Steely Dan’s AAA Analogue Productions 200g 45rpm 2LP Pretzel Logic Tackles a Few Twists and Turns to Find Its Way Toward Upholding the UHQR Standard

Steely Dan were on a clear roll by the time their third LP on the ABC Records label, Pretzel Logic, hit the shelves in February 1974. Coming off the creative uptick of July 1973’s stride-hitting sophomore effort Countdown to Ecstasy, the band’s two self-admitted “autocrats,” Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, wanted to turn the recording knob, so to speak, more toward the first-call studio musicianship feel they experienced firsthand while spending time at other artists’ recording sessions that took place in the ABC Dunhill recording complex in West Hollywood. As a result, relied less on the bandmember chemistry they’d only recently established out on tour with the core musicians who had collectively honed much of Ecstasy’s material together out on the road, and instead leaned more toward the “perfection and grace” studio style that would essentially define the balance of their recording career.

Following that premise, Pretzel Logic has a different overall feel to it than those previous two SD albums have. It’s a transitional album that refined how the table was again reset for all the purely studio-driven Steely Dan albums that would follow it — albums that tracked the insular decline and festering paranoia of West Coast culture in the back half of the 1970s.


Released on July 28, this edition of Pretzel Logic is now the third entry in Analogue Productions' all-inclusive Steely Dan UHQR series, which commenced last fall with the band’s November 1972 debut LP Can’t Buy a Thrill, and was then followed earlier this year in February with July 1973’s aforementioned Countdown to Ecstasy. As reported here on AP on August 8, September 1977’s Aja will be the next SD release to come in this series on September 29, jumping the chronological timeline ahead of March 1975’s Katy Lied and May 1976’s The Royal Scam — but, as I noted elsewhere here on AP, I can’t recall anyone from the label side of things confirming this series was going to follow a strict, chronologically oriented release schedule all the way through. Given the importance of Aja in both the band’s canon and in audiophile circles alike, it makes quite a bit of sense that it’s the next UHQR to arrive in the fall — and just in time for the holiday buying season to boot. If you want to read more about what’s what with Aja (and follow how much further we dive into its tape copy origins in the Comments section especially!), go here.

For more Steely Dan reissue series FYI, you can also read my News report about the entire slate of their UHQR editions here, then you can read my esteemed colleague Mark Smotroff’s review of the Thrill UHQR here, and then you can read my own review of the Ecstasy UHQR here. (Incidentally, Mark’s review of the new Geffen/UMe version of Pretzel Logic will post on August 11.)

Back now to chronicling more of the basic SD LP reissue stats, for the literal record. The 45rpm 2LP UHQR version of Pretzel Logic has been plated by Stan Bishop, pressed at Analogue Productions’ own Quality Record Pressings on 200g Clarity Vinyl, packaged in a deluxe box, and contains a four-sided booklet detailing the entire process of making a UHQR along with a certificate of inspection and a four-sided Acoustic Sounds release hype sheet, similar to the one that appeared in the box. Each UHQR is pressed using hand-selected vinyl. The Pretzel Logic box, just as all other entries in this UHQR series do, has an SRP of $150, and it can be ordered here.


The Logic of Unboxing
As I noted in my Ecstasy UHQR review, I give considerable, concurrent weight to any given box set’s contents and overall presentation from both the audiophile and collector’s perspective, respectively. And in the specific case of Logic, its black textured box fits perfectly shelf-adjacent with my other UHQR boxes — seven of them all told, as of this posting — and, since there are at least four more entries in this particular SD series to come, I’m already considering how, when, and where I’ll be moving the other non-UHQR boxes currently shelved alongside them. (I know everybody doesn’t love this [articular box-set design style, but I’m cool with it for what it is.)

