hard to identify the different versions on Amazon. Essay by: Brian Sweet (guest post)* Original album Original label Becker and Fagen . How did I miss that?” That’s the perfectionist in us. âSo useless to ask me why, Throw a kiss and say goodbye / I'll make it this time, I'm ready to cross that fine line / Learn to work the saxophone, I play just what I feel / Drink Scotch whiskey all night long, And die behind the wheel.âÂ, Itâs a pipe dream, and the protagonist knows it. I think the only difference is different track markers and the silence between songs.Â. âWe had done stuff with them before so we knew what to expect,â Marotta said. • The METAlliance Report: Ed Cherney (1950–2019), by Elliot Scheiner, Nov. 25, 2019. The Cisco is overhyped, the Santa Maria pressing the "One". • Recording All-Stars Welcome Niko Bolas to METAlliance, May 14, 2020 It was released on September 23, 1977 by ABC Records. âAn album like Aja matters not just because it contributes to civilization a handful of date-stamped audio treasures, but because it puts into sharp relief the dreck that surrounds it,â according to Breithaupt. Become a star by singing & recording your favorite songs in our Internet karaoke community. 1 master tape of each album was created, and MCA delivered those to the CD plant in Japan. In 1999 I attended a reunion with 4 other musicians who were instrumental in the making of ‘Aja’, a 1978 Steely Dan album Recording. The story actually starts at the original transfer of the analog masters to CD. I remember saying to Gary, how is that possible? MCA decided to add 4 cuts to the then 8 cut Steely Dan Gold CD. He made some phone calls, and told the MCA vault that they needed to find Sony Digital masters made atÂ, , and that they were the correct CD master source tapes. They dropped the tape off and left. âIâll tell you what I like about our group,â Fagen said in a mid-â70s interview. We play rock and roll, but we swing when we play. Aja also quickly became a standard audiophile reference album for testing equipment. Â is now living in Nashville, and I (Glenn Meadows) have been working with him mastering projects for him. The particular musical syntax on Aja was in many ways uniquely Danâs, however, the misbegotten result of Becker and Fagenâs own self-taught musical education. I was also close by the side of any record company exec who could get me any discs to play on my new found CD player. With the later version of CEDAR, I was able to successfully remove the last vestiges of the tape hiss. There was no bass on this.” I started to laugh and they knew instantly what happened. It was the band's first platinum album and ultimately became their best-selling studio release, eventually selling over 5 million copies. EQ-wise, the MQA CD is very slightly bass-shy relative to the Hoffman and Takiguchi masterings on a few tracks. As a result of their snowballing perfectionism and unlimited access to L.A.âs top players, Becker and Fagenâs own musical role on Aja diminished. We did that, and about three weeks after, they said there’s no bass in a lot of the mix. At some point, we finished. (On some versions, the end of one track even contains the first moments of the next track.) What do people recommend? I had never worked that long on a mix in my life. All 7 of the CDâs were remastered at that time to update ALL CD releases. When Walter Becker passed away in September 2017, it marked the end of one of the most quixotic music partnerships in modern American popular music. In the Classic Album episode, Fagen calls âAjaâ âa journey in space and timeâ¦[about] the sort of tranquility that can come of a quiet relationship with a beautiful woman.âÂ, Musically, âAjaâ is an example of how Becker and Fagenâs pairing of studio musicians could result in spontaneous magic. It was the comprehensive sound of the thing: the song itself, its character, the way the instruments sounded and the way Tom Scottâs tight horn arrangement fit in.â, While the meaning of âDeacon Bluesâ is fairly straightforward, the cryptic âAjaâ has been meticulously dissected by writers and fans. It is a collaboration: we think very much the same musically. I'm not sure what you mean by matrix.Â There is a faint code - only readable from the back side - stamped into the CD just inside the silver data annulus - it starts out with 1AMCAD...". He speaks in a slow, laconic New Jersey drawl (he was born in Passaic), and when his wide mouth smiles, the grin resembles a sneerâ¦. The minute he left, Walter looked at me and said, âErase it.â I said, âOK.â You never questioned it. Label: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab - MFSL 1-033,MCA Records - MFSL 1-033 • Series: Original Master Recording • Format: Vinyl LP, Album, Limited Edition, Reissue, Remastered Gatefold, Stereophonic • Country: US • Genre: Rock • Style: Pop Rock, Jazz-Rock My understanding is that it's the definitive vinyl version.Â, AjaÂ â(LP, Album, Ltd, Num, RE, RM, 30t) Cisco Music CLP-1006Â USÂ 2007, Would be interested in hearing your opinion on Nightfly. And little did I know, they had come into the room [while the monitor was off]. The fact that both the CSM and Japanese pressings (both of which are praised by audiophiles) were high-quality rips with nearly-identical graphs in Har-Bal song-for-song made me feel confident that I knew what the Grundman mastering looked like.Â Â. Yeah, this is one of the most interesting pieces I've read on CA/AS and I'm not a Steely Dan fan. Roger was able to locate the FLAT 3m 4 track masters that were recorded when the fist mastering was done for CD release.Â Those were sent to me in Nashville, were there is/wasÂ still a working set of 3M digital recorders. ABC. Steely Dan discuss the production behind "Deacon Blues" from "Aja." They were standing behind me and Gary said, “F—–g Al, he can mix without even hearing this s—!” [Laughs], Elliot: They told that story to anybody who would come in the room, that Al was capable of mixing without speakers. Likewise, the Takiguchi mastering is somewhat more dynamic than the 1999 Nichols remaster (and in line with the previous masterings) according to DR score (13), but is the least dynamic according to R128 (5.0 dB).Â. The band stopped touring and focused on songwriting and recording. I recalled the whole mix, and put it down with the bass really loud. âAnd the name that he has chosen that conveys a certain power is âDeacon Blues.