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The Logic of Pretzel Logic


In the first two years of their album career, Steely Dan had made three albums. Their very first album from 1972, Can’t Buy A Thrill, was a great hit, containing many of their most popular songs. The other two are Countdown to Ecstasy (1973) and Pretzel Logic (1974). Pretzel Logic became a hit album, and while its most popular song was “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” the band did put other great songs on this album. Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the album.

However, before we properly jump into the songs, there is one thing I must mention. Though albums in Steely Dan’s later career were smooth jazz, albums in their earlier career lean more toward soft rock. Examples of these songs include “Reelin’ In The Years,” “My Old School,” and the aforementioned “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” So, in Pretzel Logic, the songs lean toward classic rock a little more than in Aja or Gaucho. Now, let us examine the songs.

Summary of the Best Songs

The album begins with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” which is a great hit of Steely Dan’s. Its guitar part has a legendary solo played by Skunk Baxter. Steely Dan worked with Baxter a lot, and created extraordinary guitar intervals with him on songs like “Reelin’ In The Years” and “My Old School.” This song’s solo may be one of Baxter’s best. The mood of this song is somewhat smooth.

“Night By Night” follows, and I remember this song for its excellent guitar section. However, I find it interesting how well the horn and the guitar sound together. The mood of this song sounds a little dark, similar to that of songs like “Kid Charlemagne” and “Don’t Take Me Alive.”

“Any Major Dude Will Tell You” comes afterward. With its soft acoustic guitar and piano part, this song is very calming. Unlike “Night By Night,” the mood of this song is positive. The solo is smooth and serene as well.

The songs after this are “Barrytown,” “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” “Parker’s Band,” and “Through With Buzz.” These songs are not that remarkable and are not on the top of the Steely Dan list.

“Pretzel Logic” is the last song that I really liked. This song is structured like a blues song, with a solo played by Walter Becker. Some call it his greatest solo. Its mood is slightly negative, which is unsurprising, as it is a blues song. The narrator is desiring something that he wishes he had.

“With A Gun,” “Charlie Freak,” and “Monkey In Your Soul” are unremarkable as well.


“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

What I like about this song a lot is that it is somewhat calming. The soft xylophone intro is very serene; the piano which follows delivers a smooth groove, and so do the rest of the instruments, which enter separately. (Even the guitar solo is incredibly smooth.) Unlike “Night By Night,” it is in a positive mood, and does not have the groove of a horn with distortion guitar. Its solo bends a note back and forth, and is one of Skunk Baxter’s most renowned and legendary guitar solos.

“Pretzel Logic”

The most interesting part of this song is the solo (although I am not saying that the rest of the song isn’t interesting). The solo begins with a horn over the guitar. The horn then releases the guitar, and the guitar begins to move along the fretboard. Then, for the second part of the solo, there is a fair amount of bent notes before it moves to the next set of vocals for the song. The solo of “Pretzel Logic” may be one the best solos in the history of rock and roll.


Though Pretzel Logic has a fair number of excellently composed songs, there are also a lot of unremarkable songs on it. In Aja I found that there was not a single song that I didn’t like. Pretzel Logic had fewer songs that really resonated with me, and I feel that Pretzel Logic may not be Steely Dan at their absolute best. However, this is definitely not Steely Dan at their absolute worst. My thoughts on this album are that it may not be one of those albums that you listen to all the way through on a regular basis, but you would probably pick out a few individual songs to listen to more than once.

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