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Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic: A perfectionist, pivotal record

BY Becca Inglis

1st Aug 2023 Music

Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic: A perfectionist, pivotal record
As Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic returns to vinyl for the first time in 30 years, we review the record that redefined the band's sound and songwriting
If any record embodies the definition of a make or break album, it’s Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic. Remembered for condensing the band’s noodling jazz rock into the radio-ready three minute format, it also sounded the death knell for the group’s original line-up.
As Walter Becker and Donald Fagen buried themselves deeper into the studio, adopting a perfectionist pursuit of new sonic worlds, their inclination for the live performances that their bandmates held dear drifted. Jeff Baxter and Michael McDonald eventually left to join The Doobie Brothers. 
With the reissue of Pretzel Logic on vinyl—for the first time in three decades—we get to ask ourselves, was it worth it?
"It remains fascinatingly uncategorisable—too surreal to be pop, too psychedelic to be jazz"
“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” at least is as irresistible as it was in 1974, setting up the band’s propensity for whimsy with a flapamba opening before launching into a cool piano hook.
“East St Louis Toodle-Oo” pays tribute to jazz maestro Duke Ellington, his free-flowing riff gaining psychedelic overtones from an electric guitar and talk box.
The title track meanwhile best manifests Steely Dan’s holy trinity—wit, storytelling and groove—in its time travel sequence, framed by a swaggering bluesy guitar. 
It may not be their bestselling album (that spot is reserved for Aja, which perfected Steely Dan’s session musician format with an army of 40 artists), but it remains fascinatingly uncategorisable—too surreal to be pop, too psychedelic to be jazz, and yet managing to merge each into a cerebral funk.

Rikki, don't lose that cassette tape

For a demonstration of Steely Dan’s dogged commitment to the perfect take, look no further than the 1979 fiasco, when an assistant engineer accidentally wiped “The Second Arrangement” in the studio.
After some attempts to rescue the song, and one effort to rerecord, it was scrapped, and fans were left to scrape together a mythology around salvaged bootlegs.
"We knew that if we played it, it could be the last time anyone might hear it"
This summer, at last, that lost take has made its way onto the airwaves, after being discovered on a tape in engineer Roger Nichols’ cassette player.
Cassette tapes are thought to only be playable for 30 years, so Nichols’ daughters made sure to get a digital backup—“We knew that if we played it, it could be the last time anyone might hear it,” they told Expanding Dan.
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