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jueves, 9 de abril de 2015

Steely Dan - Aja (1977)

Artista: Steely Dan
Álbum: Aja
Año: 1977
Género: Jazz rock / Funk
Nacionalidad: EEUU


Lista de Temas:
1. Black Cow Becker, Fagen
2. Aja Becker, Fagen
3. Deacon Blues Becker, Fagen
4. Peg Becker, Fagen
5. Home at Last Becker, Fagen
6. I Got the News Becker, Fagen
7. Josie Becker, Fagen

Alineación:
- Donald Fagen / synthesizer, whistle, lead vocals, liner notes
- Walter Becker / guitar, bass, photography, liner notes
Michael McDonald / backing vocals
Victor Feldman / electric piano, percussion
Sherlie Matthews / backing vocals
Timothy B. Schmit / backing vocals
Denny Dias / guitar
Chuck Finley / horn, brass
Jim Horn / flute, saxophone
Richard "Slyde" Hyde / trombone
Plas Johnson / flute, saxophone
Jackie Kelso / flute, horn, saxophone
Lou McCreary / brass
Bill Perkins / flute, horn, saxophone
Gary Coleman / percussion
Rebecca Louis / backing vocals


Ahora es Carlos Gancia quien colabora trayéndonos un disco para compartir, esta vez con un dúo monstruoso en cuanto a calidad, arreglos y músicos con los que tocaban.

El sexto disco de Steely Dan es tan fácil de escuchar gracias a una producción meticulosa y a composiciones tan dulces como Deacon Blues y Peg. Steely era una banda colectiva (formada por Walter Becker y Donald Fagen) con el nombre sacado de una novela de William Burroughs y un cancionero repleto de letras inteligentes y cínicas. Este disco, que se disparó en las listas estadounidenses, les convirtió en superestrellas.

No soy adicto a esta música pero es de suma calidad. No voy a hacer comentarios porque no escuché el disco, y no es mi estilo, pero aquí tienen una reseña:

Donald Fagen y Walter Becker se conocieron mientras estudiaban en el Bard College de Nueva York. Allí descubrieron que coincidían en cuanto a sus gustos musicales, simpatizando con estilos como el jazz, el blues, la música popular, además de la literatura contemporánea y el humor más ácido. Tras convertirse en buenos amigos deciden comienzar a componer algunos temas que fueron grabados con un nivel de producción más bien escaso y que más tarde serían recogidos en un disco doble recopilatorio que fue editado a mediados de los ochenta con el nombre "Beker y Faguen: The Collection". Después de este primer contacto con el mundo musical deciden trasladarse a Los Ángeles, donde firman con la discográfica ABC/Dunhill Records.
En 1972 graban su primer larga duración que se llamará "Can't Buy a Thrill". En ese momento la banda estaba formada por Denny Dias y Jeff "Skunk" Baxter a la guitarra, Jim Hodder a la batería y David Palmer en los vocales. En cuanto al origen del nombre de la mítica banda existen diferentes versiones. Hay quién comenta que Steely Dan es un personaje de una novela de William Burroughs. Pero la leyenda habla de otras versiones no tan románticas que indican que fue escogido tras realizar un cuidadoso estudio de mercado para procurar a la formación el nombre más comercial posible. Incluso añaden algunas de las posibilidades que se estuvieron barajando y que fueron descartadas al final. Como la mayoría de ellas no tienen desperdicio, aunque ciertamente no acabamos de creérnoslo, nos ha parecido divertido enumerarlas adjuntando también la traducción al español. Penis Whip (El azote del pene), Oceans of Chocolate (Océanos de Chocolate), Marsupial Soup (Sopa de marsupial), Thigh Patties (Muslos empanados), Saliva The Movie (Saliva: la película), The Don't Fucks (Los que no follan), The Bloody Stumps (Los tocones sangrientos) o Steel-Eye Pan (La cacerola del ojo de acero)... así, hasta llegar, afortunadamente, al definitivo Steely Dan.
En los 70s y 80s Steely Dan era una banda de estudio. No hacían conciertos y eso no cambió hasta bien entrados los 90s. Aquí les vemos interpretando Deacon Blues, el tema que cierra la cara A de Aja, en su gira del año 2003.
Poco después la banda comienza una gira por USA y Reino Unido. En ese período lanzan dos nuevos trabajos que aún están musicalmente muy lejos de lo que será el gran Steely Dan. Sus nombres son "Countdown to Ecstasy" y "Pretzel Logic". Este último es el album en el cual Donald Fagen comenzó a hacer de vocalista y su compañero Walter Becker se adueñó de la guitarra.
Parece ser que la discográfica aceptaba a duras penas que Steely Dan fueran una banda de jazz fusion e hicieron todo lo posible para convencer a Becker y Fagen de que el rock era un género mucho más rentable pero por lo visto todos sus esfuerzos fueron en vano. Precisamente entonces se dieron cuenta de que para el tipo de música que querían poner en práctica aún no disponían del nivel adecuado de producción. En 1975 disuelven el grupo original y comienzan una serie de discos, rodeados por los mejores músicos de estudio de New York y Los Ángeles , trabajos que a la postre constituirán el nucleo duro de la música de esta fantástica banda. Estamos hablando de "Katy Lied" (1975), "The Royal Scam" (1976), y, sobretodo, de "Aja" (1977) y "Gaucho" (1980), sin duda los dos mejores discos del gran Steely Dan.
Pero hoy nos vamos a dedicar a"Aja", un espléndido trabajo que incluye unos créditos prácticamente insuperables, con músicos de la talla de Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Steve Khan o Jay Graydon a las guitarras; Tom Scott y Wayne Shorter en las flautas y saxos; Joe Sample, Don Groinick o Victor Feldman a los teclados; Steve Gadd, Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie o Rick Marotta a la bateria; Chuck Raney al bajo y Michael McDonald en back-vocals. Pero es que además el
disco es una colección de seis de los temas más brillantes compuestos por el duo Fagen-Becker entre los que nos apetece mucho destacar Black Cow, Aja (que incluye uno de los solos más populares del gran bateria Steve Gadd), Deacon Blues y I Got the News.
Cuando escuches Aja entenderás a lo que se refieren los críticos y aficionados cuando hablan del sonido Steely Dan. Su música tiene una personalidad propia que permite reconocer casi todos sus temas con sólo oir unos pocos compases. Y lo cierto es que ese sello tan peculiar parece venir de la mano de los orígenes Fagen y Becker como grandes aficionados al blues. La cadencia de su música es casi como un blues tocado con el tempo algo más alto y aderezado con multitud de ingredientes que Fagen, Becker y su productor Norman Granz (tan responsable del éxito de la banda como el vocalista y el guitarrista) tomaron prestados de géneros cercanos al jazz y también del reggae. El resultado es un cocktail fascinante que no os podéis perder. Degústadlo con tranquilidad y disfrutad de su inimitable ritmo.
Jazzy

