1980’s “Gaucho” was Steely Dan’s final album before embarking on their 20-year sabbatical from recording together again.
For Gaucho, Fagen, Becker and their long-time producer Gary Katz employed their usual all-star lineup of musicians, among them singers Patti Austin, Michael McDonald and Valerie Simpson; guitarists Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton, Rick Derringer and Steve Khan; horn players Michael and Randy Brecker, David Sanborn and Tom Scott; pianist Joe Sample, and drummers Steve Gadd, Rick Marotta, Jeff Porcaro and Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. The result was a pop-jazz album worthy of its illustrious predecessor, Aja.
The recording of “Gaucho” was long & laborious, and one particularly treasured song, “The Second Arrangement,” was tragically lost, having been accidentally erased by a careless engineer. That Becker & Fagen finally finished the album despite all of the behind-the-scenes problems must be considered a great miracle. Just seven tracks long, “Gaucho” is easily the lightest, most laid-back album in Steely Dan’s catalog, but that certainly doesn’t make it bad. It’s a wonderful, handsome disc, filled with the fine quality jazz/pop & production skills that the Dan are famous for.
“Babylon Sisters” is a fine, slow & steady shuffler. “Hey Nineteen,” the big hit from the album, is a bouncy, sparkly tune, and “Glamour Profession” is very groovy. The title song is more laid-back, but has marvelous melody to it. “Time Out Of Mind,” the closest Steely Dan get to “rocking out” on this album, is a terrific toe-tapper, and arguably the best tune from the album. “My Rival” is a cool smooth-groover, and the finale, “Third World Man,” with it’s feeling of calm, is a tranquil, peaceful gem for Walt & Don to exit with. Thankfully, “Gaucho” was NOT the last we’d ever see from Steely Dan.
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