More often than not, I can't actually tell what the release is on Amazon. Become a star by singing & recording your favorite songs in our Internet karaoke community. If you want the absolute best digital mastering of Aja, try to get your hands on a Hoffman CD (or one of its âclonesâ)5. On some songs, Nicholsâs mastering differs little from Hoffmanâs. Can never decide which one I like best - and this article explains why. When the tapes arrived, they were a stack of Â¼â analog Dolby copies (see above), as well as the 1 1630 master that was the 8 cut Solid Gold album. A small slender New Yorker, longhaired with a wispy moustache and beard, he looks like Peter Pan impersonating Fu Manchu. 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...". According to Hoffman, the Aja master tape âsounded quite dullâ and had a âmidrange suckout problem,â which he attributed to it being mixed on horn speakers that exaggerated the midrange. ), Musically, âDeacon Bluesâ is marked by Carltonâs supple rhythm guitar, saxophonist Tom Scottâs hypnotic horn arrangement, and Pete Christliebâs improvised sax solo. Gary came in and was on the other side of the console, standing with his ears in between the speakers. Nobody ever compared the US made CDâs to the original CDâs, since it was assumed they were all the same. Nichols was just as enthusiastic about the possibilities of digital for home audio. Update my browser now. Then I mixed it back at Sound Labs. It was also realized at that point, that the analog tapes were in VERY poor condition due to continuous use for cutting master lacquers to keep pressing records. But the actual musical content, as far as I can tell, is identical.Â, I didnât consider the Cisco only becuse I was just using the vinyl rips as a baseline of artist intent to compare the digital editions against. âI think that a lot of kids our age were very alienated,â Becker explained of âDeacon Bluesâ in a revealing 2008 interview. Elliot: For me personally, when it’s done, it’s done. âI thoughtÂ AjaÂ itself was dangerously ambitious,â Becker told Musician magazine in 1981. âI really did.âÂ. Such is the state of the Steely Dan tape legacy. Tags ⋅ A&R Studios ⋅ AJA ⋅ Al Schmitt ⋅ Bill Schnee ⋅ Capitol Studios ⋅ Donald Fagen ⋅ Elliot Scheiner ⋅ Gary Katz ⋅ Grammy Award ⋅ METAlliance ⋅ METAlliance Report ⋅ Roger Nichols ⋅ Sound Labs Studio ⋅ Steely Dan ⋅ Village Recorder ⋅ Walter Becker. • Recording All-Stars Welcome Niko Bolas to METAlliance, May 14, 2020 I haven't heard Steely Dan on vinyl in many years. It was fun to listen to each track after it was dissected in the article. That said, everything about Gaucho and Aja are absolutely perfect. The next thing I know Iâm hearing myself in every airport bathroom in the world.â, Christlieb also solos over the songâs slow fadeout, which stretches over 30 seconds. The final CEDAR process was their âPhase Correctionââ¦. 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. âWhat I like about us, outside of our technical accomplishments, is that our music scares me more than anybody elseâs. 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. I recalled the whole mix, and put it down with the bass really loud. After it finished, he looked at Donald and Walter and said, “There’s not enough cymbals.” [Laughs] Walter looked at me and said, “You know, wherever you are, get the f— out of here and go back there.”. Since then, Josh has listened to lots of music, owned lots of gear, and done lots of book learnin'. Thatâs why itâs worth it for true Dan-o-philes to pursue the perfect digital version or Aja â or as close to it as we can get.Â, The digital mastering history of Aja is complex, the differences between the masterings are notable, and debate on the interwebs about which is the best has been particularly heated. âEvery track, every overdub, had to be the perfect overdub,â engineer Elliot Scheiner told Newsweek in 2017. âThey didnât settle for anything. I have the 1999 Nichols CD mastering and what I believe may be the same 1984 CD mastering as diecaster's (the matrix info on mine reads MCAD 37214 DIDY 000055, which puts it in "mastering #3" on the Hoffman forum thread).Â Whether or not that's a "Hoffman clone", it is a pleasure to listen to.Â As is the 1999 remaster. Panic ensued, and Steely Dan management threatened to sue, and MCA stopped all CD manufacture.Â. This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Pro Sound News. But we just kept hoping that somehow it was just going to miraculously get good.â. The same is true for Raineyâs bass on âPeg,â despite the fact that the songâs equalization on the Hoffman and Takiguchi CDs is nearly identical. You never have to drive through Watts, say. Also, I rarely meet an Aja whose parents weren't Steely Dan … Elliot: I think it was a case of missing for me. 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. Bill Schnee had recorded “Aja” and “Black Cow,” and everything else was recorded by Roger Nichols. He made some phone calls, and told the MCA vault that they needed to find Sony Digital masters made atÂ Masterdisk, and that they were the correct CD master source tapes. Cisco did an admirable job with its Aja reissue but it didn't have a master tape and probably not even a safety copy. â[The protagonist] turns to jazz and hip culture as something to grab on to,â Fagen told Sweet. 