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iTunes Review

With Gaucho Steely Dan ended an astounding eight-album run of expertly crafted and idiosyncratic pop-rock. Like old masters, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had refined every aspect of their art — from color palette to shading — and now they could create images with maximum focus and minimum clutter. The opening songs, “Babylon Sisters” and “Hey Nineteen,” are paragons of understatement. The underlying theme of Gaucho is luxury, in all its putrid manifestations. “Glamour Profession” summarizes the Hollywood life cycle in just a few short sentences: “The L.A. concession / Local boys will spend a quarter / Just to shine the silver bowl / Living hard will take its toll.” The grooves are tightly compacted and edgeless, and the imagery is as meticulous as the music. There are recurring depictions of fine food and alcohol, and the sensory snapshots are as sharp as daggers. We encounter a “spangled leather poncho” (“Gaucho”), “the smell of prickly pear” (“My Rival”), “a bunker filled with sand” (“Third World Man”). Gaucho is an exacting dénouement for one of the ‘70s most exacting and inventive musical enterprises.

Customer Reviews

"Bodacious Cowboys Such As Your Friend"

Maybe it was their impeccable production values. (Whenever I test-drove turntables, the audiophiles always seemed to have Dan vinyl nearby). Or the efficient phrasing that reads like a good story, showing more than telling. Or the staying power of the restrained yet powerful :40-second solo at the two minute mark of Third World Man that still makes the hair on my arms vibrate. I'll be the first to admit that side one has its share of poppy baggage to deal with. But for me, Gaucho's abbreviated side 2 still lives in rarified Classic rock air, sharing the cloud with Forever Changes, Let It Bleed, Workingman's Dead and Who's Next. It's not rock. It's not pop. It's not jazz. It's not blues. But whatever it is, it works. Just ask the hair on my arms.

Dan Undoes LA - Brilliantly

As a big SD fan, I love all their albums, but through the years Gaucho has emerged as their absolute best. Aja is a masterpiece (and the title cut would have fit perfectly on Gaucho), but this album has a theme -- a look at LA/Hollywood from the perspective of people on the "point of no return" -- that ties it together from the first notes to the last. No "LA" group ever painted a picture as subtle, funny or accurate of LA's foibles as New Yorkers Becker and Fagen. Sex, drugs, gay affairs, religious fanaticism, coked-out sports heros, hot young women (some paid for), terrorism, jealous violence, Malibu vacations -- it's all here, laced into perfect arrangements and achingly gorgeous harmonies. The music may sound a bit slick at first, but if you keep listening you'll find so many perfect touches you'll always want to come back. Check out the muted trumpet in Babylon Sisters, the piano solo in Glamour Profession, the whimsical percussion and amazing arrangement (with vocal and guitar call and response) of My Rival. Okay, I'll stop ... A great great album.

Very Slick Album

I'm disapointed at everyone trying to compare this album to Aja, it's not Aja, it's a different album and was recorded three years after Aja, it's not as good but it's still tons better than anything else being released at the time. 1980's Gaucho is a slick, exactly precise album. Every part is right on almost to the point of losing personality but the strength of the songs make up for it. Babylon Sisters is a slow haunting tune with nice Rhodes and a great vocal performance from Fagen, by now Fagen's voice has come completely to the forefront of Steely Dan's songs where as in the beginning it was a lot stronger but not as loud in the mix. Each phase of Fagen's voice has its good points, if you like Fagen belting out tunes with confidence then you'll like the later stuff, if you like his untrained voice singing much deeper and softer in the mix then you'll like the early stuff. Hey 19 is the next song and was a minor hit, it's a slick pop oriented almost cheesy song, nice rhythm guitar work. Glamour Profession is a very underrated track about drug dealers with a haunting bass line and ghostly synth layered with rhodes driving it, good noodling guitar work and another strong vocal performance, the lyrics are top notch. The title track is a jazzy tune with lots of horns, driven by a nice melodic bass line, smooth backup vocals, the lyrics don't rhyme at all which is a feat in itself and well worth the price of admission, only Becker and Fagen could write something like this. Time Out of Mind is another song about drugs, driven by a steady drum beat and jazzy guitar, nice Mike McDonald backups and another strong performance from Fagen. My Rival is a latin influenced tune complete with tons of organs (played nicely by Fagen) and even timbales and other latin percussion. Third World Man is a nice song that I had to hear live to fully appreciate, I like the fact of Fagen harmonizing with himself as opposed to his normal female backup singers or McDonald, the chorus is the best part of the song, this would be the last Steely Dan song for 20 years, it almost didn't get recorded but was added when the song "The Second Arrangement" was accidently erased by an assistant engineer, The Second Arrangement was recorded in one take and is an absolutely amazing song that was sure to be a hit from this album, I've heard the attempts at rerecordings of it on different Steely Dan websites and it is a great song driven by a great guitar riff and extremely unusual vocal melody, it's one of my favorite songs and was never even released, I can only imagine what the original one take recording must have sounded like, I suggest downloading it if you can find it.


Formed: 1972 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Most rock & roll bands are a tightly wound unit that developed their music through years of playing in garages and clubs around their hometown. Steely Dan never subscribed to that aesthetic. As the vehicle for the songwriting of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan defied all rock & roll conventions. Becker and Fagen never truly enjoyed rock -- with their ironic humor and cryptic lyrics, their eclectic body of work shows some debt to Bob Dylan -- preferring jazz, traditional pop, blues, and...
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