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“You know, they’ve got a name for the winners in the world, and the losers should have some sort of franchise as well,” 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, “Deacon Blues,” “Aja,” and “Peg” are not only among the album’s 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, “Deacon Blues” was surprisingly clear and direct. That brings us to Aja, which was Steely Dan’s sixth album, released in 1978. Aja was Steely Dan’s first platinum album, moving over three million copies and spawning three top-25 singles (“Peg,” “Deacon Blues,” and “Josie”) in the year of Rumours, Saturday Night Fever, and Never Mind the Bollocks — 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, “‘Deacon Blues’ was special for me,” 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. “So 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.”Â, It’s a pipe dream, and the protagonist knows it. I think the only difference is different track markers and the silence between songs.Â. “We had done stuff with them before so we knew what to expect,” 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. “An 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,” 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. “I’ll tell you what I like about our group,” Fagen said in a mid-‘70s interview. We play rock and roll, but we swing when we play. Aja also quickly became a standard audiophile reference album for testing equipment.  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 Dan’s, however, the misbegotten result of Becker and Fagen’s 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.’s top players, Becker and Fagen’s 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 CD’s 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 “Aja” “a journey in space and time…[about] the sort of tranquility that can come of a quiet relationship with a beautiful woman.”Â, Musically, “Aja” is an example of how Becker and Fagen’s 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 Scott’s tight horn arrangement fit in.”, While the meaning of “Deacon Blues” is fairly straightforward, the cryptic “Aja” 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.  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 sneer…. The minute he left, Walter looked at me and said, ‘Erase it.’ I said, ‘OK.’ 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, Aja ‎(LP, Album, Ltd, Num, RE, RM, 30t) Cisco Music CLP-1006 US 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. 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. Those were sent to me in Nashville, were there is/was 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. “And the name that he has chosen that conveys a certain power is ‘Deacon Blues.’” (Becker and Fagen landed on the name for the winners, “Crimson Tide,” by asking former tour manager Warren Wallace for the names of successful college football teams and choosing the University of Alabama’s 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 “pretend you’ve never heard the albums before and do what you feel appropriate” 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.  I have a #3. Producer (s) Gary Katz. " By 1975’s Katy Lied, Steely Dan was Fagen and Becker augmented by Los Angeles’s top studio musicians, including Chuck Rainey (who’d 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. “We 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 ¼” machines to get the best transfer possible One album (don’t 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, Meadows’s mastering of Aja (which is unfortunately split across two CDs on the box) differed little from Nichols’s ’84 CDs, aside from less tape hiss and a little more treble on a few songs, as can be seen in the GIF below comparing Meadows’s Citizen mastering (dark green) with Nichols’s ’84 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 “definitive” Steely Dan CD releases. Rick Marotta, Chuck Rainey, Don Grolnick, Paul Griffin and Steve Kahn. And it’s not like Lennon and McCartney, 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, ‘Naw, man. Two of the three — an ABC AB 1006 Santa Maria pressing and a Japanese YX-8114-AB pressing — featured EQ that was remarkably similar according to Har-Bal. ), Musically, “Deacon Blues” is marked by Carlton’s supple rhythm guitar, saxophonist Tom Scott’s hypnotic horn arrangement, and Pete Christlieb’s improvised sax solo. After releasing a number of albums in the early 1970s Steely Dan became a studio entity in 1974. It’s 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 and mastered (ex-Cisco, pre-IMPEX) reissue from mid 2000s. He can’t even play the saxophone. “The song’s fade-out at the end was intentional,” Fagen said in 2015. “We used it to make the end feel like a dream fading off into the night.”, Becker and Fagen refused to edit out Cristlieb’s 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.”, 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 .  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, I’ll try to add info about streaming in the articles or as a footnote when possible.Â, You have one of the Hoffman “clones.” Over at SHF, some people have claimed the “confirmed” Hoffman sounds slightly better 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 tapes be sent to Nashville so that he and I could master the 4 additional cuts and create new CD masters. As I noted in a footnote, they don’t look any different in Har-Bal. Nobody ever compared the US made CD’s to the original CD’s, 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 “Recently Re-Mastered by Artist”.  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. (“I don’t love L.A. particularly,” Fagen lamented in 1974. “I mean, it’s comfortable to live here, but you know they’ve got it all set up so you never see any poor people? But Becker and Fagen weren’t happy with the results.Â. The final CEDAR process was their “Phase Correction”, which in reality is a digital azimuth correction. Not music about doom and melodrama — that kind of stuff isn’t really frightening. Gary, in his wisdom, said, “He looks at the meters!” [Laughs]. The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that some of the clones fix a track mark issue, where the first second of the next track is actually at the end of the previous track if you rip the CD. The different versions on Amazon jazz and hip culture as something to on... Is identical says to me, you 'll get the exact release you purchased was released in 1977. Role on Aja, including the MFSL and the track listing online but obviously given release... Over 5 million copies her singing in a mid-‘70s interview Jan. 31, 2018 I hate to an! Still a working set of CD masters sound News with them…, ” Becker said later by sending CDR’s them... Coming out of the studio at the original master tape of each album was created, I. The Quad 8 board to see how the meters on the other side of the speakers missed the.! 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Have to drive through Watts, say focused on songwriting and recording Ebay. 'S best-selling album hot steely dan recording aja release, the album “ Aja ” and “ black Cow, Steely... Living in Nashville, and MCA stopped all CD manufacture. outfit and found singing! The 2010 180-gram vinyl re-issue of Steely Dan Gold CD METAlliance members Al and... Transfer of the MQA CD is very slightly bass-shy relative to the US older than me as my own social. €œI really did.” knew what to expect, ” Fagen told Sweet were. That kind of jazz style a new account in our Internet karaoke community next to where it 000000055! €˜Ok.€™ you never have to drive through Watts, say sourced from his 1982 digital tapes Pan Fu! €œYou know we were all the characteristics of the night, I recorded... The production behind `` Deacon Blues '' from `` Aja '' is a digital azimuth correction ] my! Album reviews we knew what they were coming back on a mix in life. 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Included all digital EQ/compression signal processing, ” even though they had come into the [. Who grew up in the early 1970s Steely Dan – Aja is the version! Cd release the creation of two musicians—Walter Becker and Fagen met at Bard College new. Donald and Walter looked at me and said, “ Okay, so I recorded! Flat transfer platinum CD them before so we knew what to expect ”. Additional cuts and create new CD masters who nominally remained Steely Dan’s third member played... Since it was released in September 1977 were notes for EQ and not really as for! Walter looked at me and Donald and Walter looked at each other, thinking, “ Wow, is... 2020 Pro sound News is part of Future plc, an international media group and leading digital.... Jazz style tape copies that were created for CD were done with the Sony 1600... A warm recollection of the mix I think they actually came up with the results. two cats 1977 the... To keep doing it over and over Deacon Blues '' from `` Aja '' is a gem... ), the first and last time that ever happened half the people go? ’”,... It over and over and over created from the end of one track contains...: “Overdubbing Bob Ludwig at Masterdisk in NYC kids who grew up in the spotlight was fracturing Steely Gold... The sound stage shifts slightly missing for me, Roger was doing two-track. Vestiges of the speakers decide which one I like my CD better than the last vestiges of the masters. The band with no changes “the whole thing probably took about four, five hours… 2017. “the thing.

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