Pretzel Logic (UHQR 0011-45) also comes with an easy-to-read spine delineated with sans-serif gold type. As per usual, I unfurled my trusty Lufkin Red End folding ruler to measure this box’s size exactly, just to confirm its uniformity. The box indeed measures 13 3/8 x 12 13/16 x 1 1/8 inches (w/h/d) — just as its two SD UHQR brethren do — and it glides open to the right with ease, due in large part to its convex edge. Similar to what I noted in my prior Countdown UHQR review, the absence of having to struggle just to get to what’s inside the box remains quite refreshing, given how many times I’ve inadvertently marred too-snug boxes with a telltale fingernail scratch or two while attempting to pry open their vacuum-like seating.

As is my custom, I also affixed both hype stickers from the outer shell’s protective plastic wrap directly onto the box’s front cover, positioning both of them on the all-black right side so as not to cover up the exactly centered, gold-framed black-and-white Pretzel Logic album cover image. It’s a lovely black-and-white shot taken by Raeanne Rubenstein of a pretzel vendor on the job in New York City — and if anyone finds a hot pretzel going for just 15 cents these days anywhere in Manhattan, contact me immediately.


That all said, just as what happened when I followed the same routine with Ecstasy, I fared much better with placing the 2½ x 3¾-in rectangular “Guarantee” sticker at the bottom right than I did with the shinier, circular ¾-in “100% Analog Masters” one upwards near the top right. Since it’s hanging on by a slim, barely sticky thread, I may have to put that latter sticker inside the box sooner than later (and I may also have to reconsider whether I even bother trying to affix that spherical sticker on the front of any future UHQR releases when I get them in hand).

Inside that sturdy outer box, the contents within the half-cornered durable interior Pretzel box mirrored that of what was in Ecstasy, so I won’t repeat all that info here. The four-sided Logic liner notes booklet includes nine new paragraphs from Donald Fagen, which practically doubles the five grafs that were in the Ecstasy liners — though some of the Logic grafs are admittedly quite short. Both individually sleeved 45rpm black-labeled clear discs were housed inside one outer plastic sleeve, separate from the glossy cardboard gatefold Logic album sleeve. (Naturally, I won’t be sleeving either LP in that jacket.)

Finally, a few more words about the liners before I move on to the music. Here, Fagen outlines the rhyme and reason for the band’s studio-musician shift, a decision that definitely impacts the tone, temper, and even tempo of Logic in comparison to its predecessors. He also cites some of the vintage jazz elements and themes Steely Dan incorporated throughout the album — I won’t spoil those here, as they’re worth investigating by your own ear, and not just by his/our words alone.


Listening Sessions
Both of my clear-vinyl Pretzel discs were spot-clean and well-centered, with the first disc fitting a good bit more snugly on the spindle than the second disc did (the latter one slid on with ease), so I was extra mindful of how I had to lift Disc 1 up and off the spindle when the time came to flip Sides A and B.

As was the case with the previous two SD UHQRs, the black labels sport a Geffen logo centered at the top where various ABC-era logos were located on earlier LP editions. Incidentally, while each Pretzel side’s label denomination follows an alphabetical ordering — i.e., Side A, Side B, Side C, and Side D — the tracklisting on the back cover of the glossy gatefold sleeve instead lists the sides numerically — Side 1, Side 2, Side 3, and Side 4. A minor quibble, to be sure, but an inconsistency still worth noting.

Disc 1 was well-clamped into place before Side A began to spin. Just as it was with the first Countdown UHQR disc, the length of the run-in groove gave me plenty of time to get back into my sweet-spot Eames listening chair after I dropped the needle.


Now it was time to listen, and then listen some more. Track 1, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” was actually the Dan’s highest-charting single, believe it or not, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. I make mention of that chart fact here for a reason. It was actually quite a treat to hear all 23 seconds of Vince Feldman’s flapamba intro on the UHQR “Rikki,” as listeners less familiar with the LP version of this song than they may be with the ABC-released single version, and/or what they may have heard on the radio, various playlists, and other broadcast/streaming media, might be surprised by the extent of its elegant album-opening presence.

