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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh nothing, just the deconstruction of a masterpiece...
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...
Published on February 26, 2001 by Jon Ell

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Gadd? No Good!
Most of the prior reviews will give you a good idea of the quality of this DVD and the series in general, but being a drummer there was one glaring omission.

No Gadd!

Steve Gadd is one of the most influential drummers of the last 30 years. His solo on the track Aja is one of his most respected works. There is no mention of this or even OF HIM...
Published on November 22, 2004 by VeekNYC


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54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh nothing, just the deconstruction of a masterpiece..., February 26, 2001
By 
Jon Ell "jon-el" (Aliso Viejo, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Education in the making, May 17, 2007
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This review is from: Steely Dan - Aja (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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Aja" Uncovered For Steely Dan-aholics, September 21, 2000
By A Customer
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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.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars scattershot and kind of lacking but PRETTY DARN GREAT anyway, January 20, 2005
By 
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true Masterpiece, March 30, 2000
By 
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Gadd? No Good!, November 22, 2004
By 
VeekNYC (Hells Kitchen) - See all my reviews
Most of the prior reviews will give you a good idea of the quality of this DVD and the series in general, but being a drummer there was one glaring omission.

No Gadd!

Steve Gadd is one of the most influential drummers of the last 30 years. His solo on the track Aja is one of his most respected works. There is no mention of this or even OF HIM!! His name is never uttered! I am appalled. There has got to be a political reason for this as there is no way this was just an oversight.

For me, this was a huge blow as I looked forward to getting some insights on one of the most important drum recordings I can think of.
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99 of 128 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 70%chatter/30%music, April 19, 2000
By 
Shimon "shimondi" (Eastchester, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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If you don't LOVE Steely Dan and if you don't LOVE the "Aja" album, you'll probably find this documentary something pleasant to fall asleep to. It's a fairly interesting, though hardly spellbinding, look at the music that went into that landmark album, from the point of view of Fagen and Becker and some of the other original musicians.

But be warned, there are only two complete songs, minus singing, and they are modern renditions played in a small studio. There is no fault with those two numbers, played with customary smoothness and musicianship. However, the rest of the DVD is all truncated performances and interviews, backed by standard New York / Los Angeles scenery and a fair amount of Becker/Fagen replaying the original master on a mixer and analyzing some of the individual tracks. One needs to be a REAL aficionado to appreciate that. There is a certain self-conscious awkwardness to their chatter but the dry humor is there and there are at least a few hints of the musical brilliance behind this enduring and synergistic relationship.

The audio and video quality are fine, but you had better be a BIG Steely Dan fan.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical music video..., August 10, 2000
By 
Amazon Customer "kellian" (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
This is a fantastic look inside the making of Aja. Out of the woodwork comes such greats as Chuck Rainey, Dean Parks, Bernard Purdie and more, to talk about their part in the making of the wonderous AJA. Both Donald and Walter appear extremely at ease and in their element. There is evidence of the almost-mystic connection between the two of them as they go over - and over - each individual piece of various songs from the album. They are not too stiff to laugh at themselves, to question why they put certain innuendos in particular places, or to praise the master sessions musicians that made their musical ideals a reality. This is NOT a video for the causal SD fan.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Enough But Better Than Nothing, July 16, 2009
By 
A reader (New York City) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Steely Dan - Aja (DVD)
Six different drummers played on the AJA recording. Arguably the standout drum performance on a record filled with great performances, and certainly one of the most famous in all of rock music, is Steve Gadd's work on the title track.

If you didn't know better, you'd come away from this documentary about the making of Aja with the impression that Bernard Purdie was the only drummer on the gig. Numerous musicians who played on the record are interviewed, as well as people who had nothing whatsoever to do with it. But nowhere is Steve Gadd's name or face mentioned or seen. Others have noted this omission, but I feel the need to restate how curious it is. Maybe Gadd wasn't available when the docu was being filmed. But to actually perform the tune, with Purdie behind the drum kit, and never even mention Gadd's name? Weird. (No disrespect to Purdie intended. He's a brilliant musician and a delightful personality, and his presence adds a lot to this video.)

I assume the producers had to pare down their material to fit a 60-minute TV format. Still, the video is largely unsatisfying. Did we need a word-for-word recitation by Fagen of the lyrics to "Black Cow," especially when there was no time to say Steve Gadd's name even once? The live performances are interesting but lackluster, and don't include vocals. "Peg" sounds like a rhythm track; why'd they bother? "Josie" mopes along with a middling lead guitar by Becker, who can do better.

But the video is worth seeing if you're interested in the Dan's creative process. Fagen and Becker sit at the mixing board and banter about the tunes, breaking them down by tracks, so you can hear how they arrived at their final choices. Singer Michael McDonald and engineer Roger Nichols muse candidly about the maddening perfectionism of Fagen and Becker, but then marvel at the outcome. Larry Carlton describes his critical role as chart writer and arranger. This is mixed in with biographical information, including a photo of Becker as a kid of maybe 12 years old, looking like Peter Pan with an electric guitar in his hands.

One thing you won't get from this video -- but maybe it's the kind of thing that's impossible to capture -- is how Fagen and Becker actually write and produce. The mystery of their partnership is intact. Nichols says it best when he likens them to one body with two brains (or did he say one brain with two bodies -- that would make more sense), finishing each other's sentences. When they're together there's a lot of dead air after Fagen talks, during which Becker says nothing or smirks. Must be ESP. If the background and quirks of Steely Dan interest you, get this. Or just watch parts of it on your favorite video clip website. Not sorry I purchased it, but not thrilled either.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Should only be considered by hard core Dan or Aja fans, April 19, 2000
What the Aja DVD did for me was take the mystery out of Aja, but not as much as I thought it would. One of the stories I was disappointed not to hear is the story of the Steve Gadd drum solo on the title track. I also would have liked the songs to have been broken down more extensively than was presented.
I did enjoy the explaination of the Bernard Purdie half-time shuffle groove on "Home at Last" and the (mention of the) garbage can lid overdub used by Jim Keltner on "Josie". I was very happy to see Wayne Shorter in the video and his take on the Sax solo on the title track. Rick Marotta's high hat work on "Peg" is so tasty, I almost wept watching him play it.
All in all, this DVD should only be considered by those who either are hard core Steely Dan fans or those who love Aja. Pete, JJ and I are all of the above:-)
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Steely Dan - Aja
Steely Dan - Aja by Donald Fagen (DVD - 2006)
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