“Writing was hard, recording was hard, everything about it was like pulling teeth…” So said Donald Fagen of Gaucho, finally released in November 1980 after a litany of problems that included label spats, endless re-takes and a $150,000 bespoke-built drum machine called Wendel. There was tragedy, too: Walter Becker’s girlfriend died of an overdose in January 1980; Becker broke his leg in a hit-and-run three months later and phoned in contributions from a hospital bed. Becker and Fagen ditched numerous songs for good during these protracted sessions – all collected on this excellent boot – including “Kind Spirit”, “The Bear”, “Talkin’ About My Home” and “Kulee Baba”, each perfect examples of the Dan’s distinctive brand of decadent jazz-rock. But the jewel here is the re-recorded “The Second Arrangement” – a jaded come-down epic once earmarked by the duo as Gaucho’s centrepiece, but abandoned after an assistant engineer accidentally wiped the track during playback. And because the Dan never made back-up copies – the sound quality suffered, apparently – all the cuts on The Last Gaucho sound great, and are appended with numerous outtakes and alternate versions.
Sound quality: Very good, if rougher and looser than the final Gaucho. And Wendel can be a little erratic…
See also: Live At The Record Plant, 3/20/1974 – an astonishing show from just before they quit touring