The understated, but unmistakable, character of this wooden percussive instrument set the tone for a track that takes its time to unfold — but unfold it does. You should be able to discern both the flapamba and the chimes underneath the piano intro (and elsewhere, usually after the choruses switch back to the verses) — as well as Jim Gordon’s laid-back drum roll before switching to cymbal taps once Fagen’s lead vocal enters right up the middle. I’m always fascinated by which words Fagen puts a bit of a back-East twist on, such as how “heart” becomes more and more like “hawt” as “Rikki” carries forth. When Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s 30-second guitar solo takes center stage about three minutes into “Rikki,” it leaps out as SD signature solos often tend to do — but as Logic continues to spin, moments like these become few and far between.

Track 2, “Night by Night,” has more of a kick to it in terms of volume, verve, and its own inherent funkiness. Some of its punch is no doubt due in part to Jeff Porcaro’s presence on drums, which is more impactful than Gordon’s “stay back, and in the pocket” approach as Porcaro accents words and phrases in a quite different, more instinctive manner. Fagen’s vocals are doubled throughout, with the guitar accents and horn section swinging along as they should and neither overwhelming his lead, with the horns jumping out for emphasis in the right channel at the end of lines and then back to a more supportive role on the choruses.

Incidentally, Side A is the only Pretzel side comprised of two tracks, as Sides B through D each sport three tracks apiece. Given the shorter length of the balance of the songs on as opposed to some of the much lengthier cuts on both Countdown and Thrill (no Pretzel song clocks in at even close to 5 minutes in length), these specific side-split choices all seem quite, well, logical to me — and they also serve to lend a proper parallel to ensure the key track that ends Side A on the original 1974 LP appears as the side-ender of Side B.


And speaking of Side B, Track 1, “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” opens things up with crystal-clear full-soundfield acoustic-guitar strumming, with Gordon back for light snare taps ahead of the piano accent leading into Fagen’s single vocal track on the initial verse, which immediately is doubled on the chorus. Loping is the word I’ll use to describe the way “Dude” unfolds, its overall lighter touch buoyed at times by Fagen’s drawn-out, multi-syllabic “tell-eh’ll you.” The guitar solo, if we can even call it that, is brief and supportive rather than in your face, but it fits. (Bonus points to those who know what particular word in this song equates directly to a classic mid-’70s song by Genesis.)

The FM radio favorite “Barrytown” swings into view next as Track 2, still in that loping SD mode with Fagen’s single-tracked vocal on the lightly caustic, punched-word verses up the middle before the echo-laden chorus-doubling and bridge come (yeah, it’s a pattern). Light supportive accents via Skunk Baxter’s pedal steel are present after the bridge, and just as the noodling comes to the forefront, “Barrytown” fades out rather than plays out. They do things very strange, indeed.

One of my forever-favorite SD tracks ends Side B, the earlier alluded to “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” a truly masterful take on a Duke Ellington classic penned almost 50 years prior to this recording (in 1926, that is). The inventiveness of how the SD crew paid homage to the original, albeit with different instruments, is a pure pleasure here. To mirror Bubber Miley’s trumpet tone on the original, Becker plays the melody through a squawky, and quite expressive, talk box, while Baxter’s pedal steel takes over for the trombone, as tasty as can be. And, in this particular case, Gordon was the right call to hold down the backline (such as with his refined cymbal placement during the featured piano section), plus we get banjo from Dean Parks and wah-wah from Baxter. And the final, dramatic gong hit — courtesy engineer Roger Nichols — resonates subtly, a la Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and in prime Goldilocks fashion (i.e., just right).

Bottom line — this particular “Toodle” has a bit more “Oo” to it than what I’ve heard on my original (and admittedly well-played) 1974 ABC Records Santa Maria Pressing Logic LP, with its decidedly ringworn cover.