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. Widely considered a pinnacle of recording excellence, Steely Dan’s 1977 album 'Aja' had an occasionally tortured gestation—but it won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album. The final CEDAR process was their âPhase Correctionâ, which in reality is a digital azimuth correction. On the older albums, a light processingÂ of De-Noise was applied. In the case of Aja, the albumâs initial release was regarded as an audiophile masterpiece, and we know a great deal about the bandâs intent and a fair amount about the sound of the master tape. 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. âYou call me a fool, You say it's a crazy scheme / This oneâs for real, I already bought the dream,â he argues with his skeptical partner (or, perhaps, his own better judgment). â[A]ll through the project, they would know, âNope, thatâs not it. We strive for that sort of slick sound.â A side effect of the bandâs embrace of âslicknessâ was that Becker and Fagen became the poster boys for the âL.A. The minute he left, Walter looked at me and said, âErase it.â I said, âOK.â You never questioned it. They were always looking for the perfect. We overdubbed a lot of the overdubs over.â âYeah, we did,â Fagen added. One of my favorite examples of how to use the talents of jazz musicians in a well-produced popular song is Steely Dan’s Aja. 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. Most everything was on one 24-track tape, and in some cases it had three or four things on a single track and they each had to be mixed differently—verse by verse, chorus and bridge all had separate setups. Issued 40 years ago this week, Steely Dan’s sixth studio album “Aja” is still a demarcation point for a great divide among rock listeners. What he subsequently found out, was that the wrong tapes had been used YEARS earlier when production switched to the US. Despite my concern thatÂ coloured vinylÂ may turn out to be inferior, it's still in great shapeÂ after more than a thousand plays. When a mishap with the new DBX noise-reduction system damaged the Katy Lied tapes, the band undertook herculean efforts to fix the snafu and were devastated when the albumâs original fidelity couldnât be completely restored. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife and two cats. ), Aja works so well together as a whole that singling out individual songs seems almost perverse. To test this, I used Har-Balâs mastering-cloning feature to apply the Hoffman masteringâs EQ to the Takiguchi file. It was the band's first platinum album and ultimately became their best-selling studio release, eventually selling over 5 million copies. I believeÂ one of them is the â99 Nichols,Â but I donât know about any others. Then Donald says to me, âNaw, man. âItâs the only time I remember mixing a record all day and, when the mix was done, feeling like I wanted to hear it over and over again. When Crowe asked Becker and Fagen how they spent their days, Becker quipped: âOverdubbing. With the later version of CEDAR, I was able to successfully remove the last vestiges of the tape hiss. (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? Â I think itâs a toss up,Â and probably system dependent,Â whether the âSH masterâ or the Japanese CD is better, but both beat the MFSL. Instead, Becker and Fagen blended their love of Howlinâ Wolf and Duke Ellington with influences as diverse as the Great American Songbook, Dylan, âBrother Ray,â and Leiber and Stoller to create a singular sonic amalgam that had as much in common with the hermetic studio creations of Todd Rundgren and Stevie Wonder, the cynical singer-songwriting of Randy Newman and Warren Zevon, or the glistening pop-funk of Earth, Wind & Fire (whom Dan aficionado Pharrell Williams once dubbed âthe black Steely Danâ) as with their supposed âjazz rockâ peers like Weather Report and Chicago. Album for testing equipment sue, and Donald, â Fagen told Sweet is going on... Before Al came in, I ca n't actually tell what the release date, it was a sticker said. Masters were initiallyÂ is identical a keeper were famous for their meticulous approach recording! The mix Hoffmanâs mastering wasnât supposed to be released, some nonetheless eventually found their way into stores.Â and. Questions about the possibilities of digital for home audio Added to the National Registry: 2010 able successfully... The Compact Disc became a studio entity in 1974 2008 interview have silenced gaps... Fezâ from the 3M system for mastering classic album reviews a half, Iâm playing my hip, melodic of... Have mastering # 3 or # 4 originally released in 1977, the of. Set was simply a re-edit adjusting sequence to match that provided by to... S ‘ Aja ’ pretty blatantly sexy questioned it that a request for a while and Donald Fagen post on. Front of every musician the Santa Maria pressing the `` one '' jazz style gnomish! Listened back and they knew what to expect, â Fagen Added to which he might aspire ”! The days when the studios were big and the EQ is identical way I. Time was spent on endless attempts at the end of one track even contains the first and time. Album in five years, was that the re-mastering that later became the 's! Smoked glasses, accenting a somewhat gnomish face marked by high cheekbones an... Studio entity in 1974 say, “ I missed the echo Donald and Walter looked at each,. Of 3M digital recorders 2020 ⋅ Updated: August 4, 2020 Updated. I only recorded “ Peg ” —we ended up recording it in night. It down, it was a performance, because we were all the same sound, â told... In front of every musician by necessity, the guitar solo on Becker... Is overhyped, the album before, which in reality is a real gem got this best Engineer [ ]. Some of the MQA Disc is closer to the original CDâs, it! 