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Steely Dan

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Steely Dan Gaucho album cover
3.71 | 209 ratings | 21 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Babylon Sisters (5:49)
2. Hey Nineteen (5:06)
3. Glamour Profession (7:28)
4. Gaucho (Becker, Fagen, Keith Jarrett) (5:30)
5. Time Out of Mind (4:11)
6. My Rival (4:30)
7. Third World Man (5:18)

Total Time 37:52

Line-up / Musicians

- Donald Fagen / lead vocals, synthesizer & electric piano (2-6)
- Walter Becker / bass & guitar (2,4,5)

- Steve Khan / electric guitar (1,3,4,6,7), acoustic guitar (7)
- Hugh McCracken / guitar (2,5)
- Mark Knopfler / lead guitar (5)
- Hiram Bullock / guitar (6)
- Rick Derringer / guitar (6)
- Larry Carlton / lead guitar (7)
- Don Grolnick / electric piano & clavinet (1)
- Rob Mounsey / piano (3-5), synthesizer (7), horns arrangements (1,5)
- Patrick Rebillot / electric piano (6)
- Joe Sample / electric piano (7)
- Tom Scott / clarinet (1), alto saxophone (1), tenor saxophone (1,3,4,6), horns arrangements (3,4,6), lyricon (3,6)
- Randy Brecker / trumpet (1,4,5), flugelhorn (1,6)
- Walter Kane / bass clarinet (1)
- George Marge / bass clarinet (1)
- Michael Brecker / tenor saxophone (3,5,6), vocals
- David Tofani / tenor saxophone (5)
- Ronnie Cuber / baritone saxophone (5)
- David Sanborn / alto saxophone (5)
- Wayne Andre / trombone (6)
- Chuck Rainey / bass (1,7)
- Anthony Jackson / bass (3,6)
- Bernard Pretty Purdie / drums (1)
- Rick Marotta / drums (2,5)
- Steve Gadd / drums (3,6,7), percussion (2)
- Jeff Porcaro / drums (4)
- Crusher Bennett / percussion (1,4)
- Victor Feldman / percussion (2)
- Ralph MacDonald / percussion (3,6)
- Nicky Marrero / timbales (6)
- Diva Gray / backing vocals (1)
- Toni Wine / backing vocals (1)
- Gordon Grody / backing vocals (1)
- Lani Groves / backing vocals (1)
- Leslie Miller / backing vocals (1,3-5)
- Patti Austin / backing vocals (1,4,5)
- Zachary Sanders / backing vocals (2,3,6)
- Frank Floyd / backing vocals (2,3,6)
- Valerie Simpson / backing vocals (3-6)
- Michael McDonald / backing vocals (5)

Releases information

Artwork: Suzanne Walsh (design & art direction) with René Burri (photo)

LP MCA Records ‎- MCA-6102 (1980, US)

CD MCA Records - MCAD 37220 (1984, US)
CD Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab - UDCD 545 (1991, US) Remaster by Roger Nichols
CD MCA Records ‎- 088 112 055-2 (2000, US) Remaster as above

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy STEELY DAN Gaucho Music

STEELY DAN Gaucho ratings distribution

(209 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

STEELY DAN Gaucho reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by JLocke
4 stars GAUCHO

This album is almost as good as Aja in some respects, yet still doesn't quite capture the same energy. If you thought Aja was Jazz influenced, then get ready for an even bigger reason why Jazz enthusiests adore them just as much as we do. Why SD aren't in Jazz-Rock currently is quite beyond me.

Parts of the album, such as the first track, 'Babylon Sisters', really feels just like its predecessor, but there is enough diversity here from the last venture to make the experience worthy of checking out. It certainly isn't an Aja clone in the least. It just continues waht Aja started for the band; going even further into Jazz-Rock/Fusion territory. When compared to the band's debute release, it's hard to believe that the same two men still came up with the music. While entire line-ups of the band proper have revolved and changed for years, the founding members were still here at this point, so the magic is still there, unbelievably. I credit it to the fact that the band never repeated themselves, that is to say, never do you hear two Steely Dan albums that sound exactly alike. That is a true testamate to the creativity present here.

So, getting on with the review proper:

''Babylon Sisters'' - As I initially stated, this song is very reminiscent of Aja, but it still stays fresh and new, so no worries. The chorus is rather short, but very catchy, almost in the same vein as ''Do It Again'' from year one. It is also subsequently my favorite song on the record.

''Hey Nineteen'' Is a nice little diddy that puts a smile to my face often. It's much bluesier I feel than anything previous from the band, but also a bit twangy with a slight southern vibe in the tune. Very nice to listen to, though. No complaints at all. There is really nothing all that special about it, but it never bores me, which is always good.

''Glamour Profession'' The piano work really works alongside of the repetetive guitar riffing. The players' touches on their respective instruments here are very light and gentle. The horns help flesh out the atmosphere as well. Again, as on the last album, Steely Dan never has to force or over-play anything. They effortlessly convey the exact emotions they want us to feel and the exact philosophies they wish us to grasp. The lyrical and melodical marriage in the band is truly amazing.

