Analogue Productions’ UHQR 200g 45rpm 2LP UHQR Version of Steely Dan’s Gaucho Finally Actualizes the Near-Perfection and Soulful Grace Lurking Amidst the Grooves of Its Clinically Clean, Grammy Award-Winning Original 1980 Vinyl Edition

Welcome to Gaucho, amigos! In its original vinyl form as released on MCA in November 1980, Gaucho served as the seedy, somewhat gritty, expertly engineered sundown on the initial Steely Dan era, as the two principal Dans — Walter Becker and Donald Fagen — then took an extended break from each other for a full decade-plus following its release.

To be sure, the original Gaucho is a sonic marvel — among other things, in 1982, it most deservedly won a Grammy for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical — though, ultimately, it left many of us Dan fans, well, cold at the time. Yes, the lyrical pithiness and insightful storytelling were still intact, and so was the essence of the SD SQ we came to expect from the Becker/Fagen tandem throughout their 1970s heyday — but perhaps it was the underlying soul connection that was missing from the tales of L.A. luridness that populated Gaucho’s proceedings. The vim and vigor of its predecessor on ABC, September 1977’s Aja, do appear on Gaucho in pockets — but only in pockets, and not as a clear throughline through all seven of its songs. Was it due to a) the toned-down, chordal guitar accompaniment and a few too-coolly-performed guitar solos, or b) how some of the tracks essentially meandered to their petering-out points, in turn seeming to reflect a certain level of general studio fatigue and/or creative malaise, or c) was it just a combination of all that and more?


This preamble leads us to our review subject here today — the long-awaited Analogue Productions 200g 45rpm 2LP UHQR edition of Gaucho that was released on April 10, 2024. It’s the fifth entry in AP’s Steely Dan reissue series, and, in its own way, it’s also a clear-cut litmus-test entry of the lot. (Links to our reviews of the previous four SD UHQRs can be found at the very end of this review, immediately following the tracklisting section.)


If you’ve followed the M.O. trajectory for this edition of Gaucho at all, you already know the source material for this particular UHQR is a 1980 analog tape copy that was originally EQ'd by Bob Ludwig. More specifically, and based on the information visible on the tape box replication seen above that was culled from the new box set’s booklet, sometime in 1982 (the first sign-off date being June 1 in black, and the second added below it on July 16, in red), Ludwig (“RL”) produced a 30ips, ½-inch Dolby A stereo safety copy of Gaucho. This tape copy has consistently been acknowledged by the principals involved as being the “best available tape source.”

Naturally, since Ludwig was responsible for the original 1980 album’s mastering, the Ludwig Masterdisk Standard was already in place with what we hear on Gaucho. And while I did play my original MCA-6102 LP (and its subsequent replacement copy) somewhat religiously, I can’t say I was ever fully enamored with what I heard on it as time marched forward. Instead, I wound up preferring the 2003 MCA Hybrid SACD DSD and multichannel offerings whenever I wanted to cue this album up. With all that in mind, how would the UHQR Gaucho fare on my turntable? Let’s dive into it.


First, the all-fours good news: Every side of the Gaucho UHQR exhibited no inner-groove distortion, and there were no pops and/or clicks either. Each of my two clarity vinyl Gaucho LPs, all sides of which were adorned with the proper, of-era MCA rainbow label design, color scheme, and lowercase side designations, were flat, well-centered, and quiet — oh so quiet! The compression and EQ native to the original have not been altered. Instead, how shall I put it — the flawed soul of Gaucho is now more clear, more pure, more there.

Now to tackle Gaucho side by side, track by track. The introductory rim taps and electric keyboard lilt of the Side a album-opening cut, “Babylon Sisters,” foreshadows the conflicting, laid-back yet intensely fueled 38-minute song cycle ahead of us. Percussive accents from Erroll “Crusher” Bennett have more presence (and I’m betting you’re likely not to have heard them this distinct on your MCA originals), and the volume swells are more enveloping. Steve Khan’s reggae-tinged guitar chuckas on the verses fit where they should, as do Randy Brecker’s right-channel horn accents in the back half. Near the end, the crucial three-peat of the six-voice blended “You’ve got to shake it baby / You’ve got to shake it baby / You’ve got to shake it” harmonies — with that final “it” enunciated as “ehh-et” — holds truer in UHQR.

