Steely Dan


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Details At A Glance

Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 59:54 minutes Other Extras Discography
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Alan Lewens

Warner Vision
Starring Walter Becker
Donald Fagen
Greg Katz
Dean Parks
Ian Dury
Andy Gill
Rick Marotta
Roger Nichols
Michael McDonald
Larry Carlton
Denny Dias
Wayne Shorter
Case Amaray
RRP $39.95 Music Steely Dan

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG No
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

Plot Synopsis

    Steely Dan - Aja is from the second series of the Classic Albums series from Warner Vision Australia. Aja was probably the best album that Steely Dan released in their long history of jazz fusion music, and was very successful.

    This documentary looks back, in much the same way as the other programmes in the series, at the creation of this album. The predominant speakers are Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who were the core of Steely Dan. As explained in this program, the remainder of the band comprised session musicians, as the duo had trouble finding other musicians who were consistently able to play at the same level as them. The great majority of this documentary focusses on the reminiscences of Walter and Donald, with the usual dissection of tracks at the mixing deck. A small amount of archival footage is presented, but this is limited in quantity as much of it is in pretty poor shape.

    Make sure you watch through the end credits, as there is a little tid-bit right at the end which is quite amusing.

Transfer Quality


    This video transfer is generally quite good in quality, save for the archival footage.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The contemporary sections of the transfer were superbly sharp and clear. The archival footage consisted of two types of source material; old black-and-white 8mm film and old colour video footage. Both of these types of archival material were very ordinary in quality, and very poorly defined. Sensibly, we are only treated to small tid-bits of this material at a time before returning to the better quality of the contemporary video material. Note that this is the nature of this type of footage, and the DVD transfer faithfully reproduces the limitations of the source material in these areas.

    Shadow detail was generally good, other than the archival material.

    All manner of noise artefacts marred the archival footage, with low level noise being quite prominent within the video source, as well as the not-often seen herring-bone distortion (moving lines spreading through the image like ripples in a pond). The contemporary footage was exemplary in this area.

    The colours were clear and natural. The archival video footage was an exception, with poorly defined and bleeding colour.

    MPEG artefacts were not visible at any stage during this program.

    Aliasing crept in once during this presentation, with a long shot of skyscrapers shimmering away, but this was pretty minor.

    Film artefacts were restricted to occurring within the few brief segments of archival 8mm film footage. When they did occur, they were quite prominent.


    There is only a single audio track on this DVD; Dolby Digital 2.0. This is encoded at the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 bitrate of 192 Kb/second. As always, I felt that we would have been better served with a Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand, though there were times during the mixing desk sessions where it did become a little hard to hear Walter and Donald's comments.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer.

    The music sounded a little muffled and recessed at times, particularly towards the end of this DVD, and I do wonder whether at least a higher bitrate would have helped in this regard. Early on, the music sounds fantastic, particularly considering the recording that it has been taken from is over 20 years old.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack

    The .1 channel was not discretely encoded, but it was used more-or-less continuously during the music by my Dolby Digital processor and was nicely supportive of the music.



    It is good to see that the criticisms of Series 1 of the Classic Albums DVDs were taken on board, and the DVDs are now chaptered. A really nice feature of this DVD is the fact that audio plays during the display of the copyright message, a very welcome addition to the overall package, as it both makes the copyright message more tolerable to sit through and also sets the mood nicely for the subsequent program.

    Oddly, this menu appears to be 16x9 enhanced.

    The highlighted selection was somewhat hard to make out because of the choice of blue used for it - I suspect that viewing this DVD via either component or RGB video connections would help to improve this considerably.


R4 vs R1

    This disc is due for release shortly in Region 1, and appears identically featured to the Region 4 version.


    Steely Dan fans will want to add this to their collection.

    The video quality is generally good, with the contemporary video being of superb quality and archival footage reflecting the age of the material.

    The audio quality is average.

    The extras are extremely limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
10th February 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO  subwoofer