The title track features a birghtness that never really recapitulates anywhere, so it is unique in that it feels different from all the other tracks on the record. It's a beautiful song, but unfortunately the radically different feel of this particular track causes the album to feel a bit disjointed, and this song specifically to feel out of place with the rest.

''Time Out of Mind'' Is my second-favorite song on the album, because it makes me think of old fifties swing music, and something about that vibe just gets me emotionally high. I wasn't even around then, but I feel as if I think I could have felt had I lived back in those days. The guitar playing here is very technical and impressive, but never frilly. This is something Steely Dan has always been great as. The obscure solo around the 02:11 mark is the highlight of the track, and really shows off the band's capabilities as a complete unit.

''My Rival'' Is a very bass-heavy, dingy song that reminds me more of the shady side of town than the high nightlife of a past era, but nonetheless I enjoy it.

''Third World Man'' is the album's final song. Very beautiful, this track. The harmonies and lyrics are especially powerfull, and even brings a tear to my eye depending on how my day happens to be going at that present time. Steely Dan's music I feel if often misunderstood as merely 'good rock', but honestly, I am truly glad that they have been included on Prog Archives, because we need more Jazz- Rock bands of note to draw even more fans in. No, they may not be british, and quite possibly didn't even know what the Prog movement was all about at the time, but that doesn't make them 'un-prog' in my eyes. What they did with their music was truly revolutionary, and alot of the fusion that they created had never been done before. If that isn't progressive, then I don't know what is.

Not quite as good as it's predecessor, but still an excellent addition to any prog rock fan's collection. Four stars should do it.

Happy Listening.

Review by progrules
4 stars By the time Gaucho was released everybody was already used to jazzy SD for a long time because that cautiously started on their 4th album or maybe even on Pretzel Logic for a bit.

But the real jazz break through for the Dan was of course on this 7th release Gaucho, easily the most jazzy album in their discography. I mean the first two songs say it all for that matter. Babylon Sister and Hey Nineteen are by the way also incredibly high standard songs where sheer quality and beauty are concerned. This also goes for the title track by the way and that sums up the highlights for me but on the other hand the rest of the songs are very good too so that makes this album a strong contender for 2nd best by this band (after Aja of course) but it has a strong rival in The Royal Scam for that position. It's a tough call really.

But whatever, it's a clear case of 4 stars for me and even a shade higher (4,2).

Song by song ratings: 1.Babylon sisters 4,2* 2. Hey Nineteen 4,4* 3. Glamour profession 4,2* 4. Gaucho 4,4* 5. Time out of mind 3,9* 6. My rival 4* 7. Third world man 4,1*

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This would have to be Steely Dan at their utmost peak creatively speaking. There were rumours of burn out and friction by the time this was released, and how many times has friction contributed to the betterment of studio material? You can rattle off many albums in as many hours through numerous bands over the years. Steely Dan had moved further away from their progressive leanings especially as in Aja the previous album, to even more jazz influenced rock. Smoothe, slick and sophisticated jazz rock and Gaucho was an epic way to enter the decade of the 80's. The band then went onto the back burner for the best part of about eighteen years.' Babylon Sisters' epitomises everything that Steely Dan had become. Intelligent, lush, silky sounding lyrics, complex musical time pitches, great storming vocals taking a stab at fame and vanity? Lyrics like Drive West on sunset to the sea, turn that jungle music down, just until wer'e out of town, this is no one night stand, it's a real occassion..... Read into it what you will, the song is musically rich with horn sections, sax, clarinet and some great keyboard work from Don Groinick. Interestingly both Fagen and Becker sat behind the controls for this one orchestrating their perfect piece. Hey Nineteen, yes probably the most commercial song they ever released, but hey if any band ever wanted to do a hit properly this would be the way to do it! The duo returning to the bass and piano/synths respectively. The song is full of tangible nostalgia. ' Glamour Profession' is another fine example of musical completeness, Steve Gadd providing some solid drumming. The title track is up next and continues to set the trend for lush vocals, smooth jazz influenced rock, in a kind of slow jam laid back sort of way. Lyrically again so clever. Mark Knopfler does a great solo on the epic ' Time Out Of Mind'. 'My Rival' and then the closing ' Third World Man' ends the album on a high, not exactly upbeat but a strong song that slowly ebbs and fades with also some great guitar work from Larry Carlton. Overall a stunning masterpiece from Steely Dan. They had definitely reached their peak with this effort and subsequently went on a long hiatus. Donald Fagen added two solos to his name and Walter Becker, one, before their return in 2000 with Two Against Nature. Notably also Walter Becker produced a brilliant album by China Crisis called Flaunt The Imperfection in 1985....Flaunt it, the Dan certainly did in 1980.
Review by Chicapah
3 stars If "Aja" was the ultimate congruent cast party for Steely Dan (an opinion I heartily endorse) then "Gaucho" was the inevitable hangover. Now, Dan fans, don't overreact to that weak metaphor, it's still a good album. They didn't make bad ones. Donald Fagen, Walter Becker and producer Gary Katz had released six long-playing records before this one and there's not a runt in the litter. But I think they realized that the near-perfect "Aja" project was a rare alignment of cosmic forces where the graces of the session Gods shined down on them, never to be simulated, imitated or duplicated in their lifetimes. Therefore a complete change of attitude and set design was the only way to avoid unfavorable comparisons to that crowning achievement. Taking a whole year off was a well-deserved vacation from the claustrophobic confines of the studio for all involved. But fickle lady luck moved on in their absence. An unfathomable tape erasure disaster, an ugly lawsuit with its requisite posse of conniving lawyers, poor Walt's disabling misadventure involving a New York City cab and a high-stakes wheelin' & dealin' swap meet on the part of their label may have been either circumstantial cases of bad fortune or some evil conspiracy hell-bent on sucking all the air from their billowing sails. Or maybe they just lost their mojo. Whatever the reason, "Gaucho" didn't pack the usual progressive punch and, worst of all, it would be their last album for over 20 long years to come.

