MARKING THE DUO’S FINAL RELEASE FOR 20 YEARS, THE 1980 ALBUM INCLUDES CLASSIC CUTS “HEY NINETEEN,” “BABYLON SISTERS,” AND “TIME OUT OF MIND,” FEATURING MARK KNOPFLER ON GUITAR
AVAILABLE DECEMBER 1, GAUCHO CONTINUES GEFFEN/UMe’s EXTENSIVE REISSUE PROGRAM OF STEELY DAN’S CLASSIC ABC AND MCA RECORDS CATALOG – ALL OVERSEEN
BY DONALD FAGEN
Los Angeles – October 3, 2023 – In 1980, after nearly two years in the studio, Steely Dan emerged triumphant with their brilliant seventh studio album, Gaucho. The GRAMMY®-winning title would not only mark their final release under MCA Records but also their last studio album for 20 years. Featuring the Top 10 hit “Hey Nineteen,”plus such classic cuts as “Babylon Sisters” and “Time Out of Mind,”Gaucho also boasts a who’s who of legendary guest musicians, including Mark Knopfler, Michael McDonald and Bernard Purdie.
Available on December 1 via Geffen/UMe,Gaucho continues the label’s extensive reissue program of Steely Dan’s classic ABC and MCA Records catalog, which returns the band’s first seven records to vinyl – most of which haven’t been available since their original release. Overseen by founding member Donald Fagen, the series launched in November 2022 with the group’s legendary 1972 debut, Can’t Buy A Thrill, followed by Countdown To Ecstasy (1973), Pretzel Logic (1974), and, most recently, the duo’s 1977 multi-platinum jazz-rock masterwork, Aja.
Gaucho has been meticulously remastered by Bernie Grundman from a 1980 analog tape copy, originally EQ’d by Bob Ludwig. Additionally, Gaucho, like all of the titles, is being released as a limited edition premium 45 RPM version on Ultra High-Quality Vinyl (UHQR) from Analogue Productions, the audiophile in-house reissue label of Acoustic Sounds. Analogue Productions is also releasing this series of titles on Super Audio CD (SACD).
Pre-order Gaucho: https://steelydan.lnk.to/GauchoVinylPR
Additional titles rolling out over the next few months include 1975’s swing-pop perfection Katy Lied (featuring “Black Friday,” “Bad Sneakers” and “Doctor Wu,” as well as the addition of Michael McDonald on vocals) and 1976’s guitar-driven The Royal Scam (“Kid Charlemagne,” “The Fez”).
All albums in the series are being mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tapes except for Aja and Gaucho (there’s no evidence the original tapes containing the flat mixes of these two LPs were delivered to the record label and it’s presumed the tapes no longer exist). Lacquers for UMe’s standard 33 1/3 RPM 180-gram version will be cut by Alex Abrash at his renowned AA Mastering studio from high-resolution digital files of Grundman’s new masters and pressed at Precision. They will be housed in reproductions of the original artwork.
The 45 RPM UHQR versions will be pressed at Analogue Productions’ Quality Record Pressings on 200-gram Clarity Vinyl, packaged in a deluxe box, and will include a booklet detailing the entire process of making a UHQR along with a certificate of inspection. Each UHQR is pressed, using hand-selected vinyl, with attention paid to every single detail of every single record. All of the innovations introduced by QRP that have been generating such incredible critical acclaim are applied to each UHQR. The 200-gram records feature the same flat profile that helped to make the original UHQR so desirable.
Led by the songwriting and virtuoso musical duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, Steely Dan released an extraordinary run of seven albums on ABC Records and MCA Records from 1972 through 1980. Filled with topline musicianship, clever and subversive wordplay, ironic humor, genius arrangements, and pop hits that outshone the Top 40 of their day, Steely Dan’s records – which were as sophisticated and cerebral as they were inscrutable – were stylistically diverse, melding the band’s love of jazz with rock, blues, and impeccable pop songcraft.
1980’s Gaucho marked Steely Dan’s seventh studio album and capped the end of a highly prolific and successful eight-year-period for the duo, during which they released such best-selling titles as Pretzel Logic (1974), Katy Lied (1975), and the multi-platinum classic,Aja (1977), plus a string of hit singles, including “Reelin’ In the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Peg,” “Deacon Blues,” and “FM (No Static at All).” It was also Becker and Fagen’s final studio album for MCA Records and their final new release for 20 years.
