The first three albums by Steely Dan all fall somewhere between "near masterpiece" and "masterpiece." By the time of Pretzel Logic, it was beginning to become clear that the enterprise was less a band than it was a group of talented sidemen fueled by the genius of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Things hadn't quite gotten to the point where they would in a few years, when it really was Fagen, Becker and their merry band of sidemen, but things were well on their way to that destination.
"Rikki Don't Lose That Number" was the first track on Pretzel Logic, and the first (only?) single released from the album. It is a magnificent, exquisite song, achieving a level of sophistication that few artists have ever attempted, much less achieved. And unlike some of what would come later, the song was brimming with emotion - red hot, as opposed to the ice cold (but sometimes, equally brilliant) fare on albums like Aja and Gaucho.
The "video" below is taken from a live show that was recorded that year, and the band sounds great - it is also interesting to clearly hear Michael McDonald on background vocals. Say what you will about his tenure with the Doobie Brothers, the guy could always sing.
"Rikki Don't Lose That Number," Steely Dan, from the summer of 1974.