Side C commences with a pair of over-too-fast winners — namely, “Parker’s Band” and “Through With Buzz.” Frankly, I wish both tracks had more room to breathe — as in, more time to unfold, as both of these songs have a number of intriguing elements to them that end all too abruptly. Porcaro is back behind the kit for “Parker’s Band,” which swings with panache and contains a smoking guitar intro leading into Fagen’s doubled vocals. Keep an ear out for the organ fills and the bright character to the quick bridge, as well as the ping-ponging sax solo toward the end. On Track 2, piano and strings commence “Through With Buzz,” which feels light and airy as it should. (Some may call it thin, but that’s more about the arrangement.) The briefly repetitive string stabs in the middle have more presence here, as do those held notes before the fade. And, with that, “Buzz” is literally through with itself before I am.

Luckily, the title track “Pretzel Logic” closes the side, my alternate favorite cut here next to “Toodle-Oo.” Okay, so maybe they rushed through the previous two tracks just to get to it, but nonetheless, “Pretzel Logic” sneers and steers itself into the proper direction, right from the Wurlitzer-piano jump. When the layered vocals come to the forefront with the lines, “Yes, I’m dyin’ to be a star, and make them laugh / Sound just like a record, on the phonograph,” you should be able to discern where Timothy B. Schmit and Jim Hodder (the onetime SD band drummer, now relegated to a one-off vocal-only role) blend with Fagen. (“Ohh yea-ahh!”) Becker tackles the lead-guitar duties here, and powers through a pair of building, unfurling, gnarly windouts frankly missing from most of the record (and they’re both nicely buttressed by the horns too).


Side D slow-peters it all out, as the acoustified folky strum-and-twang of “With a Gun,” the odd piano ramble-tamble and swelling strings of “Charlie Freak” (though I do dig the presence of the sleigh bells in the back half), and the funky-tunk slap-and-clap of “Monkey in Your Soul” (with that right-channel horn-swing thing goin’ on) closing up the Pretzel tent. Not my favorite side of the album, clearly, but maybe it speaks more to you than me.


While Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic UHQR may not share the full-on Wow factors that its predecessors Countdown to Ecstasy and Can’t Buy a Thrill do (each in their own respective ways, of course), that doesn’t discount this 2LP set’s value when it comes to overall worthiness or what you’ll get out of repeat listens — because the more you hear it, the more you get into it. If Pretzel Logic is your personal go-to Steely Dan album, this UHQR edition is absolutely for you. If you want to test your jazz-lineage chops and get further inside the music to hear how SD are literally transitioning their studio acumen right before your very ears into a signature style that wound up blooming in full force on their subsequent albums, then this UHQR edition is definitely for you too.

Yes, I’m giving Logic an 8 for Music and a 9 for Sound (are both closer to 8.5 than 9? Well, mayhap) — but, hey, any Steely Dan music at an 8 or even 8.5 is still miles ahead of many, many acts you’ll ever drop the needle on. Given what’s to come on the SD UHQR horizon — with Aja being next at the end of September, and Gaucho reportedly to follow by the end of the year before Lied and Scam arrive in 2024 — Logic stands tall in all its 200g 45rpm 2LP clear-vinyl glory, just like many a great record on the phonograph should.

Music Direct Buy It Now



200g 2LP 45rpm (Geffen/Analogue Productions)

Side A
1. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number
2. Night By Night

Side B
1. Anu Major Dude Will Tell You
2. Barrytown
3. East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

Side C
1. Parker’s Band
2. Through With Buzz
3. Pretzel Logic

Side D
1. With A Gun
2. Charlie Freak
3. Monkey In Your Soul


jazz's picture

would appreciate more content about sound quality in case of such reissues (existing mainly because of their sound quality) than about packaging, manufacturing quality and a band an its songs, well known to most for decades.

Mike Mettler's picture
Thanks for the feedback, jazz. For additional context here, this review runs about 3,200 words in total, which is essentially double the length of our weekly album reviews. Well over 1,500 words in this review specifically talk about the SQ, with comments about every song on every side, and that word count mirrors the length of other standalone reviews.

