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In their review of Gaucho, Rolling Stone proclaims, “Steely Dan have perfected the aesthetic of the tease. Their sound is as slippery as their (lyrical) irony.”
Gaucho — the seventh studio album by Steely Dan, released in November 1980 — and Grammy-winner for Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording, was also nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
The sessions for Gaucho represented the band’s typical penchant for studio perfectionism and obsessive recording technique. To record the album, the band used at least 42 different musicians, spent over a year in the studio, and far exceeded the original monetary advance given by the record label.
During the two-year span in which the album was recorded, the band was plagued by a number of creative, personal and professional problems. MCA, Warner Bros. and Steely Dan had a three-way legal battle over the rights to release the album. After it was released, jazz musician Keith Jarrett was given a co-writing credit on the title track after threatening legal action over plagiarism of Jarrett’s song “‘Long As You Know You’re Living Yours.”
Gaucho marked a significant stylistic change for the band, introducing a more minimal, groove- and atmosphere-based format. The harmonically complex chord changes that were a distinctive mark of earlier Steely Dan songs are less prominent on Gaucho, with the record’s songs tending to revolve around a single rhythm or mood, although complex chord progressions were still present particularly in “Babylon Sisters” and “Glamour Profession.” Gauchoproved to be Steely Dan’s final studio album that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker would make together until the year 2000.
Gaucho reached No. 9 on the U.S. album chart and was certified platinum-selling. “Hey Nineteen” reached No. 10 on the U.S. Singles Chart and went to No. 1 in Canada. Pitchfork, in its review, describes the almost “pathologically overdetermined production” as elegant, arid and a little forbidding. “Every last tinkling chime sounds like it took 12 days to mix, because chances are, it did.” The New York Times deemed Gaucho the best album of 1980, beating out Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and Joy Division’s Closer.
Founded by core members Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards), Steely Dan’s popularity rose throughout the late 1970s on, and their seven albums throughout that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. Becker and Fagen, with producer Gary Katz, gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring session musicians to record their compositions. The duo didn’t perform live between 1974 and 1993. But their popularity nevertheless grew throughout the ’70s as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of Adult Oriented Radio and pop radio stations.
After a brief battle with esophageal cancer, Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017 at the age of 67. Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. VH1 ranked Steely Dan at No. 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Musical Artists of All Time. Rolling Stoneranked them No. 15 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
This stereo UHQR reissue will be limited to 15,000 copies, with gold foil individually numbered jackets, housed in a premium slipcase with a wooden dowel spine.
1. Babylon Sisters
2. Hey Nineteen
3. Glamour Profession
5. Time Out Of Mind
6. My Rival
7. Third World Man