Saturday, August 18, 2018

Gaucho (AM9)
Artist: Steely Dan
Produced by: Steely Dan, Gary Katz, Roger Nichols, Paul Bishow
Released: November 21, 1980
Tracks: 1) Babylon Sisters (5:55); 2) Hey Nineteen (5:10); 3) Glamour Profession (7:29) 4) Time Out of Mind (4:14); 5) My Rival (4:34); 6) Third World Man (5:13)
Players: Donald Fagen - lead vocals, synthesizer (2, 3, 4, 5, 6), electric piano (2, 3, 4, 5, 6), organ (6); Walter Becker - bass (4, 5), guitar (2), guitar solo (4); Rob Mounsey - piano (3, 4, 5), synthesizer (7); Don Grolnick - electric piano (1) and clavinet (1); Patrick Rebillot (6), Joe Sample (7) - electric piano; Steve Khan - guitar (1, 3, 4, 7), lead guitar (6); Mark Knopfler (5), Larry Carlton (7) - lead guitar; Hugh McCracken (2, 5), Hiram Bullock (6), Rick Derringer (6) - guitar; Chuck Rainey (1, 7), Anthony Jackson (3, 6) - bass; Bernard Pretty Purdie (1), Rick Marotta (2, 5), Steve Gadd (3, 6, 7), Jeff Porcaro (4) - drums;  Crusher Bennett (1, 4), Steve Gadd (2), Victor Feldman (2), Ralph McDonald (3, 6), Nicholas Marrero (6) - percussion; Tom Scott - alto saxophone and clarinet (1); tenor saxophone (1, 3, 4, 6), lyricon (3, 6), horn arrangement (3, 4, 6); Michael Brecker (3, 5, 6), Dave Tofani (5) - tenor saxophone; David Sanborn - alto saxophone (5);  Ronny Cuber - baritone saxophone (5); Randy Brecker - trumpet (1, 4, 5), flugelhorn (1, 6);  George Marge, Walter Kane - clarinet (1); Wayne Andre - trombone (6); Rob Mounsey - horn arrangement (1, 5); Michael McDonald, Patti Austin, Valerie Simpson, Frank Floyd, Diva Gray, Gordon Grody, Lani Groves, Leslie Miller, Zachary Sanders, Toni Wine - backing vocals

The three years in which Gaucho was recorded were turbulent indeed, involving record company disputes, Donald Fagan's distaste and distrust for the West and Walter Becker's worsening issues with addiction (hit by a car, on and on); not to mention a $1 million production budget (unheard of at the time), yet it all was fodder for edgy poetics on subterranean L.A. culture. While the lyrical tone of Steely Dan has always been a quirky assault on hipsters and the cultural elite, new songs like "Babylon Sisters" and "My Rival" were substantially creepier than earlier treatises. The most telling song on the album is the eerily glossy, mildly disco-inflected funk-pop "Glamor Profession," yet, with its lyrics so heavily cloaked in metaphor, it’s doubtful many clubbers were shake shake shakin' it while deciphering the underlying meaning. The lovely arrangement of the closer "Third World Man" belies a sad tale of phoniness as someone's undoing; there's a moral in there somewhere; there's a moral in all of it - somewhere.

Gaucho is a spectacular work; the musicianship phenomenal, the melodies and arrangements spellbinding.  The recording itself is rich and bright, a technical triumph. With the exception of "Black Cow," "Aja" and "Deacon Blues," these are even better tunes than its predecessor. The formula is there, certainly the musicians (42 of them) and innovations are there as well. Gaucho's flaw is trying to out-Aja Aja, and on this level, and only on this level, it fails.

Despite the poor quality of the recording, here is the infamous "Second Arrangement," notorious as a song completed and mistakenly erased during the Gaucho session.  It does indeed sound very Gaucho.