When I review the next UHQR in this series, Aja, I will likely spend less time on the packaging details -- as long as they're essentially uniform with the other series entries, that's about the extent of what I'll need to say about them -- and the music will be discussed in great, great detail, since Aja is such an important recording in the SD canon.

jazz's picture

I didn’t perceive the words accompanying every song had SQ related content, just music related and maybe how this track sounds to you, but not compared to any other pressing, rather unspecific and like from someone who bought this as his fist ever pressing of it.. That’s where my feedback came from. Thanks for considering it at all, no offense.

Mike Mettler's picture
No offense taken. It's hard sometimes to figure out how much of the "this sounds like this on that pressing, and this sounds like that on this pressing" approach to take in certain reviews. Not everybody has, or has access to, original pressings, so it's a case-by-case basis kind of thing, depending on the review at hand. Our main LP reviewer Mark Smotroff is really good at giving context to pressing differences in his reviews, for example.

Aja is likely to get more of a direct pressing-to-pressing comparison/contrast since so many of us swear by (insert your preferred pressing here) when it comes to that specific LP.

culturcide's picture

I spent thousands and thousands of dollars with Acoustic Sounds during the pandemic. Then in one large $800 order I got an unplayable $25 LP (warped, off centre etc). I was told to send it back for a refund. I said I was not spending $35 to send back a $25 LP from the other side of the world. Case closed. No response to further emails, calls or a hand written letter to Chad. I have not purchased from them since (I would have pre-ordered the whole Steely Dan UHQR set). It’s now been over a year since purchasing anything from Acoustic Sounds.

Tom L's picture

you had a bad customer service experience with Acoustic Sounds.
It seems to be a case of one quality control slipup and poor communication on their part along with your unfortunate postal cost situation. There is indeed a downside to living in Australia, which is a wonderful place in most respects but quite remote from the northern hemisphere.
Are you going to continue to repeat this comment every time there is a mention of AS?
Just wondering.

culturcide's picture

Until they reach out to me... probably yes!

markmck12's picture

Dude, it sounds like you are pissed with AS, but we get it already.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

The flapamba was played by Victor Feldman (not Vince) a highly regarded British jazz musician, working mainly on the West Coast.

Mike Mettler's picture
Thx for the catch on that, Trevor! Not sure where Vince came from considering how many times I looked at the credits and knew it was Victor to begin with, but such is the writing/editing life -- and that is now fixed.

And speaking of flapamba, I believe that instrument was also used to great effect in some of the music Michael Giacchino composed for the great TV show Lost...

PeterPani's picture

Would be nice to get the AAA information on the record box itself or on the acousticsounds site. Why does the customer always have to look at the small print or analogplanet to get confirmation about the reissue process?

Peter Music's picture

As someone who loved the first two SD UHQRs, I am stunned that AP would award PL a 9 (or an 8.5) on sonics. The same as CBAT!!!??? This album is a dull mess in the middle, and I am not the only one who thinks so (google it). Pretty much unlistenable. Not complaining about the price or anything else, just the listening experience. And I'm still hoping the others will be like the first two SD UHQRs...

More broadly, it also bothers me that the reviewer has not substantiated his 9 rating. We look to Analog Planet for careful professional reviews, and those scores are damn important to many of us. This album has shaken my confidence in Analog Productions, and this review has shaken my confidence in Analog Planet. Sadness.

Caveat emptor

brenro12's picture

Mikey Fremer had a distinctly different take on this re-issue in his review over at Tracking Angle.

timorous's picture

Curiously, there's virtually no mention of the general and specific sound quality of this UHQR version of Pretzel Logic. Way too many words are spent on the analities of the packaging.

While this is likely my least favorite SD album, I have played it many times over the years (via my original mid-70s vinyl LP, and a first-run CD). I've always found the recording to be rather dull, sonically, especially the drums, which sound like they are recorded through a blanket.

It also sounds like there's moderate overload in several places, like the middle-8 of Any Major Dude, and parts of Pretzel Logic. Maybe a re-mix from the original multi-track tapes would clean things up some...

