Steely Dan’s gold-selling third studio album Pretzel Logic, charted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 and restored the group’s radio presence with the single “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” which became the biggest pop hit of their career and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The 1974 album was produced by Gary Katz and was written primarily by Walter Becker (bass) and bandleader Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards). 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, except for drums, where founding drummer Jim Hodder was reduced to a backing singer, replaced by Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro on the drum kit for all of the songs on the album. Steely Dan’s Jeff “Skunk” Baxter played pedal steel guitar and hand drums.
Pretzel Logic has shorter songs and fewer instrumental jams than the group’s 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. Steely Dan considered it the band’s 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.
Rolling Stone praised the album, calling Steely Dan the “most improbable hit-singles band to emerge in ages.”
“When the band doesn’t undulate to samba rhythms (as it did on ‘Do It Again,’ its first Top Ten single), it pushes itself to a full gallop (as it did on ‘Reelin’ in the Years,’ its second). These two rhythmic preferences persist and sometimes intermingle, as on ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,’ which jumps in mid-chorus from ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ into ‘Honky Tonk Women.’ Great transition.” — the review said.
AllMusic gave the album 5 stars, with reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine noting that “instead of relying on easy hooks, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen assembled their most complex and cynical set of songs to date.” Dense with harmonics, countermelodies, and bop phrasing, Pretzel Logic is vibrant with unpredictable musical juxtapositions and snide, but very funny, wordplay.
The album’s 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.”
After a brief battle with esophageal cancer, Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017 at the age of 67. Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. VH1 ranked Steely Dan at No. 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Musical Artists of All Time. Rolling Stoneranked them No. 15 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.
This stereo UHQR reissue will be limited to 20,000 copies, with gold foil individually numbered jackets, housed in a premium slipcase with a wooden dowel spine.
1. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
2. Night By Night
3. Any Major Dude Will Tell You
5. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
6. Parker’s Band
7. Through With Buzz
8. Pretzel Logic
9. With A Gun
10. Charlie Freak
11. Monkey In Your Soul