After Steely Dan had basically blown minds several times over since their debut album (perhaps missing the mind-blowing effect on "Pretzel Logic" and "Katy Lied", which are still both very strong and addictive albums), and especially after the jazz-meets-rock apex of "Aja", it seems almost impossible that Messrs. Becker and Fagan could have upped the ante any more.
The legend has it that both were burnt out after "Aja", but nonetheless, there's a lot of stuff that resonates throughout "Gaucho", to the point of being a remarkable album still. Surprises include the choice of (Dire Straits leader) Mark Knopfler as solo guitarist for "Time Out of Mind", but one listen to the track and it's a given that Knopfler's feel was exactly what it took for this song. The only weak points are perhaps the last quarter of the album, "My Rival" and "Third World Man" (which are still quite interesting). However, my sole gripe is that the world never did get to hear a recorded version of "The Second Arrangement", the track originally set to close the album, and supposedly the best of the lot. (If that's the case, then why did the band never attempt it again, either solo or on more recent albums? Are bootlegs available?).
Most everything else released afterwards seems more connected to "Gaucho" than any other Steely Dan album, but maybe that's because the Dan never attempted to ignite the stylus afterwards, quite content to play "in the pocket". You won't hear any complaints from me...
In fact, "Everything Must Go", their latest effort, draws many comparisons to "Gaucho". This should be seen as a good thing (although I'd be quick to say that arrangements are not as elaborate on EMG as it is on this one). Although it pales in comparison to "Aja", it's still a very stellar effort whose greatest reason for not having five stars is simply the consistently high degree of quality from Steely Dan throughout the '70s. Pick it up if you haven't already. That is, if you're a Steely Dan fan.