Most helpful positive review
102 of 102 people found the following review helpful
"Who is that gaucho amigo?"
on January 20, 2006
"...and why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho and your elevator shoes?"
The absurdity of the lyrics--their audacious swagger--married to such righteous music can only be the work of one great band. Steely Dan doesn't rock. They don't necessarily do jazz. Their music is so unique it can only be described as "Steely Dan" music-- a trademark of quality since 1972.
While Aja is generally hailed as their triumph, I'm personally partial to this one. In fact I would rank it as one of the great albums of all time. It was also their most complex. This is amazing in light of the turmoil the Dan were undergoing during this time. Much of the work on Gaucho fell on Donald Fagen's shoulders since Walter Becker was dealing with drug problems. During the mixing sessions, Becker was largely absent after severely mangling his leg in a taxi mishap.
Gaucho is filled with songs surrounding the seamy underside of society's high rollers. It reveals a world seen through the haze of drugs and despair. It's a cathartic aural experience. If you haven't heard this album, you haven't experienced the full potential of music and the human imagination.
The title track, depicting a gay love triangle, is exquisite beyond description with its precise construction, stately horns, and a tricky melodic vocal line that tests Fagen. But what the heck is a "Custerdome?" Fagen visualized it as a fictional skyscraper with a revolving restaurant at the top. "Third World Man," an off-the-wall sketch of a child as terrorist in his sandbox bunker, features a sneering vocal and Larry Carlton's acidic guitar solo. The song began as "Were You Blind That Day?" which they left of the Aja album.
"Babylon Sisters" is hipper than hip with its funky keyboard run-up, slick horns, and girl singers biting off quick syllables. This is followed by the equally jivey "Hey Nineteen" in which the singer gushes over "The Cuervo Gold" and "the fine Columbian." It's a real hoot, as the singer, an older dude, tries to enlighten his teenage companion about Sixties soul music.
"Glamour Profession" concerns the activities of a coke sniffing basketball player named Hoops McCann. It burbles with synths and sleazy saxes. It's luxuriant tone is intoxicating. The bridge is co-opted from Kurt Weill's "Speak Low," with a dash of disco added.
This would prove to be the last great Steely Dan album. More trouble followed it's release. Keith Jarrett successfully sued the band for plagiarizing his "Long As You Know You're Living Yours" on the title track. Shortly after the album was issued, Fagen applied for a spot in Dylan's touring band. He never heard back from Zimmy. One can only imagine what that collaboration would have wrought!
Unable to top this masterpiece, it would be 20 years before Steely Dan put out another album of new material.