The subject matter of many of the songs coupled with the overwhelming mellowness of the sound leads me to suspect that Don & Walt turning 30 while making the album also played a major part. Those of you who haven't breached that gut-check hurdle might think it's just a number but we on the other side of that milestone can attest to the existence-reassessment and soul-searching that it induces in the victim. At least that's what happened to me and I think it happened to the duo called Steely Dan. I offer the excellent opening tune, "Babylon Sisters," as evidence. A sly Rhodes piano creeps up, then crisp horns jump in before the verse arrives with Bernard Purdie on drums and Chuck Rainey on bass laying down the kind of tight track only they can provide. Fagen relates a story about a successful man of wealth who has come face to face with middle age and refuses to surrender, opting to look for the fountain of youth in the company of much younger ladies. He ignores all the dire warnings. "My friends say no/don't go for that cotton candy/son, you're playing with fire/the kid will live and learn/as he watches his bridges burn/from the point of no return," Donald sings. The way the female chorale leaps up out of the silky smoothness adds a great dynamic to the number and what becomes apparent is that this album will rely on clever arrangements to keep the listener interested rather than virtuoso guest performances. While that tactic works well here I can't say the same for three of the remaining cuts.

And "Hey Nineteen" is the first of those three. I know the stinging Stratocaster note at the outset gives it instant recognition the world over and the catchy hook line is custom made to be a "classic" AOR single in heavy rotation forevermore but what it sorely lacks is even a molecule of excitement. And, for a progger, that makes for a long five minutes. In the past they would have filled its wide-open musical spaces with a thrilling guitar ride or a sizzling saxophone solo but when the opportunity presents itself on this track absolutely nothing happens. Nada. Zip. Lyrically it offers more of the opening saga. Our macho man has acquired/bought his barely-legal trophy bombshell to keep him virile and make him the envy of his peer group but finds that, when not indulging in "the Cuervo Gold" and "the fine Columbian" in order to "make tonight a wonderful thing," he can't carry on a conversation with or come within a time zone of relating to his Barbie doll. His life has become as lacking in substance as the elevator music generated in this too-commercial ditty.

In 1980 disco was finally on its way out after becoming the obnoxious relative that grossly overstayed his welcome but you wouldn't know it by listening to "Glamour Profession." It's hard to believe that the same Steve Gadd who wowed us with his phenomenal drumming on "Aja" is relegated to demeaning single-stroke bass and snare work for 7:28 on this tune. He might as well be a cheap drum machine! The song itself isn't a total wash, though. The lush mix of keyboards is full and fat, the chord changes are nice and various guitars and saxes pop in and out along the way but it's still too predictable. Even the words describing how the late 70s cocaine culture had infiltrated all aspects of life, including professional sports, seem forced and contrived. "Living hard will take its toll," the chorus girls sing. Do tell. Maybe this ill-defined dance number was itself a casualty of their own, openly admitted "illegal fun under the sun."

Just when things are teetering on the verge of getting dull, Tom Scott's hot saxophone resurrects the mood as he ushers in the album's namesake and best song, "Gaucho." The intricate melody and drummer Jeff Porcaro's soft but intriguing accents playing around the beat is like a breath of fresh air at this point. The super-sized chorus is fantastic and the bright horn section poses a striking contrast to the tune's underlying velvety sheen. The lyrics may seem to be mocking the gay lifestyle at first hearing but they are nothing less than an overview of an awkward situation inside a shallow, open relationship founded solely on sexual preference and freedom. In this instance the protagonist's partner has brought home an unwanted guest. "Who is the gaucho, amigo?/why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho?/and your elevator shoes?/bodacious cowboys such as your friend/will never be welcome here/high in the Custerdome." he complains. The intelligent Steely Dan wit is on display here, of course, but the palpable sense of a heartbreak looming in the tale's unrevealed but inevitable ending is poetic and melancholy.

"Time Out of Mind" follows and here guest guitarist Mark Knopfler adds his eloquent fretboard passages to this upbeat, straightforward rocker but it's the dense vocal harmonies that provide the true dynamics. They jump right out of the speakers and credit for that enthralling effect goes to the expert engineering of Roger Nichols. The tune's words continue the story of Mr. Denial as he testifies about the age-defying benefits and euphoria-producing qualities found in modern pharmaceuticals and narcotics. "Tonight when I chase the dragon/the water will change to cherry wine/and the silver will turn to gold/time out of mind." he preaches. While we all know exactly where his race down the fast lane will land him eventually, his unabashed joy of living in the moment is infectious and propels this track forward like a rollercoaster ride.

