on November 12, 2006
I have grown to love Steely Dan's eclectic music. When I was 20 years younger, and mainly buying and listening to hard rock outfits like Aerosmith, Rush, Led Zeppelin, etc., the only Dan music I was familier with was the few "hits" being played on the local Rock radio. They played Rikki Don't Lose that Number and Peg. And I remember Josie off the Aja album.
The first Steely Dan cd I bought was the debut, Can't Buy a Thrill. I must have bought it because my favorite song is Do It Again. Later, in the heyday of original compact disc releases (vs. re-issues of former vinyl albums) Steely Dan's A Decade of Steely Dan came out. It was a popular cd. Great songs and great sound.
Years went by. I was still just a casual fan. Had maybe purchased just a couple of other titles on MCA records. They were a bargain in price, but not in quality. So-so sound quality, No liner notes. etc. Finally, in the last few years, major musical acts of any "significance" have had their early albums/cd's remastered and re-released. All this at a very reasonable price! That's when I started replacing old discs and buying some that I did not own before by the Dan. Wow, did I discover some great music that I had never heard on the radio!
Night By Night is one of my all-time favorite Dan songs. Really smooth and jazzy. The title track, Pretzel logic is also one I had never heard. Great stuff. I have now purchased all of their early albums. One at a time.
If you are just starting out. Try either their first album or the great Aja from 1977. If you like what you hear (and you will) then just keep picking them up. Some are only $8 apeice. You can't go wrong.
on November 4, 2005
...They excised the beginning of Rikki Don't Lose That Number on this "remastered" reissue. "Rikki" opens with a really cool marimba part. Very moody and mysterious; since it's the opening cut on the album, it really sets the tone. Why the powers that be decided to remove it, tamper with a classic peice of work, is mind boggling. That Donald Fagen and Walter Becker would allow it, or would not catch it, is pathetic.
Having got that off my chest, this is a truly classic album, and different from any other album S.D. released. First and foremost, it is short...short songs, short running time. If you are thinking that means your getting shortchanged, think again. One tight catchy songs after another, the album ends with you wanting more, which is exactly how it should be. Too many albums of the CD age go on so long you want to quit listening before the album wants to quit playing. Not so here. Eleven songs, 34 minutes and you're done, and actually ready to hear it again. I can see why some Dan fans don't rate this album as the classic it is. This is the kind of catchy pop (done Dan style, of course) that many Dan-lovers might disdain.
Each song is a scrumptuous morsel that can be digested again and again with no ill side effects. Even the Duke Ellington song seems at home here.
If you can appreciate your Steely Dan short and sweet, this album brings innumberable pleasures. However, I suggest that you find the earlier version that has the opening. It is not at all sonically inferior to this one, you just might have to turn your volume up a bit more, as this one is mastered hotter. But I can assure you, if you equalize the volume settings, there is no discernable difference in the sound quality.
on June 12, 2003
Steely Dan's third album, 1974's "Pretzel Logic," was the last album the group made before co-leaders Walter Becker & Donald Fagen decided to quit touring altogether and make the recording studio their exclusive musical laboratory, using various top-notch session players to help them flesh out their latest creations. But first, there was still room for one more "band" recording (as well as a tour), with Walt & Don helped out by fellow members Denny Dias & Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitars, and Jim Hodder on drums. Without foregoing their flare for rock, "Pretzel Logic" finds Steely Dan in a looser, jazzier mode. There's an ace Duke Ellington cover on it ("East St. Louis Toodle-oo"), as well as a very hip salute to jazz great Charlie Parker ("Parker's Band"). And of course, more terrific, totally cool Dan numbers, with Fagen's trademark lyrical acid wit. The pop radio staple "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" was a big Top Five hit for the band (though I think Walt & Don are tired of it these days--they never play it live!). "Night By Night" is a classy, funky rocker. "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" is a lighter number but tremendously melodic, "Barrytown" has a great rollicking feel to it, "Through With Buzz" is brief but strong (with a clever string arrangement on top of it), and the title song is a swinging jazz throwdown. "With A Gun" is almost country, but has terrific, strumming acoustic guitar to drive it. "Charlie Freak" has a dark, almost ominous tone to it's piano line, but it certainly sticks with you, and the concluding "Monkey In Your Soul" is a great groover, with a memorable baseline that literally quakes. As always with Steely Dan, the band's musicianship cooks, the production is tremendous, and Fagen's lead vocals are soulful. "Pretzel Logic" is a classic Steely Dan album, one of the band's best. Make sure you don't lose this number, Rikki!