Hasta ahí el comentario, luego viene el comentario del próximo disco que posteamos a continuación...

Steely Dan hadn't been a real working band since Pretzel Logic, but with Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen's obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records. Instead, it's a measured and textured album, filled with subtle melodies and accomplished, jazzy solos that blend easily into the lush instrumental backdrops. But Aja isn't just about texture, since Becker and Fagen's songs are their most complex and musically rich set of songs -- even the simplest song, the sunny pop of "Peg," has layers of jazzy vocal harmonies. In fact, Steely Dan ignores rock on Aja, preferring to fuse cool jazz, blues, and pop together in a seamless, seductive fashion. It's complex music delivered with ease, and although the duo's preoccupation with clean sound and self-consciously sophisticated arrangements would eventually lead to a dead end, Aja is a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine

If ever a record knew its worth, it was Aja, the sixth album by Steely Dan. Released in late 1977 when half the world seemed to be down the disco and the other half were pogo-ing, here came an album that oozed detached sophistication, using every trick that keyboard player and vocalist Donald Fagen and guitarist Walter Becker had mastered over their first decade together.
Following on from 1976's The Royal Scam, any notion of Steely Dan being ‘a band’ had gone, with a huge stream of well over 40 highly skilled session musicians creating textures to support Becker and Fagen's musical vision. As a result, you get a masterclass in laidback solos and awkward time signatures, all beneath a highly polished surface.
At the time of the album’s release, Fagen said, "We write the same way a writer of fiction would write. We're basically assuming the role of a character, and for that reason it may not sound personal." Becker added, "This is not The Lovin’ Spoonful. It's not real good-time music." It’s true – these seven tracks are like miniature works of fiction, paying no mind to length or rock convention.
Aja was (is) a very influential work. In Scotland Ricky Ross heard the song Deacon Blues and named his band after it, while Peg is widely known because of De La Soul’s sampling of it for Eye Know. The jaunty Josie and the sublime title-track are further stand-outs on a record that barely breaks its bossa-nova beat. It is impossible to hear this record without thinking about LA sunshine, even though Fagen's lyrics were often nostalgic, ironic and bitter; hardly suspiring for a group that named itself after a – ahem – marital aid from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
To complete the feeling that you were holding an old jazz album in your hands, the original pressings came in a gatefold sleeve with a note from ABC Records’ president Steve Diener and the mock reverential critique by ‘Michael Phalen’: "In this writer’s opinion, Aja signals the onset of a new maturity and a kind of solid professionalism that is the hallmark of an artist that has arrived." Phalen was, of course, Becker and Fagen.
To emphasize its importance, in 2011 Aja was deemed by the Library of Congress to be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" and added to the United States National Recording Registry. But with or without such an accolade, Aja remains a remarkable piece of work.
Daryl Easlea

