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

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

  1. Doggiedogma

    Doggiedogma Forum Resident

    Location:
    columbia
    It took awhile for me to "get it", but now I "get it" and it's a great album, as good as any Dan album from the '7o's - different but different in an outstanding way. Love this album!
     
  2. Bungo

    Bungo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I mostly agree with this. Countdown To Ecstasy will always be #1 for me. Gaucho is either #2 or #3, depending on my mood that day, with The Royal Scam occupying the other position. Katy Lied is a close #4, might even be higher if not for the unfortunate mastering problems.
     
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  3. Bill Mac

    Bill Mac Forum Resident

    Location:
    So. ME USA
    That's unfortunate. I wonder what the issues were.
     
  4. Jamsterdammer

    Jamsterdammer Forum Resident

    Location:
    Amsterdam
    I think side 1 of Countdown is probably the best album side they ever did. Unfortunately, to my ears, the songs on side 2 are not as strong and I don't really like Showbiz Kids that much. The Royal Scam is more consistently stellar in my view, but I totally understand people preferring Countdown. Katy Lied is indeed a great album, but the mastering is suboptimal and a few song are a bit weak imo. And Gaucho, for me, is the ultimate relaxing trip. Aja again has a stellar side 1, but I find side 2 underwhelming. Pretzel and Countdown are great, but I find them inconsistent compared to the rest.
     
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  5. RoyalScam

    RoyalScam Luckless Pedestrian

    The crux of it was Knopfler wanted (and expected) more guidance and/or enthusiasm. What he got was “That was OK. Let’s try another.”
     
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  6. misteranderson

    misteranderson Forum Resident

    Location:
    englewood, nj
    Katy Lied sounds fine. If Becker and Fagen hadn't complained about it, nobody else would have.

    Gaucho's as good as every other original Dan record.
     
  7. Bungo

    Bungo Forum Resident

    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I'm not so sure about that. It always sounded weird to my ears, long before I ever heard the story about the mastering mishaps. Recall how they boasted about the primo mastering in the original liner notes:

    This is a high fidelity recording. Steely Dan uses a specially constructed 24-channel tape recorder, a "State-of-the-Art" 36-input computerized mixdown console, and some very expensive German microphones. Individual microphone equalization is frowned upon. The sound created by musicians and singers is reproduced as faithfully as possible, and special care is taken to preserve the band-width and transient response of each performance. Transfer from master tapes to master lacquers is done on a Neumann VMS 70 computerized lathe equipped with a variable pitch, variable depth helium cooled cutting head. The computerized logic circuits of the VMS 70 widen and narrow the grooves on the disc in accordance with its own bizarre electronic mentation for reasons known only to its designers; this accounts for the lovely light and dark patterns that can be seen on the surface of the pressing. Vinylite compound is used. For best results observe the R.I.A.A. curve.
     
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  8. Milk and kisses

    Milk and kisses Active Member

    Location:
    Adelaide
    I would say Gaucho isn't their best but why do I keep playing it more than the others. First time I heard it was disappointed but over time have learned to love the subtleties and the icy vibe. Glamour profession is the pinnacle, love how the instruments come in one by one and that laid back guitar solo at the end I could listen to for hours. A suitable swan song before the hiatus , the first 7 are all classics
     
  9. Sentient(Jæ)Ant

    Sentient(Jæ)Ant Active Member

    Agreed that the 1984 "Japan for US" CD sounds superb; but, does your copy have a moment of crackling in the right channel on the title track during Walt's outro guitar solo (as mine does)?
     
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  10. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Can give the time where you hear it?
     
  11. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    I haven't noticed. I can check tomorrow if @c-eling hasn't sorted this out by then. I think we have the same pressing.
     
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  12. Sentient(Jæ)Ant

    Sentient(Jæ)Ant Active Member

    At about 5:02. This is the pressing I have - Steely Dan – Gaucho (1984, CD)
     
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  13. eclecticfiend

    eclecticfiend wavy air aficionado

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Funny enough, Gaucho is the album that got me into the Dan. I always tend to like the “weird and depressing” album in an artists discography that oftentimes is the less successful follow up to their big hit: Weezer’s Pinkerton, Green Day’s Insomnia, MGMT’s Congratulations, Springsteen’s Nebraska, Floyd’s Final Cut and this, aka a studio exec’s worst nightmare. This is where the artist’s quirks are brought front and center and you really learn what they’re made of.

