Reassessing Steely Dan's "Gaucho" (almost 37 years later)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by johnny 99, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    Clinical sounding, from the drumming corner. Too bad Wendel didn't suffer the same fate as Donald's ARP synth, circa 1973...stomped on and set on fire.
    ohnothimagen likes this.
  2. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    Thank you, that almost echoes my sentiments exactly. The songs are as good as ever, though. But the slickness and quest for perfection sucks a bit of life from the proceedings. They used some of the best drummers in the business and they're taking samples of their playing. That samey sound in the songs gets a tad bit tedious at times. 2years and only seven songs to show for it, is not the best. All this aside, I still enjoy the album
    ohnothimagen likes this.
  3. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Florida, Central
    To me, Aja and Gaucho are both very detached and slick. Gaucho is just another click detached and a few clicks too slick.

    That appeals to me at times, (with both) but very hard to feel any connection to what they are actually singing about, it just sounds like slick audiophile music in a way.
    Their older stuff, less slick but I can semi-relate to it, well as well as you can to anything Steely Dan.

    Love their music in a way, but just feel very distanced.
  4. zebop

    zebop Well Known Stranger

    Oh brother. The only person I can stand writitng like this is Robert Christgau and it's always more brief and less self serving.

    I like this review, it captures the album and in retrospect, the times as well.
  5. Malcolm Crowne

    Malcolm Crowne Forum Habitue

    Portland OR
    I remember absolutely LOVING it when Creem would run weird "reviews" like that. Of course nowadays I'm just lurking a thread waiting for the breakdown of which Gaucho songs are drum machine and which are real drummers...and I suppose it's on the credits but I honestly don't care quite enough. All I know is that is one good sounding piece of vinyl and when I want to know how good my stereo can sound I slap on Hey Nineteen....or even New Frontier!!!!!
  6. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen "Live music is better!"

    Jon, please repost these reviews in the album-by-album thread when the time comes.
    Well, there would have been eight songs, if the dumb tape-op hadn't accidentally wiped most of "The Second Arrangement". Mind ya, if it wasn't for that we never would have gotten "Third World Man" (which was a reworked Aja track)
    The only songs on Gaucho where the drum track wasn't manipulated by WENDEL are the title track, "Babylon Sisters" (I think) and "Third World Man". WENDEL comes through most obviously on "Hey Nineteen".
  7. Hoops

    Hoops Forum Resident

    Many years ago, I played in a Steely Dan tribute band. Mind you, I wasn’t a full-time member, but I filled in from time to time on one or the other of their two keyboard chairs. And at this time, I was still on the younger side, while the regulars in the band were older A-list pros, so it was sometimes kind of stressful.

    The title track from Gaucho was in the set, and after doing it with the band for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it plays. You would think from listening to it, with its angular phrasing, that it would require a lot of concentration, but it is so elegantly put-together and has such a relaxed and stately groove that it pretty much plays itself. Everything flows directly from the melody. It became my favorite tune to play, and a much-needed respite from worrying about negotiating the intro to Your Gold Teeth II, or copping the approximately eight gazillion different piano fills in Sign In Stranger!
  8. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    I still don't like this album. As a whole, it's not horrible. It just seems like throwaways from the Aja sessions. I don't like the pacing of the album in general. It just doesn't hold my attention like the rest of their albums do. Every other album has different vibe to it. Aja was a progression from Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied and The Royal Scam. And Gaucho was derivative and forced.
  9. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen "Live music is better!"

    As we will see once we get there in the album by album discussion, I think side one of Gaucho is one of their best (certainly one of my favourites, at least) whereas I can do without side two, other than "Time Out Of Mind", and even then it's a bit of a stretch.

    Given Walter Becker's limited involvement in the project -he is wholly absent from four of the seven songs- Gaucho seems to me almost like a dry run for The Nightfly in a lot of ways. It reminds me more of a Fagen solo album than a Steely Dan record.
    PIGGIES likes this.
  10. dance_hall_keeper

    dance_hall_keeper Forum Resident

    Of all of their efforts, this is my least-favoured.
    However, one of my all-time favourite tracks is:

    "Time Out of Mind" - Steely Dan, demo version.
    thestereofan likes this.
  11. johnod

    johnod Forum Resident

    I've always liked it, never really understood the bad rap it gets?

    I prefer it to AJA, blasphemy, I know.
    905, chrisblower, zebop and 1 other person like this.
  12. Nightswimmer

    Nightswimmer Forum Resident

    Well it is a rip-off of Aja with lesser songs and it rips off Keith Jarrett quite blatantly. This alone should give you pause.

    I guess they were really heavy into a "**** it all" phase and just did not care. It is not surprising that some people don't see that, but you should.

    Nevertheless, it is not horrible. That is a tribute to how great a band Steely Dan were.
    Nostaljack and ohnothimagen like this.
  13. bek0727

    bek0727 Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    My favorite SD record! If you're a piano player, this record has their most lush chords and arrangements, yet a lot of simple stuff too like "Hey Nineteen." Can't say enough great things about it. Not a bad song on it — and their best grooves. The Wendall stuff doesn't bother me at all because the guitar/bass/piano combo is doing so many interesting interlocking grooves. And the verses of "Babylon Sisters" is their smoothest, funkiest, most grooving track in my opinion.