ââ (Becker and Fagen landed on the name for the winners, âCrimson Tide,â by asking former tour manager Warren Wallace for the names of successful college football teams and choosing the University of Alabamaâs moniker. I had mixed everything on [the title track] “Aja,” but they came back because there was so much leakage in the room on some of the things. According to Meadows, he was instructed to âpretend youâve never heard the albums before and do what you feel appropriateâ and given an almost open-ended time frame from Nichols and the band to put together the box. Some of the clones also might have silenced the gaps between songs more than others. Processing included all digital EQ/Compression signal processing. Â I have a #3. Producer (s) Gary Katz. " By 1975âs Katy Lied, Steely Dan was Fagen and Becker augmented by Los Angelesâs top studio musicians, including Chuck Rainey (whoâd already recorded with Yusef Lateef, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, and Aretha Franklin) on bass and Jeff Porcaro (who would go on to record with Boz Scaggs, Hall and Oates, Jackson Browne, Pink Floyd, and Aretha Franklin) on drums. âWe both felt fairly alienated. This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Pro Sound News. Becoming their fastest seller to date, the album went on to go double Platinum and spawn three Top 40 hits with “Peg,” “Deacon Blues” and “Josie”—not bad for an album of only seven songs! It seems like the name truly didn't surface (for baby names) until that time. Gosh. The 1999 Nichols remaster is ever so slightly less dynamic according to DR score (12), but slightly more dynamic according to R128 (8.0 dB). Many days were spent matching master tapes to different brand analog Â¼â machines to get the best transfer possible One album (donât know which), was missing the alignment tones, and took quite some time to get the playback EQ and level properly matched to the noise reduction used on the master tape. Ultimately, Meadowsâs mastering of Aja (which is unfortunately split across two CDs on the box) differed little from Nicholsâs â84 CDs, aside from less tape hiss and a little more treble on a few songs, as can be seen in the GIF below comparing Meadowsâs Citizen mastering (dark green) with Nicholsâs â84 mastering (light blue): Ever frustrated with how the Steely Dan catalog sounded on CD, Nichols began remastering the entire catalog yet again in the late-1990s with the intention of creating the âdefinitiveâ Steely Dan CD releases. Rick Marotta, Chuck Rainey, Don Grolnick, Paul Griffin and Steve Kahn. And itâs not likeÂ Lennon and McCartney,Â who as I understand it usually just wrote a song by themselves and then put both their names on it. Then Donald says to me, âNaw, man. Two of the three â an ABC AB 1006 Santa Maria pressing and a Japanese YX-8114-AB pressing â featured EQ that was remarkably similar according to Har-Bal. ), Musically, âDeacon Bluesâ is marked by Carltonâs supple rhythm guitar, saxophonist Tom Scottâs hypnotic horn arrangement, and Pete Christliebâs improvised sax solo. After releasing a number of albums in the early 1970s Steely Dan became a studio entity in 1974. Itâs not one of us writing the music, the other lyrics. fascinating insights as always... only thing I'd add is that including analog / record versions of these trials would possibly tilt outcomes somehow... for example, I have the original ABC Aja, the MoFi (which was highly regarded), the Robert Pincus consulted andÂ mastered (ex-Cisco, pre-IMPEX) reissue from mid 2000s. He canât even play the saxophone. âThe songâs fade-out at the end was intentional,â Fagen said in 2015. âWe used it to make the end feel like a dream fading off into the night.â, Becker and Fagen refused to edit out Cristliebâs solo to shorten the seven-plus minute cut to more suitable single length. Released in 1977, the album peaked at number three on the US charts and number five in the UK. I can start songs and Walter can finish them.â, The songwriting duo took their first serious stab at making a career of it when they left Bard and moved to New York City, harboring hopes of becoming Brill Building-style songwriters. “Aja”—Steely Dan (1977) Added to the National Registry: 2010 . Â was that a request for a new set of CD masters was sent to the MCA studios. Not realizing that there were NO copies of the Ludwig created masters in their files, the studios pulled the 15IPS Dolby EQ tape copies, and transferred THOSE tapes to the Sony digital tapes, and sent those to the US plant(s) for replication. From now on,Â IâllÂ try to add info about streaming in the articles or as a footnote when possible.Â, You have one of the Hoffman âclones.â Over at SHF, some people have claimed the âconfirmedâ Hoffman sounds slightly betterÂ than/different from the clones, but I checked three clones (including two I just bought in the For Sale section at SHF for this piece!) Somebody asked me recently, am I happy with anything I’ve ever done? Roger asked for the master tapesÂ beÂ sent to Nashville so that he and I could master the 4 additional cuts and create new CD masters. As I noted in aÂ footnote, they donât look any different in Har-Bal. Nobody ever compared the US made CDâs to the original CDâs, since it was assumed they were all the same. We used to do a lot of work there at that time, and I said yes. The only thing that was recorded at A&R was “Peg”—we ended up recording it in one night. This was a subtle improvement, but was obvious when taken in and out of the signal path. The ONLY notation was a sticker that said âRecently Re-Mastered by Artistâ. Â of De-Noise was applied. Al: I got a call while at Sound Labs Studio 2 [in Hollywood]. A vivid portrait of a '70s record that is still as fresh and memorable today as when it was released more than two decades ago. ), Aja works so well together as a whole that singling out individual songs seems almost perverse. (âI donât love L.A. particularly,â Fagen lamented in 1974. âI mean, itâs comfortable to live here, but you know theyâve got it all set up so you never see any poor people? But Becker and Fagen werenât happy with the results.Â. The final CEDAR process was their âPhase Correctionâ, which in reality is a digital azimuth correction. 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