Needless to say, I won't be purchasing this package, or the standard version. Just not worth it for me.

Mike Mettler's picture
Love your insight here, timorous. The way Pretzel Logic was recorded, and the personnel used on it and how they were deployed, all factor into why the album sounds like it sounds for those reasons, and more. It's less dynamic and engaging overall than the previous two SD albums. Jim Gordon sounds like he sounds on drums because that's how he plays, and I wonder if the overall dynamics of certain tracks here would be different if Jeff Porcaro had played on the entire album, or if Becker and Fagen had let Jim Hodder get behind the kit instead of relegating him to just singing background vocals on only one song.

All that said, Gordon's lighter touch works best in the specific context of a song like "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," and that's perhaps one of the lessons Becker and Fagen learned after making this album -- who works best for the arrangement and intention of each song? They made better choices in who played what for them moving forward, that's for sure.

Don Roderick's picture

I agree completely with the comments by timorous. This SD release has always been, and continues to be, their worst-sounding effort. The lack of nice sonics can be heard on any and every version - commercial vinyl, audiophile vinyl, CD, name it!
This one SD release cries out for a new mix from the original session tapes, if they are still useable 50 years after created.
Thank You.

Russo7516's picture

AS -UHQR line should get rid of those bulky boxes and stop with the 45 rpm’s . If an lp was originally done 33 1/3 than so be it. Plus s&h on a 150 lp .
The B/Q record collector just did a listening test and more than a few picked a first pressing . Ouch
The reissues prices and sound quality are starting to turn many off.
Lets see how the Love Supreme will pan out

markmck12's picture

Great job, this immersive review was a real pleasure to read. With respect to other comments complain about the lack of description devoted to the sound quality, I beg to differ. The way you describe the more transparent drum styles, the single and double tracked vocals etc is down I imagine to the improved sonic quality of this issue.

Russo7516's picture

I wonder how Fagen feels about these reissue’s? Artists never say if they like it or not?
That was a question ?
The younger set feels that a 150 price tag is steep ? Plus that lp should have zero issues. Look at the SH forum and see what others say.
The B/Q collector group has many different ears listening so opinions vary as does personal stereo system and room acoustics all play a roll. The 1980’s MOFI UHQR had less issues .
One last note the UHQR and the Geffen reissue how close in sound AP?

mb's picture

It seems like it’s aimed at folks who love oversized, overpriced packaging, have never heard the album before, and have no interest whether their $150+ s/h will get them better, worse or similar fidelity than a $12 used copy from the 70s. Maybe I’m wrong but that doesn’t really seem the target audience for Analog Planet.

audiotom's picture

This is the first time I have heard a record so clearly off by Analog Productions that it is shocking.
And to have it be their premium line Steely Dan UHQR release.
The record is tonally off. Muted voice, wolly midrange, no air, dry metallic cymbals with no shimmer, instruments that jump out at you too far from the background.
I can understand if you have a recessed system that these details might sound engaging but in a neutal balanced setup this record fails miserably. The US ABC first pressing has all the details, warmth etc.
It may not quite sound like Aja - the example of higi audio extreme. I can’t imagine why Acoustic Sounds put this record out. Were they trying to dress it up with audiophile sheen to impress people? For the first time I am very hesitant to buy the next Steely Dan UHQR. Sadly a missed opportunity. BUy an origina;.

Rudy's picture

So nobody is going to comment on how far off of the correct speed "Parker's Band" is? I haven't yet heard the AP SACD nor the standard Geffen vinyl pressing, but the UHQR set and the high-res digital versions of "Parker's Band" are nearly a semitone too high. This is wrong, compared to every other released version. And you can even tell something is off due to the track timings.

I'm hoping AP gets on the stick and recuts this record to make it right. They already had to recut the first disc of Countdown to Ecstasy due to the "whistling" issue on side A (which sounded like the screw drive in the lathe needed lubrication--it's that same type of "whirling" sound).