The album's third uninspired number, "My Rival," is next and its presence here is inexplicable to me. Surely they had better material. It has a plodding, lazy feel that never gets comfortable as the song just lumbers along like a Lamborghini on cruise control in a school zone. If it weren't for Steve Kahn's lively guitar ride it could put you in a coma. Even the entertainment factor normally found in the wordplay is absent and unaccounted for. Donald portrays a fellow out to challenge another male for the hand of a maiden but the most he can boast of doing to the man is matching him "whim for whim." I'm glad they didn't end their first career as Steely Dan with this snoozer.

Instead, they wisely exited on a prog note with the mysterious, flowing atmosphere of "Third World Man." The song has a cavernous depth-of-field that pulls you into the hypnotic spell cast by the rhythm section of Gadd & Rainey, the electric piano of Joe Sample and the awesome guitarisms of Larry Carlton. It's unlike anything else on the disc. While the lyrics are rather cryptic, they describe an unstable dude that has gone underground as a one-man army, determined to make "the sidewalks safe for the little guy." The hints are there. "Johnny's playroom/is a bunker filled with sand" and "he's been mobilized since dawn/now he's crouching on the lawn," Fagen observes. Little did we know at the time, but as the tune slowly fades away into the darkness, Donald and Walter were also disappearing over the horizon, not to be heard together again for two decades.

The first track recorded for this album was one they were extremely proud of called "The Second Arrangement." It was accidentally erased. For Fagen & Becker it was as if one of their offspring had suddenly died and I'm not sure they ever got over that tragedy. All I know is that "Gaucho," while admirable in a laid-back Prozac kind of way, pales when placed beside the three albums that preceded it and I think the creators knew it. The magic was gone and maybe that was just as well. Because as soon as Don and Walt left the platform the prog-killing virus that was MTV quickly spread and infected the entire musical world and Steely Dan would have had to go into quarantine. Despite being a step back, this collection of tunes didn't tarnish their sterling reputation a bit and there are times when its sleek, contemporary mood is just right for me to recall what it felt like to turn thirty and wave farewell to my wild, uncomplicated youth. 3.4 stars.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars Gaucho could be a metaphor for the closing of a decade full of illusions (and their inevitable disillusions), and it's got definitely a downbeat to it, as if the party was over and the hangover was settling in after a short night sleep (almost three years). Having really been exposed to sD since AJA and being only 14 at the times, I had cast-off Aja as Adult Oriented Rock and with the same reasoning Gaucho a few years later and the whole of SD's oeuvre I hadn't discovered, I passed by this album royally worried with so many other more exciting music. Falling regularly on articles acclaiming SD's music in the late 90's, I went back to the library system and rented a few albums, and gradually started warming to it, but still today, I can't help thinking of finely-crafted AOR done by ultra industry professionals, and throughout the group/project's history, only Royal Scam really appears to have a bit of real RnR rebellion, the rest of their albums sticking too closely to radio-friendly FM stations with those McDonald choruses (I still have problem with those), so Gaucho seems like a quiet jazzy- goodbye to an industry that they served

If the album starts strong enough with a typical (and slightly reggae-ish) SD track, Babylon Sisters, probably the rockier track on the album, yet so suave and full of brass and studio artefacts, that the rock is almost faded out. Hey Nineteen could be a Dire Strait or JJ Cale track (from their debut album) if you make abstraction of the soooo-typical Dan-esque vocals and even has a bit of a disco beat. The album-longest track, Glamour Profession has a latter Oblivion Express feel, but again relies on disco tricks, here the awful binary rhythm, although a good pedestrian bass buys back some of the credit lost on drums

The flipside opens on the title track, which personally I really don't like, courtesy to those overly-sweet chorus vocals acting out as confession and trampling the rest of the track to bits & pieces. The binary disco beat comes back with Time Out Of Mind and are so annoying that you'd forget Dire Strait's Mark Knopfler's guitar interventions and overshadow the fine arrangements. But SD is nearing its end and it's quite obvious when listening to the lazy and uninspired My Rival, with little to stop from yawning away if the good guitar solo, while the closing Third World Man is a fitting goodbye track to their fans, but I find their mellow tones to be some sort of hiding scheme to their lack of inspiration aqs the end of the road had been reached.

With Gaucho, ends SD's supposedly perfect trilogy, and somehow it is an excellent one, but it signals the end of their collaboration under the SD tag (Becker & Fagen would often cross path in the 80's) until their revival in the 90's, which I have yet to investigate, and quite frankly, am a bit wary of discovering. So it's at the top of their game, but at the top of their disillusions as well, that Gaucho was made: literally spotless, but lacking the spark and humour of The Royal Scam, but it's likely to please most SD fans.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gaucho is the seventh studio album from Steely Dan and their last album before they disbanded. It had been a three year period between their last album Aja ( 1977) and Gaucho which was a bit unusual because Steely Dan had released albums every year between 1972 and 1977.

