Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

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  • Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum of the guitars, along with the kind of richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern remasterings.
  • Becker and Fagen spared no effort in the recording of this album – the mix is PERFECTION
  • A Top 100 Album and our pick for The Best Sounding Steely Dan Recording of Them All
  • 5 stars: “Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one.”

This original ABC Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

This is one knockout recording. After having done shootouts for every Steely Dan title, I can say that in their canon Pretzel Logic has no equal, not for sound quality anyway.

Which is really saying something, since Becker and Fagen are known to be audiophiles themselves and real sticklers for sound. No effort in the recording of this album was spared, that I can tell you without fear of contradiction. They sweated the details on this one.

What the Best Sides of Pretzel Logic Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Side one is very hard to find with good sound and quiet vinyl. The sonic and play grades are more often than not higher on side two. Why that is we have no idea.

Choruses Are Key

The richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality are most apparent on Pretzel Logic where you most always hear it on a pop record: in the biggest, loudest, densest, most climactic choruses.

We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly grow to be without crossing the line into distortion or congestion. On some records, Dark Side of the Moon comes instantly to mind, the guitar solos on Money are the loudest thing on the record. On Breakfast in America the sax toward the end of The Logical Song is the biggest and loudest sound on the record, louder even than Roger Hodgson’s near-hysterical multi-tracked screaming “Who I am” about three quarters of the way through. Those, however, are clearly exceptions to the rule. Most of the time it’s the final chorus that gets bigger and louder than anything else.

A pop song is usually structured so as to build more and more strength as it works its way through its verses and choruses, past the bridge, coming back around to make one final push, releasing all its energy in the final chorus, the climax of the song. On a good recording — one with real dynamics — that part should be very loud and very powerful.

Testing Pretzel Logic

It’s almost always the toughest test for a pop record, and it’s the main reason we play our records loud. The copies that hold up through the final choruses of their album’s largest scaled productions (Rikki Don’t Lose That Number on side one, Pretzel Logic pm side two) are the ones that provide the biggest thrills and the most emotionally powerful musical experiences one can have. Our Top 100 is full of the kinds of records that reward listening at loud levels.

We live for that sound here at Better Records. It’s precisely what vintage analog pressings do well. They do it so much better than any other medium that there is really no comparison, and, as of this writing, certainly no substitute. If you’re on this site you already know that.

What We’re Listening For on Pretzel Logic

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Average Is Average

You would never know how well recorded this album is by playing the average pressing. Most copies we played in our shootout were dull, compressed and dead as the proverbial doornail.

And how can you possibly be expected to appreciate the music when you can’t hear it right? The reason we audiophiles go through the trouble of owning and tweaking our temperamental equipment is we know how hard it is to appreciate good music when it sounds bad. Bad sound is a barrier to understanding and enjoyment, maybe not to the general public, but it sure is to us audiophiles. The typical copy of this album is veiled, compressed and murky. Who enjoys that kind of sound?

Now does everybody need to spend the big bucks we charge for Pretzel Logic? Of course not. It makes no sense to spend that kind of dough unless you LOVE the music. You don’t pay that kind of money for a record that just gets filed away on a shelf.

But for a record that sounds this good and has music this powerful and involving, it’s clearly worth the hundreds of dollars you might spend because you’re going to play this record — and enjoy the hell out of it — for the rest of your life. That’s a lot of plays and a lot of enjoyment.


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