And that’s the crux of the matter here. The UHQR Gaucho is not remixed, re-EQ’ed, reinterpreted, or had things manipulated (renipulated?) for differing effects. What the UHQR processes and ensuing end product have done instead is they’ve brought the excellently engineered and mastered Gaucho LP to a cleaner, quieter state of playback. The more times I’ve gone through this entire 2LP set, the more I appreciate the subtleties that were perhaps too subtle, too melanged, too L.A.-fatigued before — without any of it changing the character of the music within.

Track 2, “Hey Nineteen,” keeps the UHQR train running right. Interestingly, the generation-gap narrative seems even more prescient today. I always felt, rightly or wrongly, that more 19-year-olds of that era knew who ’Retha Franklin was better than the sketchy narrator thought they did at the time, but that great knowledge divide definitely spans even broader today. (Related sidenote: While waiting in line at my second-shop stop on RSD 2024 back in April, I heard an under-twentysomething female behind me say “Never heard of her” in reply to a fortysomething male pointing out how cool he thought the Linda Ronstadt box set was, but I digress. Please take me along when you slide on down. . .)

That signature, extended opening “Hey Nineteen” riff is clean, clear, and stage-wide, and the Walter Becker/Rick Marotta rhythm section sits back and lets the song unfold around it. When the “Cuervo Gold / fine Columbian” blended male-vocal break happens, it’s as smooth and full as how you’d feel upon, er, direct imbibement. I also found myself more drawn to Victor Feldman’s hand-played percussion in the back half of the song than I’d ever noticed before. Or, to put it more succinctly: “Nice.”


“Glamour Profession” is the lone cut on Side b — similar to how “Deacon Blues” is the only track on Side B of Aja, come to think of it — and it’s another example of why four sides at 45rpm instead of two at 33⅓ are better equipped to let things breathe as they should. The opening synth-driven pastiche comes across as a front-end bookend to the underlying thrust of “New Frontier,” one of my favorite tracks from Fagen’s ensuing debut solo LP on Warner Bros., October 1982’s The Nightfly. I also got more out of the placement choices of Rob Mounsey’s piano vamps and Fagen’s own electric piano lines as the track unfolds.

All that said, Steve Khan’s featured guitar solo that takes “Glamour” to its slow-burn fade never really grabbed me, even now. It always felt (and still feels) too reverent and too restrained — as in, too much tuxedo, not enough leather jacket. Maybe those were Khan’s marching (powder) orders here, but this solo seems like a lost opportunity, even if its presentation was the Dan men’s intent. “Living hard will take its toll” indeed. (If you happen to love this guitar solo more than I do, tell me why in the Comments section below.)


Is it any surprise that Side c is my favorite of the four? Tom Scott’s sweet tenor sax draws us right into “Gaucho,” as do the recurring chimes and triangle swells and soundstage-traveling synthesizer swooshes. (Again, allow me to deploy the already overused “more” and “oh-so-quiet” descriptors here.) Volume dynamics are palpable throughout this title track, and I better appreciate Fagen sing-sneering along with his ace background vocalists — Lesley Miller, Valerie Simpson, and Patti Austin — on the choruses. The final, enveloping, sans-Fagen vocalized “ahhhh” ejects the scorned title character up into the ether where he belongs.

Track 2, “Time Out of Mind,” is my favorite cut on Gaucho. There’s more life, verve, and swing in its 4 minutes than most elsewhere on the LP, perhaps reflecting the urgency of the “tonight when I chase the dragon” fervor of its core subject matter. The horns move with flair, and while Mark Knopfler’s left-channel, back-in-the-mix guitar soloing near the end of the track lasts a bit too brief for my tastes, it retains that signature MK bite I just can’t seem to get enough of. (How can you tell? It’s the smile on my face.)

Oh, and then there’s the MMM — the Michael McDonald Moments — when his distinctive tone comes to the fore in the background-vocal accompaniment on the latter chorus-ender’s “riii-iight he-ere,” “my eye-es,” “gra-ace,” and the “my-yy” part of “my face.”