The music is business as usual which means that itīs jazzy and laid back pop/ rock. Itīs very commercial music but still sophisticated enough to slightly interest me. Gaucho is not as inspired as either The Royal Scam ( 1976) or Aja ( 1977) and for me it falls under the same catagory as the debut, Pretzel Logic and Katy Lied. This means that Gaucho is highly professional and polished jazzy pop/ rock but also a bit forgettable really.

The musicianship is excellent. As always weīre treated with great performances from all involved.

The production is excellent as usual.

Gaucho is one of the weaker Steely Dan albums, and if I should chose the albums from their first period that I find most interesting that would be Countdown to Ecstacy, The Royal Scam and Aja. Gaucho still deserves a small 3 star rating though. I canīt give music this professional less even though I donīt listen to this album regularly and probably wonīt in the future.

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Dan pinnacle, part 3: Understated slow burn

"Living hard will take its toll"

Aja was huge and the Dan were a success, big time success. The analogy that Gaucho is the hangover from Aja's party may be a weak one but it seems to work. For as good as the album is, with all of the quality playing and extreme polish, Gaucho sounds like the work of a less-inspired Dan than the previous two albums. In the extensive liner notes of the re-issue, buried within a wild and lengthy story of an adventure had by our heroes, they mention that the making of Gaucho was a bit painful and the resulting album "somewhat problematic." The album epitomizes the "smooth" sound of Steely Dan's later albums, beautifully constructed, oozing class, and without the bite of earlier albums. It's an album that will no doubt divide some fans with the over-polished approach and mellower vibe. "Babylon Sisters" and "Hey Nineteen" are the two radio-played tracks and are closest to the previous Aja vibe, having a bit of a funky pulse and some punch. The sound is very crisp and rich for the time, in fact Gaucho is an album I will use to test speakers because the sound is so refined and clear. After "Hey Nineteen" a different mood settles in to the balance of the album. I almost see these last 5 tracks as one long piece, the "Gaucho suite" if you will. Extraordinarily nuanced, sophisticated, deliberate, nothing left to chance. The tracks move along with relatively static beats creating a hypnotic effect, slowing down your heart rate, where you can be injected with the overly mature horn and guitar solos that come and go. The playing is first rate of course and across the board seems lighter on the touch, whereas Royal Scam projected some muscle in the sound, Gaucho feels like the inside of a china shop. All the time Fagen's vocal remains present for the storytelling, punctuated again by the perfect female backing vocals. It seems the desire here is to leave immediacy behind and let everything stretch out: for some listeners this will be an approach that bores and for others it will be right up their alley. It's a more subtle approach at the least. I would rate the album in the middle of the Dan pack in overall success. It certainly solidifies yet another side of this unique, classic American songwriting duo. Recommended to jazz-loving rock fans though not where a newbie should start. With Steely Dan as with many groups, start at the beginning and enjoy the various transformations.

Review by Isa
2 stars |D+| A pretty disappointing follow up to the wonderful Aja.

Steely Dan is a great band that I've been getting into quite a bit the past couple years, and I bought this album around the Christmas before last after falling in love with Aja, for this was the follow up album, and I had heard from others that this was one of the duo's best works. To this day I still just can't really get into it nearly the same way, and I've listened to it plenty of times, enough I think to make a fair judgment on the album's quality, which is pretty much in the average department. As with many pure pop albums, this album has a couple good hits to start of, and the rest is very filler sounding material to me.

In this album, versus many of the band's previous albums, Steely Dan seems to blend the jazz, pop, funk, and synth-ish prog rock flavors of their music less effectively. It seems like I'm always hearing one or two of those combined, rather than a cohesive combination of all at once as it was in previous albums. It's like putting food in a blender and not finishing the job, getting a chunkier, less tasteful result. The horn arrangements are very good (and what caliber of musicians; we even have the Brecker Brothers!!!), one of the better qualities of the album, but serves to compliment the music less effectively. Same with the keyboard arrangements, which are the prominent component of the proggy flavor of most of their music overall.

There are some additional things that the duo used to make the music different from the previous album, none of which I'm too fond of. There is much more use of the high pitched female vocals than ever before, which gets a bit irritating in some tracks where they clearly weren't needed and do little to enhance the music. Also Fagon's voice has a more nasally tone to it, which I also find slightly irritating, though that's a relatively minor flaw. Another thing: just look at the huge number of musicians on this album. I think the band got overboard with it and so focused with this that they forgot some of the things with the composition itself.

But what mainly bogs the album down, in my opinion, is the shear amount of what sounds to me like filler. The only songs really worth hearing (and they're quite excellent) are pop-rock standards Babylon Sisters and Hey Nineteen, as well as the proggier and jazzier Gaucho, probably my favorite track on the album. Everything else is pretty much mediocre at best or very below par (the last two tracks would have just been better never thought of and put on paper, let alone on a Steely Dan album). Glamor Profession was way too drawn out for the musical ideas it presented, which weren't necessarily bad ideas, just mediocre. Time Out of Mind is pretty average as well.