on November 28, 2001
"Pretzel Logic", Steely Dan's third album, contains yet more well-styled musical variances, most of which are neatly homogenized in a nice package. These unique stylings are well represented in the opening piano/bass scat-like riff of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", the folky "Any Major Dude Will Tell You", including the country atmosphere of the breezy "With A Gun", among others. The cool, mellow voice-box guitar effect present in the co-Duke Ellington penned instrumental "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" is sure to please even the most savvy Steely Dan fan, while "Parker's Band" is rather quick and catchy, so don't blink, or you'll miss it! The bluesy selections are worth a few listens as well, such as the title track, with its double-repetetive jazz-influenced verses. If there is a such thing as a "consolation" (mediocre) track on "Pretzel Logic", that honor would most likely go to the flighty "Night By Night", but it qualifies as an erstwhile composition, nonetheless. Since many of the compositions featured on "Pretzel Logic" are somewhat short time-wise, this is one CD where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker and crew really go out of their way to create a really one-of-a-kind scenic musical and lyrical landscape, which is simply nothing short of fantabulous, as well as in the area of musical talent, of which "The Dan" are well adept at! Add "Pretzel Logic" to your must-have Steely Dan collection today, or you'll be left "twisted"!
on March 1, 2000
I really can't explain why this one hits me the way it does, but I just love it. From the vibe trills that quietly open 'Rikki...', to the last twang of 'Monkey In Your Soul', it's a total classic. You've gotta love the radio memory that is 'Rikki...' -- I smile whenever I hear it. And of course 'Night By Night' contains one of my favorite Dan lyrics: "Yes, I'm cashing in this 10-cent life for another one". Perhaps others felt weird like I did about always wanting to skip 'East St. Louis Toodle-oo', but eventually even that one grew on me. The disc marks a point in Dan history where they were starting to use session men rather than just the touring band -- very interesting sound. It seriously sits in my top 10 of all time.
on May 30, 2008
I was in a bar with a friend several years ago shooting some pool, and Steely Dan came on the juke box. My friend grimaced. "You don't like Steely Dan?" I asked. "No," she said with a disgusted look, "It's cheesy. It's what my parents listen to."
Fast forward a few years. I was on a long hike with another friend and we were listing favorite albums. I mentioned the second and third Steely Dan albums as being among my favorites and asked my friend if he was familiar with them. This is a guy who is obsessed with 70s rock, bands like Led Zeppelin and Rush. Again the same answer, "I think my parents were into them but I never got into their stuff, it sounded a bit cheesy."
I'll admit it, I just don't understand.
The music of Steely Dan is clearly regarded as passe these days whereas other bands from the 70s have been bestowed with legendary status, and I am imagining that the "punk revolution" had more than a little to do with this turn of events. Although Steely Dan stood apart from the other bands of their era (not exactly progressive rock, definitely not glam or country-rock, they came closest to the LA "mellow mafia" sound minus the folkiness), it was their carefully crafted sound that made them easy targets for the deconstructionists who took over the popular music scene around 1977. In an era where attention to detail was becoming anachronistic, the two men behind the Steely Dan machine weren't even a touring band anymore, choosing instead to hide away inside a recording studio creating meticulously sculpted jazz-pop. Ultimately the punks won. Ramones riffs show up in every car commercial these days, but nobody (I mean NOBODY) is selling albums sounding like Steely Dan.
Now me, I absolutely love original punk. LOVE it. At its best it's raw and intense, passionate and fiery, exciting and inventive in the best way. But that doesn't stop me from loving the music of Steely Dan as well. For me, they represent the other side of the same coin. Punk is an extroverted art form, wearing its emotions on its sleeve. Steely Dan wraps its sentiments in a glossy gauze but the same ideas are still there. It's cynical music made by thinking people, slyly subversive in its social critiques rather than blisteringly angry. In many ways it's no suprise that this would be a harder sell because it's simply more work, and most music fans don't want to work. What surprises me, in fact, is that Steely Dan sold as many albums as they did (my theory is that many Steely Dan fans simply didn't listen closely to the lyrics and consequently did not bother themselves with what the songs were about anyways). However, probably the most surprising thing is that Steely Dan's legacy is so poorly regarded that the band is simply dismissed as "cheesy" by anyone who was born during or after the 60s and 70s.
For a music fan of any age, Pretzel Logic should be a rare find in an ideal world. The songs are funny, cleverly-written pieces of pop perfection. At this stage the band was still not so overly produced as to sound saccharine, and the wry and sometimes obscure lyrics spoke of the same kind of meloncholy you'd find in alternative rock but with more bite and better storytelling. The keyboards aren't overly dominant and the sound is much more rock than jazz. Rather than sounding trapped in its era, this disc is timeless.
