Pretzel Logic

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Pretzel Logic
Studio album by Steely Dan
Released February 20, 1974
Recorded October 1973 to January 1974;
the Village Recorder, Santa Monica
Genre Rock, jazz-rock,[1] pop rock,[2] pop[3]
Length 34:02
Label ABC
Producer Gary Katz
Steely Dan chronology
Countdown to Ecstasy
(1973)
Pretzel Logic
(1974)
Katy Lied
(1975)
Singles from Pretzel Logic
  1. "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
    Released: April 25, 1974
  2. "Pretzel Logic"
    Released: June 20, 1974

Pretzel Logic is the third studio album by the American rock band Steely Dan, released on February 20, 1974, by ABC Records. It was written by principal band members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen. They recorded the album at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles with producer Gary Katz and prominent Los Angeles-based studio musicians.

The album was a commercial and critical success upon its release. Its hit single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" helped restore Steely Dan's radio presence after the disappointing performance of their 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. Pretzel Logic was reissued in 1999 to retrospective acclaim from critics.

Recording[edit]

Pretzel Logic was recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles.[4] It was produced by Gary Katz and written primarily by Walter Becker and bandleader Donald Fagen, who also sang and played keyboard.[5] The album marked the beginning of Becker and Fagen's roles as Steely Dan's principal members. They enlisted prominent Los Angeles-based studio musicians to record Pretzel Logic, but only used them for occasional overdubs.[6] Steely Dan's Jeff "Skunk" Baxter played pedal steel guitar and hand drums.[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Pretzel Logic has shorter songs and fewer instrumental jams than the group's 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy.[7] Steely Dan considered it their attempt at complete musical statements within the three-minute pop-song format.[5] The album's music is characterized by harmonies, counter-melodies, and bop phrasing.[7] It also relies often on straightforward pop influences.[8] The syncopated piano line that opens "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" develops into a pop melody, and the title track transitions from a blues song to a jazzy chorus.[7]

Steely Dan often incorporated jazz into their music during the 1970s.[9] "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" appropriates the bass pattern from Horace Silver's 1965 song "Song for My Father",[9] while "Parker's Band" features Charlie Parker-influenced riffs and a lyric that invites listeners to "take a piece of Mr. Parker's band."[10] Baxter's guitar playing drew on jazz and rock and roll influences. On "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", he imitates a ragtime mute-trombone solo.[5] Certain songs incorporate additional instrumentation, including exotic percussion, violin sections, bells, and horns.[5] Robert Christgau wrote that the solos are "functional rather than personal or expressive, locked into the workings of the music".[10]

Artwork[edit]

The album cover features a photograph of a New York pretzel seller, taken by the well-known photographer of music and Hollywood celebrities Raeanne Rubenstein.[citation needed] The location is the west side of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, just above the 79th Street Transverse (the road through Central Park), at the park entrance called "Miners' Gate".[11]

Commercial performance[edit]

Pretzel Logic was released by ABC Records on February 20, 1974,[12] to high sales.[8] It charted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and became Steely Dan's third gold-certified album.[13] After the disappointing performance of Countdown to Ecstasy, the album restored their radio presence with the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number",[14] which became the biggest pop hit of their career and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.[15] On September 7, 1993, Pretzel Logic was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), having shipped one million copies in the United States.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[7]
Robert Christgau A+[10]
Creem A–[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[17]
Uncut 5/5 stars[18]

Pretzel Logic was praised by contemporary music critics.[8] Bud Scoppa of Rolling Stone magazine found the album's "wonderfully fluid ensemble sound" unprecedented in popular music and said that the ambiguous lyrics "create an emotionally charged atmosphere, and the best are quite affecting."[5] Down Beat asserted that "there are no better rock recording groups in America, and damn few worldwide."[6] Robert Christgau, writing in Creem, gave Pretzel Logic an "A–" and viewed it as innovative: "The music can be called jazzy without implying an insult, and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are the real world's answer to Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia."[16] In a mixed review, Noel Coppage of Stereo Review found the music impressive, but said that "the lyrics baffle me; maybe they know what they're talking about, but I can't get a clue."[19]

