Recent listening, current

Friday, November 7, 2014

197. Steely Dan / Gaucho (1980)

Gaucho is the last album before the Dan's 12 year hiatus. It's the capstone of the original run, a grooving foil to Aja's majestic sophistication, and the proverbial semibreve rest in the ongoing saga of the Becker/Fagen partnership. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Gaucho swaps Aja's complexity for simple charts and chill vibrations that recall classic rock, rhythm, and soul. Here, the down tempo is on tap and the beats play straight ahead.  Hear "Babylon Sisters" shimmer with rich sonority, lush background vocals and immaculately layered overdubs, and you get the picture. Gaucho is also notable for the drum machine (engineer Roger Nichols' "Wendel") lending additional consistency to the already smooth track sequence. If you like Steely Dan, then chances are you won't be disappointed by the fare on Gaucho. But at the same time, while these are unmistakably "Steely" tunes, I think it is also the most stylistically distinct album in the catalog. As always, make of that what you will.

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