I would only really recommend this album to Steely Dan fans or collectors of what has been dubbed crossover prog. Really, the band's classics can be found on a good compilation anyways, and other than the track Gaucho, everything else can be pretty much ignored.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I think people, who thinks that "Gaucho"is pop-rock (or soft-rock) album in jazzy clothes are absolutely right. Formally looking, almost all SD music is pop-rock/soft-rock.

I think the matter is that "jazzy clothes". How many musicians , capable to wear that "jazzy clothes"on their pop-rock body you know? I am sure-not too much.

So, I am not going to say you, that SD are experimentalists, or that they bring new blood into prog. No way. To be honest, I even don't think they are prog group, even in wide sense.

Their fantastic arrangements, highest quality sound is their arms. Looking from that point of view, "Gaucho" is more or less regular SD album. Missing the magic of "Aja", it is still unbeatable in arrangements, list of musicians, sound quality.

Looking from emotional point, it isn't as warm, as " Aja". Best description will be it is a shadow album of "Aja", using same ideas, same techiques, even very similar list of musician. So, clothes are at similar level. Just musical body by itself isn't as good, as previous one. More jazzy sound because of jazzy sounds, not because of music.

From another hand, it still very capable album, one of SD regular product of highest quality. So, if you are new for group's music, and want just to test, what they are in their best - take "Aja". If you know them from another albums, and you like their music, you will find something similar there as well.

Review by Matthew T
4 stars It was 1980 and my girlfriend at the time was sitting right up next to me on the old Holden ( HT model) bench seat and what comes on the radio but Steely Dan singing Hey Nineteen the single off their new album Gaucho.I was horrified not because they were on the radio but for me then when I was 21 I thought what happened. Gone was any thing that resembled the bands music form early days and I thought this is too slick for its own good but over time I have grown to actually love the album but back then I said "see ya later" to the Dan and could someone please put on Bruce Springsteen in the car cassette.

Around the late nineties I actually purchased the album primarily it was in the bargain bin and even though I disliked the single and Babylon Sister there must be a couple of good tracks,it is Steely Dan. Well you betcha there was and that was called Gaucho once again the tilte track grabbed a hold of me and that was that, they were back and for me in the entirety. They had a dispute over the song writing of the tune and the album was plagued with Personal problems and Techinical as well. One completed track was practically erased by mistake and was dumped. Donald Fagen was not happy.

As you may have read my feelings on the first two tracks well I have grown to like them since and both really set the feeling for this album with funk influence but the 4th track Gaucho is maybe their best song, writing dispute or not that the Dan ever did. Glamour Profession is one great number as well Mark Knopfler makes an appearance in the following track Time Out of Mind and the core of the album seems to be within these three tracks.

With a cast of Jazz musicians and anybody else who worked in session music Steely Dan did it again but It was a long time coming for me.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Can a band get too glitzy?--it's music over textured, over-produced, too layered. I would argue that with 1980's Gaucho Steely Dan fell into this trap. After the world-wide adored Aja, the band had resources and swag. The album opens with three great songs--three of the band's best songs--but then takes a dive from there. Yes, listening to Side One brings back such an intensely strong feeling of nostalgia. What a year, what an era. Could life ever be better . . . . As to why Side Two never seemed to match up to the level of Aja or Side One, I think it was the jazzy, less-pop or dance nature of these songs. All three songs on Side One--"Babylon Sisters," "Hey Nineteen," and "A Glamour Profession"--were dance floor favorites--even among women. Even the Mark Knofler-manned, piano paced minor hit, "Time Out of Mind" suffers from a little too much dullness and monotony. Sound production and precision engineering has never been better than this, but the music just misses a little.
Review by admireArt
5 stars Now! Clearly this is not exactly Prog type of music, although tagging is a way of keeping off some unwanted material it also limits or allows bizarre criteria to measure the borders. Steely Dan as such never cared about sticking to a genre-style " nuisance" . They play what they like and feel and their sources are exactly like that from Brubeck, Phil Woods to "priestess" Aretha, and al that falls in between.

So yes!, This is Jazz anyway it goes. Fusion, Alternative, Modern ( choose your favourite tag, they are for free!) but letīs set it clearly, Steely Dan sounds like Steely Dan, and this album itself is both, their Waterloo and Wellington.

The pinnacle of stylistic self-evolution, stripped to basics without losing a single drop of inspiration by each and every member of their gigantic recording band.

Of course Waterloo because as most musicians in PA, they havenīt been able to come close again to their self-impossed astounding "peak".

Great compositions performed to perfection and a flawless recording studio- session. By the way, this record has its own cruent story of horror-like management deals, disputes and lost or "stolen" material. The now famous (and un-official) but highly recommendable: "The Lost Gaucho" , which strangely enough has some great songs which were not repeated in this "original" one.

So relax, this is the kind of music that will take you into musical perfection, without musical pretentions. Moreover with the always sardonic humor of Donald Fagenīs pen-written aliases and creatures.

So, if "Canīt buy a Thrill" promised the making of a legendary band and "AJA" their fansī fav album, to me Gaucho is their climax of perfection, The Dan kind, of course!!

A "Masterpiece"! Anyway you look into this phenomenal production.