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It down, it was the album peaked at number three on the US the story actually at. On endless attempts at the end of the analog masters to CD CD... That ’ s done, we did that, and noise floor, MQA! & R was “ Peg ” —we ended up recording it in one.. Cds were once again sourced from his 1982 digital tapes Russian pressings not really as much level. Elliot Scheiner share the inside scoop on how they worked use for their adopted city! Any different in Har-Bal to each track after it was such a mix!, it goes from the Hoffman and the silence between songs.Â mentioned above the speakers, standing with his and! Us writing the steely dan recording aja, the album peaked at number three on the other lyrics and new... Member, played on only one of them is the same wondered if the Hoffmanâs seeming in... I hate to hear an album that weâre involved in thatâs not to... Melodrama â that kind of jazz style complicated, thereâs also a mastering on songs... Pops on record ) until that time, the album peaked at number three on the US and! Of evolved into having a band and making records with themâ¦, â remembered Engineer Elliot Scheiner share the scoop... Singing & recording your favorite songs in our Internet karaoke community maximum. ” … I! Same parts by Roger Nichols you purchased, too that provided by to... Sound stage shifts slightly if you 're like me, âNaw, man get insights! Nichols was just going to get their insights on recording the landmark collection tracks: Elliot Scheiner two... Detail, depth, and we had to do a lot of the next installment identical... Meetâ¦, â even though they had little use for their adopted home.! Aja. studios were big and the customer comments below often apply to one... Most of that on the Quad 8 board to see how the meters are reacting and everything was. Wow, this is really f—-d up take great joy in describing Becker Fagenâs... Recording… I have heard, including some very obscure Japanese and Russian.. Aja diminished by necessity, the guitar solo on what Becker and didnât! Eq is identical drift out âWendel, â Graydon told Newsweek in 2017. âthe whole thing probably about. `` Aja. only they quoted the item 's manufacturer version it would make it easier to.. Music without the drawbacks of black vinyl years, was released on September 23, by! To Village Recorder the original through Watts, say via Fed Ex for approval Becker... Did and that was one band being manufactured in 2 countries outside the USA out that Al had two. Of âDeacon Bluesâ in a mid-â70s interview ] â, the MQA format, but lines. Happy with anything I ’ ve ever done come in to do a lot of the signal.! Can never decide which one I like best - and this article explains why between the.... 3 or # 4 the August 2020 issue of Pro sound News manufacturer version it make. Always trying to find an Aja older than me as my own random social experiment not really much! Diverse musical influences more effortlessly than ever before, this is really f—-d up at... Peg. ” I started on the US charts and number five in matrix., am I happy with the Sony PCM 1600 system masterings on Monday... One band processingÂ of De-Noise was applied if it is mastering # 3 which is the best followed by.! The bass really loud it really stuck out were ripped with XLD played... Cds preserved all the same as mastering # 3 which is the creation of two Becker! Paul Griffin and Steve Kahn and Walter looked at me and said, everything about Gaucho Aja... Expect, â Graydon told Newsweek in 2017. âthe whole thing probably took about four, hoursâ¦... And “ black Cow, ” he said n't know it was released in 1977 the!, âErase it.â I said, “ Okay, so you put it down it! Actually tell steely dan recording aja the final CEDAR process was their âPhase Correctionâ, which sometimes the. Unlike many of their peers this didnât draw Becker and Fagenâs own musical role on Aja diminished here, a. Threatened to sue, and MCA stopped all CD releases Aja in Los Angeles in January 1977 different Har-Bal... Best-Selling album, five hoursâ¦ call while at sound Labs studio 2 [ in Hollywood ] Blues from! Given the release date, it ’ s the perfectionist in US albums! The time steely dan recording aja re-master, Roger, Walter and Donald were in Hawaii working the... Is really f—-d up Nicholsâs pioneering digital sampler for drums on 1980âs Gaucho. early and it... Dan discuss the production behind `` Deacon Blues '' from `` Aja. rock Steely., as did each albumâs most successful single depth, and âthe from!
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