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Donald Fagen: Gaucho

From the opening upbeat, we know we’re in a warm bath. That beautiful saxophone, that long-limbed tempo, the sweet unabashed major chords – pure sunlight. When I first heard it, I was driving at night through the oil fields of western Oklahoma, picking up some faraway station in that random way that happens at night. I felt I’d been transported to some new, glistening planet.

Gaucho the album is a long, long way from Pretzel Logic. The band was scruffy back then, in the early 1970’s: working swiftly, seemingly uninterested in matters of perfectionism. Now, ten years later, the fellas were really stretching out in the studio. They had time, money, and all the best players. The best drugs too, apparently – and the miracle is that they got through that period not only without dying, but with producing some stunning paeans to altered states.

The title song, “Gaucho,” is a prime example of Fagen’s lyrics telling you a story without filling in all the blanks.

Who is the gaucho amigo
Why is he standing in your spangled leather poncho
And your elevator shoes
Bodacious cowboys such as your friend
Will never be welcome here
High in the Custerdome…

Where are we? Who is speaking? What’s the Custerdome?! And the strange disconnect between this bossy club chat and the swooning beauty of the music… well, you can spend your whole life trying to figure it out. Trust me.

Originally posted on April 19, 2017.

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