*****5 PA Stars!

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Highlighting the decadence of Los Angeles in the late 1970s, Steely Dan showcases some of their finest work in Gaucho. Speaking of profligacy, check out the lineup- simply massive, and some big names on the list too: Michael McDonald, Jeff Porcaro, Rick Derringer, and Mark Knopfler. Gaucho is a must for lovers of jazz-infused pop featuring well-crafted, sly lyrics.

'Babylon Sisters' With a clever chord progression and one of the smoothest sounds on the West, er, East coast, 'Babylon Sisters' has suave, sexually indulgent verses reflecting on extravagance and borderline illicit relationships. The refrain comes in quick, sudden bursts of brass and female vocalists. Even that opening verse, 'Drive west on Sunset to the sea,' paints an image smelling of West coast luxury and the sleek depravity to be had there. This, like the song that follows it, is one of my favorite Steely Dan songs.

'Hey Nineteen' Continuing on the theme of younger women and reckless pleasure, 'Hey Nineteen' is another hit by Steely Dan and a damn smooth song. Twanging guitar, pops of electric piano and a mildly rhythm backing it all up makes this song about as wonderful a thing as the Cuervo gold and the fine Columbian.

'Glamour Profession' Turning up the disco, this lengthier song maintains a funkier groove and has a mighty fine piano passage.

'Gaucho' An easygoing, laidback jazz rock tune, the title track juxtaposes smooth verses with a more erratic refrains.

'Time Out of Mind' Boasting the lead guitar talent of Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, 'Time Out of Mind' has a spurting rhythm that punches along.

'My Rival' Keeping a straightforward, somewhat punchy rhythmic backdrop, this song adds another dimension to the sound by bringing the organ and the synthesizer to foreground. The guitar solo is satisfying, working its magic over the silky brass section.

'Third World Man' Uncharacteristically dark and leisurely for Gaucho, the album's closer has a growing intensity and feel similar to 'Babylon Sisters.' The guitar solo on this piece is the best one to be found in this septet of sumptuous jazz rock songs. 'Third World Man' is one of Steely Dan's finest unsung gems.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars 3.5 stars really

Gaucho saw the light in 1980 after some 3 years silence. A return to form I might say, after the most unintresting Steely Dan album ever to me Aja. On this album is one of the best and most intresting pieces band ever made both musicaly and lyricaly - Glamour Profession, this tune kick ass, really I love it big time. The rhythm section and the vocal passages are fantastic, definetly the best from the album. Gaucho is another smooth jazz pop rock album , that brings nothing new in their sound, but they still provide good music and most of the time quite enjoyble. Baylon sisters is snother highligh that goes very well here showing that Fagen and Walter Becker are still on the baricades. An entertaining album, not as slick and polished as Aja, and for that I do considered this one better and among their best albums for sure and aswell an end to an era Fagen pursued a critically successful solo career and Becker becoming a producer. Steely Dan disbanded in 1981 untill they reformed in mid '90s for two more albums since then.. 3.5 stars easy.

Review by Necrotica
4 stars If I had to point to the single biggest double-edged sword that blessed and cursed Steely Dan in equal measure, it would definitely be perfectionism. After all, there is such a concept as "too perfect" in the ears of many, whether it be from overly glossy production or from musicians who sound just a bit too precise (in other words, stiff or robotic). As someone who mostly grew up as a progressive rock fanatic, I will admit that the concept of perfectionism was initially quite a tantalizing one. It was even to the point that I actively refused to listen to live records for the longest time, so as to avoid hearing the inconsistencies and blemishes in people's performances. But a little spontaneity can be a good thing, even in more complex or sophisticated genres; if an artist's work sounds more rehearsed than usual, listeners might start to pick up on a layer of artifice that ends up turning them off.

But for Steely Dan, perfectionism ended up becoming their defining trait. And let's be real here: there were definitely signs of this that started to appear over time. Hell, the first indicator appeared all the way back on their 1972 debut Can't Buy a Thrill, which the duo considered a "rush job" despite taking six months to write and record. And by the time we got to Aja they were - according to the album's 1999 documentary on Classic Albums - not only playing musical chairs, but "musical bands". Every song would have a completely new lineup of musicians in order to fulfill the hyper-specific vision they had, and the personnel were often among the best of the best in the industry. It really makes me wonder if a group with Steely Dan's artistic philosophy and approach could even exist today; in retrospect, it's astounding that they even had such free reign to do this kind of thing. Of course, however, it definitely couldn't last. And the same stylistic traits that gave them a string of hits in the 70s would eventually destroy them at the dawn of the 80s.

Now, am I dramatizing this more than I should? Probably. But the retrospective opinion on Gaucho is quite different than how people perceived it at the time. Nowadays it's often cited as the last great Steely Dan record (which is highly debatable), but reviews at the time - while decent enough - were a serious step down from the praise that showered Aja just a few years prior. And I'm sure the stories going on behind the scenes weren't helping the duo's case, especially Becker's drug addiction and Fagen's ruthless attitude in the studio. I think most of us have heard the stories of the latter at this point: the title track's drum part being composed of 46 different takes that were spliced together, only 40 seconds of Mark Knopfler's literal hours of guitar solo takes being used for "Time Out of Mind", and the list goes on. So it's really not surprising at all that, while working with Steely Dan was a gig that could land you some serious accolades, the actual recording process must have been completely miserable.