I readily acknowledge that Steely Dan - and Aja in particular - isn't for everyone. There are plenty of people who find the band's blend of smooth jazz and soft rock intolerable, particularly on Aja, which has so much studio polish it gleams with the stuff. Words like "overengineered" could be fired at the album with some credibility.
That's fine. Everyone's got their own tastes. Me, I can't get enough of this album. Sure, it's a slickly engineered product with crisp, commercial harmony vocals and poppish numbers like Peg and Josie rounding it out. But the compositions and their delivery are just too perfect not to win me over, particularly in the way they establish a calm, tranquil atmosphere quite at odds with the angry cynicism of the preceding Dan albums. Sure, it's plastic studio jazz-rock produced by an army of session musicians at the beck and call of Becker and Fagen, but sometimes slick 1970s yacht rock isn't all bad. Aja is one of those times.
W. Arthur

One of the most fascinating books that I own is Steely Dan Complete, which contains the sheet music and lyrics for all of the band's albums up through Gaucho.
The reason the book is so compelling is that, as you proceed chronologically from album to album, you see (and experience, if you're trying to play the music yourself) the steps that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen took as their jazz-inflected compositions became more involved and, yes, more sophisticated. It all seemed to peak with Aja, which contained two very accessible pop hits in "Peg" and "Josie" alongside the FM radio staple "Deacon Blues."
Becker and Fagen's harmonic pretzel-making would continue on Gaucho before going dormant for about 15 years; they returned as a live act in the 1990s and subsequently produced the pleasing but very standardized, assembly-line albums Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go. But it was Aja where they took their music as far as it could go; afterwards they were mostly just repeating themselves.
If punk was a reaction to albums of this ilk, then there's the reason why I never got into punk.
Reginod

While slick perfection was always The Dan's primary stock-in-trade, they never achieved it more fully than on Aja. This is an album of spotless, micromanaged clarity. Normally, that sort of thing would not appeal to me. To quote Grandaddy's great Christmas tune "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" 'my favourite songs have notes that are wrong.' Steely Dan are an exception to that rule, this album in particular. They are indeed the ultimate yacht-rock experience, if there can be said to be such a thing, but neither are they ever watered-down for mass consumption. The complexity is hidden in the sheer perfection of their songcraft, but the jazz side of their jazz-pop is never neglected (check that great sax solo in the midst of the title track and the strangely timed piano part of "I Got the News"), and there is a self-aware mischief running throughout their work as well.
For instance, take "Deacon Blues" which is arguably the high point of this album and certainly one of their greatest songs. The song is ostensibly about a struggling jazz musician who is embracing and mythologizing his own failure into a kind of purity, a satire of the prototypical hipster long before the current incarnation of the word came to be. There is something eerily perfect about a long, jazzy pop tune about embracing failure as an affirmation of one's dreams recorded right when the punk wave was about to hit. This album is, along with Rumours, utterly definitive of that point in time - slick and professional and smooth as butter on the surface but seething with all kinds of dark emotions and all crumbling to dust not far below.
This album is a perfect accompaniment to all the drinking and sadness of a seasonal affective disorder-riddled autumn and winter, so it has long meant a great deal to me. It makes me want to drink straight scotch or whiskey sours and watch old black and white films and just generally let the world flow around me without effect. Hymns of disconnection were never so clean and right-feeling.
jshopa

