Friday, 30 August 2019

Steely Dan - Gaucho (1980)

She don't remember the Queen of Soul....

  

Released on 21 November 1980

Running time 37.49

This, the last Steely Dan album for many a year, has always suffered as a supposed poor relation to its illustrious predecessor, Aja. While there is no doubt as to Aja's luminescence, I have always had a lot of time for Gaucho. There is some excellent material on it, for sure. The problem with Steely Dan albums is that they are all so good, that some get criticism they don't deserve, just for being maybe slightly inferior to another brilliant album.

TRACK LISTING

1. Babylon Sisters
2. Hey Nineteen
3. Glamour Profession
4. Gaucho
5. Time Out Of Mind
6. My Rival
7. Third World Man                                         

Babylon Sisters is a superbly evocative opener, with its lightly funky guitar underpinning it and an infectious backing vocal chorus part. It is a great piece of jazz rock perfection. Lovely saxophone and the usual perplexing lyrics enhance it even more.

Hey Nineteen is an instantly recognisable classic Steely Dan piece of music. It is a quirkily appealing number, with a commercial, breezily soulful ambience and a great harmonica solo too.

Glamour Profession has an easy, almost disco riff to it, together with that very late seventies/early eighties light orchestration to it. The lyrics appear to be about professional basketball and it is probably the only song ever to mention "Szechuan dumplings" in an aside lyric. There is also a sumptuous jazz guitar solo near the end. Quality stuff.


Gaucho has a delicious bass line and a lovely jazzy feel to it. Apparently the drum sound took 46 different takes to get it as they wanted it. Time Out Of Mind is a smooth, chugging number with drug references in its lyrics - "tonight when I chase the dragon....". Mark Knopfler guests on guitar, although you can't really hear him. His contribution was reduced to 40 seconds, I have read. Once more there is a jazzy vibe to it. All very slick and polished.

The same applies to the very pleasurable, gentle strains of My RivalThird World Man is a laid-back, appetising piece of smooth, late-night jazz rock. It is the sort of thing you hear played as a demonstration track in hi-fi shops. Despite that, the percussion is still a bit "sharp" for me. The song has a captivating atmosphere though.

Although Aja is more familiar to most people, this was a really good album and deserves to be listened to and enjoyed just as much. I really like it. Unfortunately, Walter Becker's increasing drug use drove a wedge between him and Donald Fagen for quite a while after this album's release. It would be twenty years before Steely Dan re-appeared.

B+

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