The recording process, which began in 1978, continued for nearly two years and found Becker and Fagen returning to their New York roots. Yet, Gaucho was very much a Los Angeles record, in which the duo focused on several richly painted characters: from the high-end cocaine dealer who conducts business at Mr. Chow’s (“Glamour Profession”) and the older man who chases after younger women – and realizes that they have nothing in common (“Hey Nineteen”) to the man in “Gaucho,” who is shocked to discover that his girlfriend has welcomed another man into her home. A loose concept record, the cynical – and often witty – stories in Gaucho reflected the changing times, as well as the harsh realities of aging. The album also marked a stylistic shift, as the duo focused on moodier, more rhythm-focused melodies and slicker production values.
Despite facing multiple setbacks during recording (including lost tapes, personal tragedies, and Becker sustaining serious injuries after being hit by a car), the duo crafted their most painstakingly intricate album yet. Working with their longtime team of producer Gary Katz and engineer Roger Nichols, Becker and Fagen enlisted more than 40 of the era’s top musicians, as well as a drum machine (Nichols’ own creation) dubbed “Wendel.” A handful of well-known guests also lent their talents, including the GRAMMY®-winning saxophonist Michael Brecker, backing vocalists Valerie Simpson and Patti Austin, plus frequent collaborators like drummer Jeff Porcaro (of Toto) and jazz pianist Don Grolnick. The duo also enlisted Michael McDonald (backing vocals) and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler (guitar) to moonlight on “Time Out of Mind,” while the celebrated drummer Bernard Purdie played his famous “Purdie Shuffle” on “Babylon Sisters.”
Becker and Fagen’s dedication to perfection certainly paid off. Upon its release in 1980, the platinum-selling album broke the Top 10 on the Billboard charts and beyond, while “Hey Nineteen” was a Top 10 hit in the US and Canada, and remains one of Steely Dan’s longest-running hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Gaucho was also met with critical acclaim, earning high marks from the likes of Rolling Stone and The New York Times, which later ranked it as the best album of the year, writing “It firmly establishes Mr. Becker and Mr. Fagen as two of pop’s supreme melodists, and the music and lyrics work together to present a series of vivid, film-like images of our time….” In 1982, Gauchoearned a GRAMMY® for Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical, while it was nominated for Album of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
In the 43 years since its release, Gaucho has been frequently revisited by an array of outlets, including PopMatters, which hailed it as a “classic,” while lamenting that it was “lost in the shadow of Aja and the changing tides of music.” Giving the album a 9.4 rating, Pitchfork exclaimed, “It’s definitely the most Steely Dan of the Steely Dan albums,” adding “underneath that compulsive craftsmanship, that marble-slick surface, there’s decay, disillusionment, a gnawing sadness. But that’s what’s great about Gaucho. It takes the animating artistic tension of Steely Dan – their need to make flawless-sounding records lionizing inveterately human f***ups – to its logical endpoint.” Legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell is one of the many that thinks the album was underrated and eclipsed by the success of Aja. Mitchell included the Gaucho track “Third World Man” on her 2005 collection, Artist’s Choice: Music That Matters To Her, declaring upon its release: “I never understood why Gaucho didn’t receive the critical acclaim of Aja,” adding, “to maintain this high standard of musicality and storytelling through two projects is most praiseworthy.”
Gaucho Track List (33 RPM Vinyl)
1. Babylon Sisters
2. Hey Nineteen
3. Glamour Profession
2. Time Out of Mind
3. My Rival
4. Third World Man
ABOUT STEELY DAN
Steely Dan helped define the soundtrack of the ’70s with hits such as “Reeling in the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Peg,” “Deacon Blues,” “Babylon Sisters,” and “Hey Nineteen,” culled from their seven platinum albums issued between 1972 and 1980 (including 1977’s groundbreaking Aja). Both their sound and their notoriety survived the ’80s despite Walter Becker and Donald Fagen occasionally surfacing for a solo project. They reunited as Steely Dan in the early ’90s, touring successfully throughout the decade and releasing a live album in 1995 (Alive In America). In 2000, they released their multi-GRAMMY® winner, Two Against Nature, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.