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Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic (1974)

March 21, 2014

[Album 300/1001]220px-Pretzel_Logic_album

My March Madness Bracket = Busted.  I could use a ‘Do-Over’ after Duke went out in the first round!

After 300 albums, there are probably a few reviews I wouldn’t mind doing over again, one of which is Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

Grace is a record that gets better with each listen; after two years in the rotation, I now have many, many more nice things to say about it.  Maybe it’s for the best that I reviewed it early on as if I were to review it today, there’s no chance it would be nearly as succinct!

It is also one of the two albums I’ve been listening to today.  The other: Steely Dan’s third album, Pretzel Logic (PL).

PL has had no shortage of critical and commercial success, the songs clearly mean a lot to a lot of people.

There’s no doubt the musicians can play, there’s technical proficiency to spare.  The album and each of the eleven tracks are pretty concise, which I appreciate.  It’s well-constructed, well-performed, and well-recorded.

And it does nothing for me.

There’s the odd moment that grabs my attention (such as the neat piano build into the chorus of Rikki Don’t Lose That Number) and I’ll concede that Charlie Freak did stand out.

When I listen to a record, I’ve realized (as of today!) that there are two things I’m looking for: being able to get lost in the music and being able to feel, to borrow the Todd Rundgren album name, something/anything.

I believe this is why I have neither dreaded nor really looked forward to repeated listens of PL.

My PL listening experience so far has been like reading a novel by an acclaimed author where the prose is well-crafted but I just can’t get into the characters.  I simply haven’t been able to immerse in PL as I have with albums like Grace.

It’s also been a bit like watching a professional figure skater or dancer deliver a perfectly executed routine but without the emotion to make it a truly moving performance.

It’s a strange feeling coming away from an album admiring the musicianship but feeling indifferent about the music itself.

So one day I may request a do-over for Pretzel Logic: as at March 21, 2014, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

From → 1970s

  1. I have their highly regarded ‘Aja’ album on my iPod, and it doesn’t do anything for me at all. Just sounds like smooth jazz or something.

  2. I’m confident that one day you will reevaluate this amazing album. I’m not sure if I have a favorite Steely Dan album, but if I had to choose one at gunpoint (how often doesn’t that occur?) I would probably pick Pretzel Logic.Between “Any Major Dude…,” “Barrytown” and the title track it’s as strong as anything in their catalog.

    Happy to hear that Buckley’s “Grace” has slowly been growing on you. I loved it the first time I played it in ’94, but even then it took multiple listens to truly sink in. For me, his brilliance shines brightest on the 2-CD edition of “Live At Sin-é.” If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for a treat. Just that voice & his guitar…stunning.

    • If I can modify your quote when you reviewed the stooges:

      ‘If you told me (unknown # in my case) years ago that I would one day be extolling the virtues of (Steely Dan) I wouldn’t have believed you, but it reinforces my belief in always keeping an open mind when it comes to music.’

      Which is what I’m hoping for here!

      For me (at least so far), Steely Dan sounds like its times. When I heard Dirty Work show up in a scene of American Hustle, I thought good call, it really set the scene of the 70s.

      Whereas when I just saw the Departed and Gimme Shelter was on during a scene, it didn’t feel like it was throwing it back to 1969.

      That Buckley double sounds brilliant!

      • Thanks for paraphrasing me, Geoff. Nice to know we have similar mindsets when it comes to the music we listen to. As for Steely Dan sounding like its times, I agree only for certain songs (“Dirty Work” is certainly of its time, but it was also early ’70s and they had a different singer) while most of their music sounds timeless to me.

        If you ever check out that 2-CD Buckley set, I’d love to know what you think, although I’m guessing it doesn’t show up on the 1001 list and I know you have enough music to review already.

      • Only 701 more to go though! I definitely try to fit ‘recreational’ listening in frequently as I wouldn’t ever want the project to end up feeling like, well, dirty work. 🙂

      • Well played, Geoff…and I know exactly what you mean. Blogging should be fun, and if it ever feels like a chore it’s time to take a break.

  3. Steely Dan is one of those artists that either move you or lose you. As a former student of Jazz I liked a lot of their songs. However I will admit that the lyrics are a bit bizarre at times.

    • I quite enjoyed one of the quotes I read about this album regarding the lyrics:

      “the lyrics baffle me; maybe they know what they’re talking about, but I can’t get a clue.”

  4. Nice U2 lyric at the end!
    I love Steely Dan, but I get it if they’re not everyone’s taste.
    Regarding reading a novel from an acclaimed author and not enjoying it: Joyce Carol Oates. I don’t understand how someone can craft such an interesting dust jacket synopsis, enough to want to buy the book and start reading right there, and find out the book is blech. She caught me twice with her damn synopses – TWO BOOKS I bought of hers…/rant

    • My thanks – and nice html tag for the end of a rant, I will be borrowing that!

      And you’re right about tastes – There’s no way I’d ever say “Steely Dan sucks” (I don’t think I’d recommend saying that about any artist!) – they’re clearly talented, just not for me…yet.

  5. Damn. I love Steely Dan!!! Pretzel Logic is one of my all-time favorite albums.

    Different strokes…

    • I have a feeling I’ll like it more some day – and agreed about different strokes…I am also a fan of starting a cliche and not finishing it, I do that often. Great minds…!

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