The music itself is actually a bit of a departure from Aja, relying much more on atmosphere and minimalism than any of the duo's previous records. The arrangements are still complex, mind you, and songs such as the title track and "Babylon Sisters" go through some pretty crazy rhythm and chord changes (respectively) that'll make any old- school jazz fusion fan feel right at home. But I'd argue that Gaucho was the moment that Steely Dan's yacht rock transformation was truly complete, as the polish and gloss of Aja was pushed even further. It's hard to describe unless you've actually heard the record, but it's like the aural equivalent of what you might consider dead-eyed or vacant, which is likely the reason that so many people talk about the "uncanny valley" when describing the music. This is perhaps best represented in "Glamour Profession", a slightly uptempo number that has ominous horns perpetually ebbing and flowing in the background as Steve Gadd's repetitive drum beat keeps hammering away for the entire seven minutes of the track.

That's not to say the record sounds completely lifeless. In fact, the aforementioned title track is one of the most beautiful and well-arranged tunes I've ever heard from the duo, despite the incredibly bigoted and harsh lyrics that come with it. But considering this is Steely Dan, I'm pretty sure that contrast is exactly what they were going for. In fact, that brings up an important point about Gaucho: a lot of the band's trademark cynicism was back in full swing again. The thing that many people don't often talk about is that Aja was strangely sincere and earnest for a band who'd built themselves on being transgressive and cynical. But beneath the polished veneer of Gaucho's music, lyrics about drug dealings, hookers, and straight-up assholes emerge from the woodwork. As with many of the duo's previous records, this stuff is always welcome and adds to the twisted charm of their work; this is especially evident in "Time Out of Mind" and "Glamour Profession", which are completely transparent about their drug-based themes but also supported by the slickest-sounding jazz-rock imaginable.

Unfortunately, the one thing that really drags Gaucho down is its lack of variety compared to the last few records, especially Aja. Whereas the latter had a diverse range of styles - the funk and R&B of "Black Cow", the progressive jazz fusion of the title track, the upbeat pop of "Peg", etc. - the former rides on its midtempo grooves and simplistic melodies just a little too often. Once in a while they'll do something interesting over these beats, such as the fantastic horn interplay in the bridge of "My Rival", but it doesn't stop the album as a whole from being just a bit too homogeneous. It really could have benefitted from a few more "Babylon Sisters"-esque shuffles or more of the harmonic complexity of the title track.

Then again, considering how painful it was for the band to record that same title track, I think we should be grateful that we even got such a solid album in the first place. Gaucho is incredibly flawed, but that's ironically the strange allure of the record as well. There's something almost sickeningly voyeuristic about watching this duo fall apart and hearing the results of the fallout, but the trainwreck(ord) is just too compelling to ignore. Additionally, the benefit of hindsight really casts a melancholic shadow over Gaucho that no other Steely Dan record can boast. The emperor had no more clothes, and all that was left in his place was the death rattle of a band who'd taken their perfectionism and polish just a bit too far. Poetic irony indeed.

Latest members reviews

3 stars This was their troubled last album from the 'classic' period, which, unfortunately, has always left me a bit cold. There are some fine tracks here as well as their usual great production and musicianship throughout. But this one stretches their softer, slower smooth jazz focus to the limit, resultin ... (read more)

Report this review (#2874515) | Posted by BBKron | Wednesday, January 11, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After the release of Aja in 1977, Becker and Fagen took their first real break from recording albums and occupied their time with other projects. In 1978 alone, they wrote and recorded the theme song for the DJ movie "FM" (which starred Michael Brandon and Eileen Brennan and came and went in the the ... (read more)

Report this review (#1450035) | Posted by cfergmusic1 | Friday, August 7, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It is always hard for a group to follow up what is considered a "classic" album, and this is what Steely Dan had to accomplish after AJA. So, in, 1980, we have GAUCHO. As good as AJA? No, not really. But it is also NOT a bad album by any means. There is some really nice music contained here- " ... (read more)

Report this review (#440510) | Posted by mohaveman | Friday, April 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars What type of album is this 'Gaucho'? A Jazz POP/ AOR album. But not for this 'Gaucho' is a poor album. Certainly I believe this album different. At the end of my thoughtful listening my mind elaborates this sentence: 'Gaucho' is a mature album, played by great musicians, great album is 'Gaucho ... (read more)

Report this review (#220404) | Posted by 1967/ 1976 | Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Can't quite believe I am reviewing this album on PA.....hmm anyhow putting aside any question of classification, this is one of my absolute favourite albums and any opportunity to sing its praises is too hard to miss. It should be in any music lover's collection. Following Aja, this - the fin ... (read more)

Report this review (#181833) | Posted by Phil | Friday, September 5, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Steely Dan's Aja was such a stunning album it would obviously be hard to follow. But Gaucho was hardly a let down for fans. It was similar to Aja, but not the same. The songs and playing are great, though the mood is a bit darker. There's the obvious Becker and Fagen ability to take commonplace su ... (read more)

Report this review (#180828) | Posted by DocB | Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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