“Oh yeah, yeah — that’s a great song,” McDonald agreed about “Time Out of Mind” during a phone interview he and I conducted on March 14, 2019. “There are so many, but that song is one that’s so wonderful in its own way,” he continued. “They’re all unique from each other. Those guys in Steely Dan are an enigma in a sense that the music was so strange and beautiful and different, and certainly not anything you would imagine would be Top 40.”

As I noted in the paragraph following my comments about McDonald’s vocal work on “Peg” in my Aja UHQR review, I again reiterate here how I’m looking forward to hearing the cool McDonaldness to come on “Bad Sneakers” and other entries on the inevitable Katy Lied UHQR — which, we expect/project, should be forthcoming sometime later in 2024.


Side d hits the grooves running with “My Rival,” which certainly has the most consistently muscular guitar riffage all throughout, mainly courtesy Hiram Bullock and Rick Derringer — though Steve Khan does redeem himself from his earlier, aforementioned snoozy solo turn on Side b with the much fiercer solo he turns in this time. Fagen’s ominous organ riffs, Steve Gadd’s linchpin drumming (for further of-era context, compare it to Don Henley’s spot-on timekeeping on the title track to the Eagles’ own decade-ender on Asylum, September 1979’s The Long Run), Andy Jackson’s low-end thump, and Nicolas Marrero’s fresh timbales all give “My Rival” even more clean/quiet heft.

The side’s, and the album’s, final track, “Third World Man,” is said by Fagen in the liners to have been gestating during the Aja sessions, so it has a slightly different character to it than the other six tracks here, but its vibe certainly serves the band/decade-closeout feel. The first occurrence of the back-to-back hard stops after Fagen draws out the title phrase are punctuated by Gadd’s insistent drumming, all leading perfectly into Larry Carlton’s snarling solo, and then the second pair of hard stops prep you for the foreboding runout to the finish line (pun intended).


Conclusions & Ratings
The UHQR edition of Steely Dan’s Gaucho is the best this album has ever sounded on vinyl, full stop. Yes, the original 1980 MCA LP rightfully earned its engineering Grammy, but this new 2LP 45rpm edition lets the music truly reflect the clean soul that was always inherent in its grooves on totally quiet clarity vinyl. It’s finally re-engaged me with an album I had long preferred listening to digitally over the balance of the past 20-odd years. Now, that’s really saying something for these refreshed ears to be able to enjoy the spinning of four sides of Gaucho again and again.

As to the cost, used MCA originals go for about $10-$20 at the time of this posting, give or take, though sealed originals may run you up to 100 bills. You can, of course, also opt for the $29.99 180g UMe 1LP version we reviewed back on February 2. Though some of you have consistently blanched at AP’s unwavering going-rate SRPs, I can tell you that the UHQR Gaucho earns every penny of its $150 entry fee. (You can buy your copy of it right here, or via the Music Direct link below, which appears just ahead of the tracklisting section.)

To quantify my ratings, musically, Gaucho is an 8, for many of the reasons noted earlier in this review, as well as in comparison to the overall richness of the balance of the Steely Dan catalog it must be stacked against. Soundwise, the original MCA is an 8, the current Geffen is an 8.5, and the UHQR Gaucho clocks in at an 11, as that’s as high as our meter graphic goes — but, relative to the overall Steely Dan SQ scale, I’d even be inclined to further quantify it as an 11.5 because it is that-much better and quieter than what we’ve heard of it on vinyl before.

Yes, Aja is a clear-cut 11 in its own UHQR territory and is my favorite of this series to date, but the UHQR Gaucho further outshines its original, so it gets that extra .5 bump from me. Song for song, Aja is better than Gaucho on both the musicality and arrangement scale in my listening book, but as we’ve previously acknowledged, Aja never sounded bad, or even poor, on vinyl. And though, clinically speaking, Gaucho did indeed sound about as good as could be expected upon its initial late-1980 release, the inner soul of it that I’ve mentioned more than a few times now has finally been fully revealed on its UHQR — and isn’t that what it’s all about? Repeat listens to the quiet Gaucho UHQR have only reinforced my appreciation for what I knew was there all along, and didn’t fully connect with, in its prior analog form.