Pretzel Logic was named the album of the year by NME magazine.[20] It was also voted the second best album of 1974 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual critics' poll published by The Village Voice.[21] Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it number one on his dean's list.[22] He gave the album an "A+" in a 1981 review and felt that it encapsulates Steely Dan's "chewy perversity as aptly as its title", with vocals by Fagen that "seem like the golden mean of pop ensemble singing, stripped of histrionics and displays of technique, almost ... sincere, modest."[10]

In 1994, Pretzel Logic was ranked number 67 in the All Time Top 1000 Albums by writer Colin Larkin, who felt that the album's mix of jazz, R&B, and pop styles was "highly inventive" and "greater than the sum of its parts".[23] In The All-Music Guide to Rock (1995), Rick Clark gave it five stars and said that, with the album, Steely Dan "most successfully synthesized their love for jazz into their dense pop/rock sound."[2] Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine called it their "richest album" and wrote that Becker and Fagen's songwriting had become "seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible."[7] Stylus Magazine's Patrick McKay said that the "superb" album found them "relying instead on crack studio musicians that could realize their increasingly complex compositions."[24] Upon its reissue in 2000, Uncut wrote that it "retains its reputation as the group's most melodic work".[18] In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Pretzel Logic number 385 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[25] Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), wrote that "Steely Dan's songwriting and Fagen's singing were at their peak of fluid power: The whole album is flawless".[17]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" – 4:30
  2. "Night by Night" – 3:36
  3. "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" – 3:05
  4. "Barrytown" – 3:17
  5. "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" (Duke Ellington, Bubber Miley) – 2:45
Side two
  1. "Parker's Band" – 2:36
  2. "Through with Buzz" – 1:30
  3. "Pretzel Logic" – 4:28
  4. "With a Gun" – 2:15
  5. "Charlie Freak" – 2:41
  6. "Monkey in Your Soul" – 2:31

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Album[26]

Year Chart Position
1974 Pop Albums 8

Singles[27]

Year Single Label & number Position
1974 "Pretzel Logic" (3:59 edit) (B-side: "Through With Buzz") ABC 12033 57
1974 "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (B-side: "Any Major Dude Will Tell You") ABC 11439 4

References[edit]

  1. ^ Varis, Chris (July 7, 2000). "Steely Dan revival a mix of fun surprises, letdowns". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Clark, Rick et al. (October 1995). Erlewine, Michael, ed. The All-Music Guide to Rock. Miller Freeman, Inc. ISBN 087930376X. "On Pretzel Logic Steely Dan most successfully synthesized their love for jazz into their dense pop/rock sound." 
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (1994). Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums (1 ed.). Gullane Children's Books. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-85112-786-6. 
  4. ^ "Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic CD Album". CD Universe. Muze. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Scoppa, Bud (May 23, 1974). "Pretzel Logic". Rolling Stone (New York). Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Morse 1998, p. 189.
  7. ^ a b c d e Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan". Allmusic. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Bacon, Tony (February 1981). "The Royal Scam". Hi-Fi News & Record Review (London) 26 (2): 71. 
  9. ^ a b English 2007, p. 12.
  10. ^ a b c d Christgau 1981, p. 370.
  11. ^ "Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan (1974)" at popspotsnyc.com
  12. ^ a b "American album certifications – Steely Dan". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  13. ^ Rees & Crampton 1991, p. 501.
  14. ^ Uslan, Clark & Solomon 1981, p. 392.
  15. ^ English 2007, p. 13.
  16. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (July 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Sheffield et al. 2004, p. 798–9.
  18. ^ a b "Review: Pretzel Logic". Uncut (London): 88. October 2000. 
  19. ^ Coppage, Noel (July 1974). "Steely Dan: Pretzel Logic". Stereo Review 33 (1): 94. 
  20. ^ "Pictures of NME's albums of the year, 1974-2011". NME.com. IPC Media. Archived from the original on May 4, 2013. Retrieved May 4, 2013. 
  21. ^ "The 1974 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice (New York). January 20, 1975. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  22. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 20, 1975). "Our Own Critics' Poll". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  23. ^ Larkin, Colin (1994). Guinness Book of Top 1000 Albums (1 ed.). Gullane Children's Books. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-85112-786-6. 
  24. ^ McKay, Patrick (August 27, 2007). "Top Ten Obscure Steely Dan Lyrics". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved May 4, 2013. 
  25. ^ Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "385 | Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Retrieved 5 March 2006. 
  26. ^ Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.
  27. ^ Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles at AllMusic. Retrieved 27 October 2004.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]