STEELY DAN — Pretzel Logic (review)

STEELY DAN — Pretzel Logic album cover Album · 1974 · RnB Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
Sean Trane
After the fairly different CTE, which was considered a disappointment in many circles and in the charts, Dan returned to the studios with a Damocles’ sword hanging over their heads: repeat the Thrill’s success or face our wrath. So the duo wrote another Thrill album as if it was the easiest thing to do. Which in sorts, it was since the Fagen/Becker duo had written tons of songs for a wide-spectrummed brochettes of artistes. This is exactly where I can never forget that SD was one of those evil-front-office music business sharks as well as being studio rats. I mean that with CTE, it was clear that SD could write an album that stood mostly together as a unit and have a general direction, which was the opposite of their debut album. And they’d achieve this with minimum time always in a hurry between the road and the studios. Sooo instead of going onwards with the CTE direction in mind, SD throw whatever revolt they might have felt and obliged the company with another Thrill-type of album, an aimless bunch of songs with no unity. They also knew perfectly well they were doing crappier things than CTE, and at least in this album, they kept their sell-out rather short, just over the half-hour. First line-up change: Hodder left the drum stool to a real studio rat Jeff Porcaro (future Toto), although he still appears on some tracks. Derek & Dominoes’ Jim Gordon also drums a bit on the album. The artwork is mostly reminiscent of their NY roots(or at least east coast), something that the album’s title hints as well.

Starting on the Rikki Don’t Loose That Number huge hit, there is no doubt that SD is playing between Do It Again and Reelin’ and it can’t be a miss chart-wise. Night by Night has the same horn section as Dirty work had, but the song works fine too and there is some sax work. But the album sinks into a comatose state with dumb and listless tracks like Any Major Dude Will Tell You, while the slightly stinky Barrytown is heavier in mood, but fails to convince it doesn’t mean bigotry business. One has to wonder what tracks like St Louis Toodle-oo is doing on such an album, except breaking the album’s canvas by being outside of the weft of the album. As brilliantly played as it is, it’s ridiculous on this album. Further down the album we go through the average Parker’s Band (and I mean really really average), the Country-Beatle-esque With a Gun (not this album’s worse song either) and the useless finale Monkey In Your Soul

Out of the morosity and monotony of the album, come out three tracks, the short string-quartet driven Through With Buzz and the second hit from this album, the title track, which again plays on the electric piano and multiple Dan-esque harmony vocals, but here there is a nice groove induced by the vast horn section and a very tight . Another highlight is the interesting Charlie Freak, with its hypnotic piano and almost Hackettian guitars – too bad it’s so short.

The “group” would come apart after this album, more out of distaste for the road for the brainchild than for the usual musical preferences/differences. Skunk Baxter left to infect the then-superb Doobie Brothers, only for him to induce that Country Rock and Dan-esque feel that started with their Stampede album and ended up in their disastrous Minute By Minute. With Pretzel Logic ends the “group’s group phase”, and they will simply refuse to tour from then-onwards, thus enforcing the studio rats image of the band. While the PL album is better than Thrill (I’d love to see/hear if they expanded a few songs of PL), it’s certainly far away from Countdown and what the band had shown us what they could do. Hence in that regard, although I say there are four tracks I like on PL, it’s still far from an essential album, not even clinching the good 3 stars level, since this is the kind of album they could write in a coma, without the slightest shred of effort.

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