Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steely Dan: Gaucho [MCA, 1980]
With Walter Becker down to composer credits and very occasional bass, Donald Fagen progresses toward the intellectual cocktail rock he's sought for almost a decade--followed, of course, by a cadre of top-drawer El Lay studio hacks, the only musicians in the world smart enough to play his shit. Even the song with Aretha in it lends credence to rumors that the LP was originally entitled Countdown to Lethargy. After half a dozen hearings, the most arcane harmonies and unlikely hooks sound comforting, like one of those electromassagers that relax the muscles with a low-voltage shock. Craftsmen this obsessive don't want to rule the world--they just want to make sure it doesn't get them. B-