    With some exceptions, normally Dan satire comes with a touch of romanticism, a “wouldn’t being this scumbag be kinda fun?” element. In Gaucho, it’s clear Becker and Fagen hold no romanticism towards these glamorous phonies and just wanna take em down a couple pegs. Becker and Fagen weren’t in the mood for anything but gallows humor, which I think gave us some of the funniest lyrics of their entire career.

    And yet, it ends on what may be their most sincere expression of sympathy, Third World Man. Depicting a seemingly common man suffering from ptsd desperately try to keep his life and sanity together after spending a whole album discussing the sins of the costal elite is one of the most potent emotional punches in rock, for me personally. It almost has a “the insane ones are the only sane ones” type message to me. It’s also the metaphorical sobering up after the high. The moment the joke stops. The (temporary) end of Steely Dan.

    From a historical perspective, you could also interpret but as the death march of 70s excess itself, once hopeful and free and all analogue. Welcome to the new, slick, digitized, 80s flavor of excess, world.

    And last but not least, it’s an album sh*tting on L.A. How could I not like it?
     
  14. c-eling

    c-eling Fruit Juice Everywhere

    Thanks, same as George and I's. :)
    Headphone's, I'm not hearing it. However I've missed stuff other's can clearly pick out.
    Thank God it wasn't some sort of digital glitch I'd never be able to un-hear again, that sucks :laugh:
     
    George P likes this.
  15. Instant Dharma

    Instant Dharma Hendon!!!

    Location:
    CoCoCo, Ca
    Right now how to say those are my top three along with Two Against Nature.
     
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  16. Sentient(Jæ)Ant

    Sentient(Jæ)Ant Active Member

    Odd. Well thank you for checking and I also am glad it's not intrinsic to the mastering and thus you're still able to enjoy yours and there's yet hope for me!
     
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  17. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Yeah, I listened to that passage three times and I don't hear it either.
     
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  18. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Location:
    NYC
    Sentient(Jæ)Ant likes this.
  19. Luckless Pedestrian

    Luckless Pedestrian Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    George P likes this.
  20. Rockford & Roll

    Rockford & Roll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midway, KY
    I listen to Gaucho, Aja and Countdown To Ecstacy the most.
     
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  21. Nightfly68

    Nightfly68 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NC
    IIRC, Knoplfer doesn't read music, so that didnt help. Also, Becker and Fagen would not talk to him and would only refer to him in the 3rd person.
     
  22. Bill Mac

    Bill Mac Forum Resident

    Location:
    So. ME USA
    Thank you both for that information! To think Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits went on to become just as popular and famous as Steely Dan. I wonder if they crossed paths after Dire Straits hit it big. Then Mark Knopfler could totally ignore Donald Fagen ;).
     
  23. Phil Tate

    Phil Tate Miss you Indy x

    Location:
    South Shields
    I have no hesitation in saying Steely Dan are my favourite band of all time, but I have no doubt whatsoever that they were a pair of complete asshats to work with.
     
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  24. cwd

    cwd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Clarksville, TN
    In my Top 10 easily but even on their last tour, DF especially came across as a jerkosaurus even from the stage.
     
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  25. Nightfly68

    Nightfly68 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NC
    Steely Dan: 6 Stories of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (vulture.com)

    Mark Knopfler
    When Fagen and Becker were in the midst of recording Gaucho, they listened to Dire Straits’ debut album and were particularly impressed by frontman Mark Knopfler’s guitar work on the seminal tune “Sultans of Swing.” As such, they invited Knopfler to take a crack at the solo on “Time Out of Mind,” despite Knopfler not being a sight reader — the preferred Steely Dan way of recording. Knopfler soon grew frustrated by the long, repetitious recordings in the studio, doubled with Fagen and Becker’s brash manner of criticizing his lack of progression. In total, Knopfler recorded over ten hours of guitar work, only for about 15 seconds to be used in the song’s intro. “It was a strange experience,” Knopfler later recalled, “like getting into a swimming pool with lead weights tied to your boot.” Becker later added of Knopfler’s frustration: “I think he definitely felt that, because he would play something and it was okay, then we’d like it later.”
     
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