|Studio album by|
|Released||February 20, 1974|
|Recorded||October 1973 to January 1974|
|Studio||The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles|
|Steely Dan chronology|
|Singles from Pretzel Logic|
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, and recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles with producer Gary Katz. It was the final album to feature the full five-member band of Becker, Fagen, Denny Dias, Skunk Baxter, and Jim Hodder, and also featured significant contributions from many 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 on CD in 1987 and remastered in 1999 to retrospective acclaim from critics.
Recording and production
Pretzel Logic was recorded at The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles. It was produced by Gary Katz and written primarily by Walter Becker and bandleader Donald Fagen, who also sang and played keyboard. 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 used them only for occasional overdubs. Steely Dan's Jeff "Skunk" Baxter played pedal steel guitar and hand drums.
The cover photo featuring a New York pretzel vendor was taken by Raeanne Rubenstein, a photographer of musicians and Hollywood celebrities. She shot the photo on 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".
Music and lyrics
Pretzel Logic has shorter songs and fewer instrumental jams than the group's 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. Steely Dan considered it their attempt at complete musical statements within the three-minute pop-song format. The album's music is characterized by harmonies, counter-melodies, and bop phrasing. It also relies often on straightforward pop influences. 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.
Steely Dan often incorporated jazz into their music during the 1970s. "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" appropriates the bass pattern from Horace Silver's 1965 song "Song for My Father", while "Parker's Band" features Charlie Parker–influenced riffs and a lyric that invites listeners to "take a piece of Mr. Parker's band." Baxter's guitar playing drew on jazz and rock and roll influences. On Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", he imitates a ragtime mute-trombone solo. Certain songs incorporate additional instrumentation, including exotic percussion, violin sections, bells, and horns. Music critic Robert Christgau wrote that the solos are "functional rather than personal or expressive, locked into the workings of the music".
Release and reception
|Christgau's Record Guide||A+|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Pretzel Logic was released by ABC Records on February 20, 1974, to high sales. It charted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and became Steely Dan's third gold-certified album. After the disappointing performance of Countdown to Ecstasy, the album restored their radio presence with the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", which became the biggest pop hit of their career and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. 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.
Pretzel Logic was praised by contemporary critics. Bud Scoppa from 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." Down Beat asserted that "there are no better rock recording groups in America, and damn few worldwide." Christgau found the record innovative, writing in Creem: "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." In a mixed review, Noel Coppage of Stereo Review was impressed by the music, but said that "the lyrics baffle me; maybe they know what they're talking about, but I can't get a clue."
At the end of 1974, Pretzel Logic was named NME magazine's album of the year, and it was also voted the second best record of 1974 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of prominent critics published by The Village Voice. Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it number one in his own list. He later wrote that the album encapsulated 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."
In 1994, Pretzel Logic was ranked number 67 in the All Time Top 1000 Albums by writer Colin Larkin, who felt the album's mix of jazz, R&B, and pop styles was "highly inventive" and "greater than the sum of its parts"  (in the following edition of the ranking in year 2000, it fell to number 292). 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." 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." 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." In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Pretzel Logic number 385 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), said "Steely Dan's songwriting and Fagen's singing were at their peak of fluid power: The whole album is flawless".
|1.||"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"||4:32|
|2.||"Night by Night"||3:40|
|3.||"Any Major Dude Will Tell You"||3:05|
|5.||"East St. Louis Toodle-Oo"||Duke Ellington, Bubber Miley||2:45|
|2.||"Through with Buzz"||1:30|
|4.||"With a Gun"||2:15|
|6.||"Monkey in Your Soul"||2:31|
|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|
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On Pretzel Logic Steely Dan most successfully synthesized their love for jazz into their dense pop/rock sound.
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