    The bridge of "My Rival" is one of their best instrumental moments, and does anyone else notice the little nod to Bernard Herrmann's theme from "Taxi Driver" at 2:06? I'm talking about the slow sax solo at :56 in the "Taxi Driver" theme. That can't be a coincidence.

    And the lyrics throughout "Gaucho" are the guys' most story-focused. It's their second masterpiece if that's such a thing.
    eclecticfiend and zebop like this.
  14. Thanks sooooooooooooooo much for posting... the best fidelity/audio quality & most, one-stop, comprehensive collection of... from what I can tell, is the single richest source of as yet unreleased Steely Dan material out there!!

    I am hoping that the sad & untimely death of Walter Becker might eventually bring the silver lining of having Donald Fagen choose to empty the vaults & let Steely Dan fans hear everything they've been missing all these years. I'd guess there's certainly at at least a full album's worth of unreleased stuff... and they could potentially fill that out into a double album (with some creativity... including cover songs they've done over the year, thinking live versions, but studio stuff might be around too...)

    Regarding the released version of "Gaucho"... I just think it's a great album.... the only Steely Dan I like a bit less is "Everything Must Go" (great songs on a very good album, but not quite at the level of previous works maybe)... I think their catalog is varying degrees of greatness in lots of flavors... I will also grant that I might personally generally prefer both "Aja" and "The Nightfly", but not by much & I certainly think "Gaucho" is up there with those two (and anything else they ever recorded)...
    SonicBob likes this.
  15. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen "Live music is better!"

    I sorta get the impression that of the two Becker was more protective of their archive material but I don't see Fagen being willing to open up the vault now just because Walter is gone. If anything, I reckon he'd be even more reluctant. No, if we ever do see Steely Dan's archival material released it won't be until Becker and Fagen have met up again in the afterlife.
  16. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Folks didn't like disco back then.
    Giorgio Morodor used a drum machine for I Feel Love. A lot of snobbery involved in regards to disliking this album from a rock perspective. I personally like all their albums including this one.
    Jack Flannery likes this.
  17. freemanl

    freemanl Bass Lover

    Central New Jersey
    Why the constant derogatory term 'Slick' when referring to Steely Dan? What is slick exactly? Super-clean, Extremely well recorded Professional musicians giving incredible performances with tons of care and attention given to details and the mix?
    Or is it the type of music that makes it 'Slick'? Rock with detailed Jazz sensibilities that give it groove and interest. Or lyrics that are fun and thought provoking instead of standard Pop drivel?

    If so, count me in as a member of the 'Slick' club baby!
  18. strummer101

    strummer101 The insane on occasion aren't without their charms

    Lakewood OH
    Yeah. Great music is great music, be it rough and raw, or 'slick'.
    Gaucho is great music.
    linclink likes this.
  19. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen "Live music is better!"

    I don't think "slick" can really be applied to Steely Dan in a negative sense- simply based on their style of music, the quality of the songwriting and the performances, not to mention their general production aesthetic, slick sorta comes with the territory. And it's not a bad thing...I mean, would you really want to hear the Dan sounding sloppy ?
    DrBeatle likes this.
  20. maxwell2323

    maxwell2323 Forum Resident

    Just when I say...."Boy we can't miss are golden" ...then you do this ..

    (and now I am in my happy place)
    freemanl likes this.
  21. webmatador

    webmatador Friend Of The People

    Austin, TX, USA
    I've never hated Wendal more than when I listened to "Glamor Profession" just now. For me, GP has always been the least likable and most slippery beast on Gaucho. I love the chorus hook but I can't get over the gleaming automated drum sound of the whole song. I'd give anything to replace the track with "The Second Arrangement."
  22. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen "Live music is better!"

    No question, as great a recording engineer as Roger Nichols was, his inventing WENDEL would become a bane to Steely Dan. I would love to hear the Gaucho, Nightfly, Kamakiriad and 2VN tracks with the drums pre-WENDELized. As I've said before, if I was a drummer like Steve Gadd I would be mightily pissed off (not to mention insulted) if I heard what they did to my drumming after the fact.
    DrBeatle and webmatador like this.
  23. bigredheadone

    bigredheadone Active Member

    North Texas, USA
    I too was partial to Aja over Gaucho until I sat down and really gave Gaucho a chance. Now I think I prefer Gaucho just a tad more. But overall it is Steely Dan and both are superb.

    I have a question for you all. I purchased the Citizen Dan box set and there is a slight blip on CD 4 about 3/4 of the way through the song Gaucho. This upset me. So I was able to secure another copy of the same CD only to have this same imperfection occur during the same song. Again I buy a copy of the actual Gaucho CD and believe it or not there is the same blip on it as well. Every song on all three CD's play perfectly. It is only during Gaucho is there a problem. Has anyone else experienced this or am I the only one?
    SixOClockBoos likes this.
  24. Phil Tate

    Phil Tate Miss you Indy x

    South Shields
    What sort of blip? What exact time? Can't say I've ever noticed anything.
    905 likes this.
  25. California Couple

    California Couple dislike us on facebook

    Newport Beach
    From what I understand, that lawsuit between Fagen and Beckers backers has now grown to include Wendel. Yes, Wendel is suing for back wages.

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