|Studio album by|
|Released||February 20, 1974|
|Recorded||October 1973 – January 1974|
|Studio||The Village Recorder (West Los Angeles)|
|Steely Dan chronology|
|Singles from Pretzel Logic|
Pretzel Logic is the third studio album by American rock band Steely Dan, released by ABC Records on February 20, 1974. It was recorded at the Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, California, with producer Gary Katz. The album was Steely Dan's last to be made and released while the group was still an active touring band, as well as the final album to feature the band's full quintet-lineup of Becker, Fagen, Denny Dias, Jim Hodder, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (who subsequently left to join The Doobie Brothers), though it also features significant contributions from many prominent Los Angeles-based studio musicians.
A commercial and critical success, the album's hit single, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", helped restore Steely Dan's radio presence after the disappointing performance of their previous album. Pretzel Logic was reissued on CD in 1987, and remastered in 1999, to retrospective critical acclaim.
Recording and production
Like Steely Dan's previous albums, Pretzel Logic was recorded at the Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, 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 the principal members of Steely Dan, and the pair enlisted prominent Los Angeles-based studio musicians to record numerous overdubs. Jim Hodder, Steely Dan's founding drummer, was reduced to a background singer on the album, which instead features Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro on the drums. In addition to playing guitar, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter can be heard playing pedal steel guitar and some hand drums.
Music and lyrics
Pretzel Logic contains shorter songs and fewer instrumental jams than Steely Dan's previous album, Countdown to Ecstasy (1973), as the group had decided to attempt to produce complete musical statements within the three-minute pop-song format. Music critic Robert Christgau wrote that the album's solos are "functional rather than personal or expressive, locked into the workings of the music".
The music on the album is characterized by harmonies, counter-melodies, and bop phrasing, and often relies 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. For example, on this album, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" appropriates the bass pattern from Horace Silver's 1965 song "Song for My Father", and "Parker's Band" features riffs influenced by Charlie Parker 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, and on the instrumental cover of Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo", he imitates a muted horn with his guitar and a wah-wah pedal. Certain songs on the album incorporate additional instrumentation, including exotic percussion, violin sections, bells, and horns.
"Charlie Freak" recounts the tale of a vagrant drug-addict who sells his only possession—a gold ring—to the narrator so he can buy a fix, which kills him.
The album's cover photo featuring a New York pretzel vendor was taken by Raeanne Rubenstein, a photographer of musicians and Hollywood celebrities. She took 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".
Marketing and sales
Pretzel Logic was released by ABC Records on February 20, 1974, and it sold well. In the United States, it charted at number 8 on the Billboard 200 and became Steely Dan's third album to be certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). After the disappointing performance of the singles from Countdown to Ecstasy, the album restored the group's radio presence with the single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", which became the biggest pop hit of their career, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. On September 7, 1993, Pretzel Logic was certified Platinum by the RIAA, recognizing the shipment of one million copies in the U.S.
|Christgau's Record Guide||A+|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Great Rock Discography||9/10|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Tom Hull – on the Web||A+|
The album received critical praise at the time of its release. Bud Scoppa of Rolling Stone magazine called the album's "wonderfully fluid ensemble sound" unprecedented in popular music, and said 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." Robert Christgau found the album 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 on the album, 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. It was also voted the second-best album of 1974 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of prominent critics published by The Village Voice. Christgau, who created the Pazz & Jop, ranked Pretzel Logic number one on his own year-end list, and 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 The All-Music Guide to Rock (1995), Rick Clark gave the album five stars out of five and wrote that, "On Pretzel Logic Steely Dan most successfully synthesized their love for jazz into their dense pop/rock sound." Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the album Steely Dan's "richest", and wrote that Becker and Fagen's songwriting was "seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible." Patrick McKay of Stylus Magazine called the album "superb", and noted that it found Becker and Fagen "relying instead on crack studio musicians that could realize their increasingly complex compositions". Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), said that, when making Pretzel Logic, "Steely Dan's songwriting and Fagen's singing were at their peak of fluid power: The whole album is flawless".
Pretzel Logic has appeared on many retrospective "greatest albums" lists. In 1994, it was voted number 67 in Colin Larkin's book All Time Top 1000 Albums, with Larkin calling the album's mix of jazz, R&B, and pop styles "highly inventive" and "greater than the sum of its parts"; it fell to number 292 in the update of the ranking from the year 2000. In 2003, the album was ranked number 385 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time"; it dropped one position, to number 386, on the 2012 update of the list. Based on such rankings, the aggregate website Acclaimed Music lists Pretzel Logic as the 403th-most acclaimed album in history, as well as the 114th-most acclaimed album from the 1970s, and the 7th-most acclaimed from 1974. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
|1.||"Rikki Don't Lose That Number"||4:33|
|2.||"Night by Night"||3:40|
|3.||"Any Major Dude Will Tell You"||3:08|
|5.||"East St. Louis Toodle-Oo"||Duke Ellington, Bubber Miley||2:50|
|7.||"Through with Buzz"||1:34|
|9.||"With a Gun"||2:19|
|11.||"Monkey in Your Soul"||2:39|
- Steely Dan
- Donald Fagen – keyboards, saxophone, lead vocals, backing vocals
- Walter Becker – electric bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals
- Jeff "Skunk" Baxter – lead guitar (wah-wah on 5), pedal steel guitar
- Denny Dias – guitar
- Jim Hodder – backing vocals (6)
- Additional musicians
- Timothy B. Schmit – backing vocals (1,4,8)
- Michael Omartian – piano, keyboards
- David Paich – piano, keyboards
- Ben Benay – guitar
- Dean Parks – guitar, banjo (5)
- Wilton Felder – bass
- Chuck Rainey – bass
- Plas Johnson, Jerome Richardson, Ernie Watts – saxophone
- Ollie Mitchell – trumpet
- Lew McCreary – trombone
- Jim Gordon – drums (all except 2)
- Jeff Porcaro – drums (2, 6)
- Victor Feldman – flapamba (1), percussion
- Roger Nichols – gong (5)
|Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)||18|
|US Billboard Top LPs & Tape||8|
|1974||"Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (B-side: "Any Major Dude Will Tell You")||ABC 11439||4||US Billboard Hot 100|
|1974||"Pretzel Logic" (3:59 edit) (B-side: "Through with Buzz")||ABC 12033||57|
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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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