If you are between the ages of 25 and 35 and consider yourself a serious music fan, I urge you to give this one a chance even if you don't like jazz. It's not exactly trendy stuff, but it's seriously good music.
on March 29, 2000
As an avid Steely Dan listener this has always been at the top of my list; perhaps my favorite album of the 70's. Since it fits into their transitional period from rock to smooth jazz/pop/rock it's hard to classify. The term pop seems too tame and power pop is usually associated with late 70's early 80's dudes like Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello or even someone like Matthew Sweet nowadays. I guess I'd call it "perfect pop."
This gets away from the extended jams on "Countdown" in favor of very tidy 3 minute songs with the perfect blend of cynically sarcastic lyrics and hooky, jazz/poppy melodies. For a 19 year old in 1974 tunes like "East St. Louis Toodle-oo" and "Parkers Band" seemed like they came from another universe. Of course we all know now about Becker and Fagen's musical pedigree but these two really tip you off as to what kind of ground they will be tilling in the future.
Lastly, one song I've never heard anyone comment on in terms of Steely Dan-ish guitar virtuosity is "Night by Night"--the solo and outro on this are as heavy and intense as anything else these guys have ever done. It's just that it's tucked inside such a tight, crisp pop tune that perhaps keeps it "hidden." Just wish they'd credited the players on this album since I've always wondered who did the work on this one "Rikki..." and "Pretzel Logic."
on September 25, 2004
Perhaps the most astonishing thing that can be said about this album is the breadth of opinions it generates. Some rock critics of yesterday and today deride this album, others consider it their masterpiece.
One thing that is certain, this album leaves no one indifferent -- the deliberately ambiguous "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", their second-highest charting hit, set the tone of an inspired collection of witty ("Parker's Band"), oblique ("Pretzel Logic", "Though With Buzz"), acerbic ("With A Gun", "Monkey in Your Soul"), paranoid ("Night By Night"), social commentary ("Barrytown", "Charlie Freak"), even tempered optimism ("Any Major Dude") songs.
Although there are still solid doses of rock and blues in these songs, it's the jazz ethic in both "Parker's Band", and "East St-Louis Toodle-oo" that frame the album in the context of serious musical cross-pollenization. Steely Dan never sounded blusier than on these tracks, and Donald Fagen's voice displayed an incredible emotional resonance rarely repeated in later albums.
Indeed, this was a transition album, but also a reversion from the five to seven minute jam-flavoured "Countdown to Ecstacy" songs they momentarily lost the taste of playing. Some view these varying themes as scattershot, but it's the eclectic nature of this album that makes it their most important album, if not their best.
on February 8, 2001
I owned the album way back in '74, I have the CD now and it holds up today. "Pretzel Logic" is from Steely Dan's edgy days when Becker and Fagen had an attitude and kept details of their operations, such as supporting band members, mainly to themselves. The result is a work that is definately their own and answers to no one. Don't try to figure out "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", just sit back and enjoy. The lyrics can be bizarre and blunt, but they are always intelligent. Combine tributes to jazz "East St Louis Toodle-oo" and "Parker's Band", blues (the title track) the country-and-western influence of "With A Gun", urban despair, loneliness and paranoia ("Through With Buzz", "Charlie Freak", "Monkey in Your Soul") and the beautiful acoustic "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" and you have this. I mean, who else but Steely Dan could not only get away with this, but make it work so well? I once answered a survey question "if you were trapped on a deserted island and could only have three CDs, which ones would you have?" This was one of them.
on March 12, 1998
Steely Dan Phase I came to an end soon after the release of 'Pretzel Logic' in early 1974. By the end of a long tour that took them to London Steely Dan , the band, was no more. Original members Hodder and Baxter were kicked out not to be replaced and Steely Dan's 1975 tour was scratched. But the music..ah yes the music. 'Pretzel Logic' represented the culmination of the young Becker/Fagen persona; laced with old jazz riffs and black and white New York imagery, sorta of like noire meets Ellington, 'Logic is perfect pop for now people. It even had throw backs to the early country western 'Dan ("With A Gun' which featured Poco member Tim Schmit; soon to be an Eagle) and put Steely Dan at the top of the pop charts with 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number' (#2 in August right when the band imploded). All of Steely Dan's albums are great...but this one has a special shine to it....go figure! Steve O'Rourke firstname.lastname@example.org END