Steely Dan


by David Sakowski


Eventually, everything comes back into vogue, except maybe the music of Steely Dan. Maybe it’s because of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s intellectual smugness, or the glossy-shine of their highly-produced songs, either way, it’s probably never again going to be cool to admit you dig Steely Dan. Needless to say, I’ve never had any pretensions of being cool, and although I’m not going to get a Steely Dan tattoo anytime soon, I’m not afraid to give a big shout out to my boys Becker and Fagen.

The remastered version of Gaucho is the last in the series of Steely Dan albums to be re-released by MCA. Although it did yield the top ten hit “Hey Nineteen”, Gaucho was the follow up to their landmark album Aja, and it would have been almost an impossibility for the album not to be seen as a letdown by fans and critics. Over budget, overwrought, and overweight with it’s own self-importance, Gaucho, released amid the flurry of punk and new wave in 1980, looked like the last gasp of a heavyweight who should have long ago hung up his gloves. Twenty years later it’s easier to see Gaucho for the classic it really is.

Becker and Fagen knew that their reign of cool coke-snorting, jet-setting, California-dreaming wonder boys was coming to an end. In “Hey Nineteen” Fagen sings “It’s hard times befallen / The sole survivors / She thinks I’m crazy / But I’m just growing old.” Some critics have complained that Gaucho‘s only other high points are the classics, “Time Out of Mind”, (featuring a great guitar solo by Mark Knopfler) and “Babylon Sisters”. The overlooked title track “Gaucho”, is also one of Steely Dan’s best songs, so show me an album from the last 20 years with four great songs that stand the test of time, and I’ll show you a classic album. In a nutshell, Gaucho was lost in the shadow of Aja and the changing tides of music, but this remastered version is worth another listen if you missed it the first time around.

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