Great Albums: Pretzel Logic

By the time this album was released in 1974, I already owned both the previous albums by Steely Dan. There was ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’, containing such great tracks as ‘Dirty Work’, and ‘Reelin’ In The Years’, followed by ‘Countdown To Ecstasy’, with longer tracks like the sublime ‘My Old School’. This was one of the first American bands that really caught my attention, as I was buying a lot of Soul Music at the time, as well as records from the likes of David Bowie, and Van Morrison.

When I read that they were to release a new album, I didn’t even wait to listen to it. I ordered it in advance from my local record shop, and got it the day it came out. I was convinced that it would be up to the same standard, and that I wouldn’t be disappointed. It was, and I wasn’t.

Donald Fagen’s vocals were as perfect as ever. The unusual and original songs he wrote with Walter Becker didn’t follow any genre, or accepted construction methods. And no two songs were alike, something that had attracted me to the band in the first place.

Their sound never shouted ‘West Coast’, or for that matter ‘East Coast’. It contained songs that were often poetic in execution, with lyrics that generally meant something too. Once I had heard all the tracks, I played side one again. By the end of the day, I could sing along to almost every song, and recognise them from the opening chord. Critical reception for this new release was unlimited. The music press liked it, other recording artists loved it, and the fans were overjoyed. It had nods to almost everything anyone liked; Rock, Jazz, and Blues too.

They also enjoyed a huge hit with the most popular single released from it. One of my favourite tracks ever recorded by anyone.

Steely Dan continued their successful career, releasing six more studio albums, and two live recordings. These included ‘Katy Lied’, ‘Gaucho’, and Aja’, in addition to no less than ten compilations and greatest hits releases. I bought all of the studio albums, and carried on loving everything this band produced, including the later solo albums by Donald Fagen.

They officially split up in 1981, later getting back together in 1993, and continuing to work until Walter Becker’s death, in 2017. Since then, Donald Fagen has continued to perform.

37 thoughts on “Great Albums: Pretzel Logic

  1. I have always loved their music, while finding some of the words creepy. I always wanted to be a backup singer for them, since about 1980, and finally when we moved to the Woodstock NY area last year, there was a concert by the guy who started the original School of Rock, Paul Green, who sold that franchise and movie and whatever and now was able to start another rock school. It was held at Bearsville Theater, in the little Utopia music complex started by Todd Rundgren way back, a nice venue that is a modest size and feels like a music hall in a way. Donald Fagen was the guest performer, for four songs, and although he is an older person now, he still did fine, and things were so very loud that I sang all the backing vocals from my audience seat and felt like I had finally done it.

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      1. It’s one of the albums I can sing pretty much note for note by memory, as with most of their work. I know they continued after Gaucho and I even have an album (or two?) of theirs after that, but that seemed to be ‘their last album’ in my mind. I did love Donald Fagen’s solo stuff as well, IGY and all.

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  2. Pete, this is a seminal band for me as well. From their first album through the current jazz-influenced sound, I have been a fan of all of it. This album is brilliant in so many ways – from the hit singles to the funky album tracks, and that title track is sublime: at the time, guys were stupidly trying “high heeled”platform shoes, and Steely Dan addressed it this way: “I stepped upon the platform, the man gave me the news. He said ‘you must be joking’ son, where did you get those shoes?'”

    I also posted a story about the band that looks at how they were sued by a session singer on the first album!

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  3. I discovered Steely Dan much later, through friends who were more into Jazz than we were, during the 80s. But when I fell in love with SD it was hard, and forever! Now I own every CD, including solos. I guess I first heard of them in the mid-70s, though, when my older brother, named Rick, received a copy of the 45-rpm of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” in the mail. Anonymously. Don’t think he ever figured out who sent him that record.


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  4. I remember my uncle brought this new album to our house and played it over and over. I remember liking and to this day still love “Ricki Don’t Lose That Number”. A wonderful album by a fantastic duo. I love their sound.

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  5. One of the very best, though I don’t listen to it as much as I once did. Each song is like a complete short story though, unlike ballads, – in the true sense of the word – they seem entirely fictitious. It’s as if they loved watching a lot of old movies too.

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    1. They put so many references in the songs, BF. Cocktail drinks, places they had visited, and where they grew up and went to college. I do tend to listen more to ‘Katy Lied’ (and the solo album, ‘Nightfly’) these days, but this one has a real place in my heart.
      Best wishes, Pete.


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