It would be a bit too easy to directly borrow the “perfection and grace” phraseology so often quoted from “Time Out of Mind” to assess this UHQR release, so let me instead morph it the MM way to say the following instead. Analogue Productions has perfected the UHQR presentation of the overall grace inherent within the grooves of Steely Dan’s Gaucho. To modify another line from this album, close your eyes and you’ll be there, for the UHQR edition of Gaucho is everything they (and I) say.

Music Direct Buy It Now



200g 2LP 45rpm (Geffen/Analogue Productions)

Side a
1. Babylon Sisters
2. Hey Nineteen

Side b
1. Glamour Profession

Side c
1. Gaucho
2. Time Out Of Mind

Side d
1. My Rival
2. Third World Man

While we semi-patiently await the not-yet-scheduled UHQR editions of Katy Lied and The Royal Scam, if you want to consistently experience the best of what this particular 200g 45rpm 2LP Steely Dan series has to offer, then the Analogue Productions Aja fits the bill for being the pride of the UHQR neighborhood, hands down. You can read my review of it right here.

You can also read our review of the UHQR edition of Steely Dan’s November 1972 debut Can’t Buy a Thrill here, followed by July 1973’s Countdown to Ecstasy here, and then February 1974’s Pretzel Logic here. Happy UHQR Danning!


Anton D's picture


My order of esteem is Royal Scam, Gaucho, Aja, Can't Buy a Thrill, others.

I am old, so this is all stoner music, to me, not the yacht rock it has been relegated to. How did that ever happen?

Would Captian and Tenille sing about "Tonight when I chase the dragon?"

I am appealing that "8" rating.

(Thabk you for a great review. I am very happy to get to read it.)

Fsonicsmith's picture

You know me a little from our Wineberseker days. I admire your tastes and opinions in music, audio and wine which for that reason alone prompts me to remark that this opinion of yours surprises me.
Yes, opinions are like anuses…
But anyone with a deep musical soul believes CtE is at the top followed by PL and then CBaT. Royal Scam is an ironic title and Aja is to The Dan as Brothers in Arms was to Dire Straits and as Freeze Frame was for J. Geils.
All opinions are only mine, with humility and a wry smile….

Anton D's picture

I admit my fondness for Royal Acam is anomalous. It's really about that song. "Royal Scam" has all the components, for me. It's my favorite Steely Dan song.

Gaucho is a very solid 'sit and listen' album for me. I think 2 45 RPM discs is a disservice to continuity, but I get the sound part, and to be honest, most audiophiles only play one song per album, anyway. ;-D

The time signature/timing on the song Gaucho is just tremendous. The whole album just syncs up with my brain waves. I can really just sit and close my eyes.

Aja, well, a lot of it is that it's the best album cover of all time, and I had a girlfriend (or should I say, she once had me) by that name in 1980 and I merged it all in my mind.

I think My Old School is the song I played the most growing up...and we get three (!) solos! Plus, how often do you hear a song that uses oleanders in the lyrics!

CtE might be at the top except for "Bodhisattva." I just don't like it. (It's like Idiot Wind on BOTT. Just doesn't work for me.)

I get what you are saying about Aja, it's what La Bomba is to Los Lobos, but it just has thing it does.

Chemguy's picture

It’s exactly what I experienced with my copy. Best this album has ever sounded, and the OG RL is no slouch. Of course, it’s a musical 10, as well...but I’m sure you’ll come around one day!

Mike Mettler's picture
Thanks for the fine comments, all, as well as for those to come. I know my 8 Music rating for Gaucho might seem a tad harsh to some, but I did quantify it in the review that it's on the "related to other SD albums" scale. Three of the tracks are 9-plus on their own and others less so -- but that's just me. Certainly, hearing them anew on UHQR (whuch, to reiterate, rates an 11.4 for Sound) has rekindled my overall appreciation for them all.

Another way to look at it is like this -- a Steely Dan 8 is akin to an everyone-else 9. :)

Glotz's picture

Steely Dan's 8 is another pop artist's 9, or even self-referentially.

There are a lot of artists we hold that judgment ruler to and I think it's appropriate- We hold these artists in such high esteem that perhaps Gaucho isn't as worthy as Aja or Pretzel Logic or blah blah blah. But it's valid opinion from an informed writer.

RZangpo2's picture

Excellent review. You mention the 2003 MCA Hybrid SACD. Did you compare it directly to the UHQR? Impressions? Thanks!