This is a pretty damn good album overall but I vehemently disagree that this is the Dan's masterpiece. My guess is that alot of people (casual Dan fans) find the rest of thier albums to be somewhat inaccessable and maybe too progressive compared to the slicker and more radio friendly sound of this and "Gaucho" for that matter? I don't know, but whatever the case may be, I find this album to be just a little too "slick" and a even a bit overproduced in my book. An appropriate analogy for the aforementioned would be the women of porn. I would much rather look at ,and fuck, the amature "girl next door" chicks (natural tits, little if any makeup, completely naked) rather than the synthetic San Fernando Valley hoes (fake tits, layers of makeup, and gaudy looking outfits). See what I'm sayin'? Don't get me wrong, this album has some absolutely awesome moments and I would definitely give some of those fake-titted San Fernando sluts a good dickin' as well. The title track and "Josie" are phenomenal cuts and the absolute highlights of this record. The classic rock radio staples "Deacon Blues" and "Peg" are really good songs as well despite their blatant "smooth jazz/soft rock slickness". The remaining cuts are really good as well and are a definite precursor to Gaucho and Fagan's solo material. I am a bit puzzled as to how so many people find this album to be superior to "Thrill", "Royal Scam", and the veritable masterpiece "Countdown To Ecstasy". Even "Pretzel Logic" and "Katy Lied", despite thier respective minor imperfections, are more interesting albums. For me, the heavier and rawer Dan trumps the slick and softer Dan and I think most die-hard Dan fans would agree. Once again, "Aja" is a really good album overall but it just doesn't measure up to the previous 5, for me anyway. The same goes for "Gaucho". If you're looking to delve into some Dan, go with "Ecstasy", "Thrill", or "Royal Scam" and move on from there.......and please support your local amature girls of porn, they can use your backing.....no pun intended.
ralphcat

I've heard people say Steely Dan is anti-rock, that there's a crushing satirical point to be found behind the sophisticated facade. When you ask a friend if they like it, the response is usually something a long the lines of "call me back in 50 years or so". You might say this is acid for old people, that this kind of music is made and specifically aimed at people aged 50+. Well, I thought we were passed the filthy habit of labeling music for different age groups. Punk is for teens, Springsteen is for middle-aged people, and jazz is for the old-timers. C'mon, look at the performers, they weren't old when they made this album, why would they want a bunch of old people at their concerts? 70+ groupies, I think not.
Steely Dan combines pop refrains with jazz harmonies, soul and cryptic, often ironic lyrics. That's the Steely Dan I've been a fan of since I was about 12 years old, and I don't see anything that's about to erase my fascination for this group. There is no debating the skill these guys hold, but that doesn't automatically make it great (sorry to all the speed-metal bands that think so). No, but Fagen props a song full of different moods and turns it up and down as he wishes, and with a master such as Becker on the guitar, well, that makes it tick the right boxes.
It's not hard to understand why some people push Steely Dan away like a child pushes a dish of vegetables away, I admit there's something fishy about their setup. Still, my desire for a Steely Dan album continues to loom large in my subconscious, it's just an old geezer thing, you wouldn't understand.
eraserbrain

Striking, enigmatic album art is easily the most interesting aspect of this collection of slick but flaccid non-tunes for those who think they can find profundity in fidelity. I am helpless against Aja's anti-onslaught of plastic yacht-pop littered with elementary jazz voicings and nondescript solos. Musically it is, to my ears, indistinguishable from Chicago albums of the era ("Black Cow") but without the backbone and drive that Chicago had even at their nadir. The instrumental interludes are bizarrely empty ("Aja"). They change but don't evolve. During them I sometimes found my toes tapping, but curiously not to the rhythm of the music. Almost as if in impatience. The sound of what may have been a guitar synth briefly jerked me to attention during "Home At Last". There's some nice interplay on "I Got the News" but, as the only song that's actively irritating rather than banal, it's the album's worst track, on top of its most interesting.
The lyrics cover familiar subjects in unusual ways but, once heard, leave the mind immediately because the melodies they're carried on are unmemorable. This happens for a reason. The songwriter, believing he's thwarting and innovating traditional pop tenets with all these jazz chords, is never ever ever letting the chips fall where they may. If he plays a II, then a V, his next change will be anything but a I. He will never resolve unless he's not "supposed" to, because he's being creative. But Aja still sounds like forty minutes in a Wendy's, because the writers are just not good jazz composers. "Black Cow" and "Deacon Blues" have for whatever reason been notably excepted from this treatment, and not surprisingly were the only ones I briefly returned to after finishing the record. To top it off, the vocals sound like the guy's been in the booth all damn night and oh god anything but one more take guys i wanna go home. Out of curiosity, after finishing the album I looked up the words to "Deacon Blues" and found them far, far more interesting on paper, without the music in the way. Do you understand what a backwards travesty that is?
archaicdecor

Que lo disfruten y agradezcan a Carlos!



2 comentarios:

  1. Download: (Flac - No CUE + Log + m3u + Scans - Vinil Rip)
    http://pastebin.com/nmauZTFG

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  2. Impresionante disco de los maestros del jazz-pop cool de la costa oeste (a pesar de que tanto Fagen como Brecker eran de NY). El epítome de lo que se puede hacer en un estudio de grabación. Detalles increibles, ejecutantes soberbios de canciones excelentes. Requiere varias escuchas para empezar a apreciarlo, pero una vez que le agarras la onda se abre como un vino maduro. Gracias por el aporte!

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