Federal Duck – Federal Duck

ImageI have to admit that I only picked this album up because of its cover. I was flipping through the 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll section of my local record store, and after flipping through several hundred Fats Domino albums with mundane covers, this album cover seemed especially provocative. Although it almost looks like the band members and the eagle are images cut from a magazine and pasted onto the front of the album, its color and design are unique and in a strange way appealing. Released on Musicor Records in 1968, Federal Duck is the self-titled debut album (and only album) from a quite obscure soft psych band. And when I say obscure, I mean there’s not even a Wikipedia page for these guys. From what little information I can find on the band, they were a group of college buddies from Pennsylvania who mainly played regional shows. I’m not sure how they even got picked up by Musicor, as they were a pretty small band and Musicor wasn’t a very small label. Anyway, Federal Duck mainly consists of soft-psych tracks like “Just Like the Snow” or “Peace of Mind.” These tracks are extremely slow but do contain some mildly interesting instrumentation at times. They combine instruments in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily expect, like having horns pop into a soft and slow rhythm. To be honest, I’m not too impressed with the majority of the songs on the album; I guess I like my psychedelic rock to be faster and weirder (see previous review). However, it would be short-sighted of me to label the Federal Duck as solely a soft-psych band. In fact, the song “Bird” is in almost every way the exact opposite of the previously mentioned soft-psych tracks. “Bird” is loud, fast, and heavy. It is garage rock, maybe even bordering on protopunk with a crazy good jazzy piano solo smack dab in the middle of the garage opening and closing. This song is by far the best song on the album. Also breaking away from the soft-psych mold is the song “Ain’t Gonna Be Nobody to Sing the Blues.” It is definitely the most unexpected song on the album, as it is a bluegrass-like drinking song with a fiddle, a banjo, and a raucous chorus. It’s actually quite fun and easy going. Overall, the thing that I’m most impressed with by this album is the fact that almost every single song is an original tune. The band could have made a bigger splash and maybe even went onto another record if they had thrown in some strong covers of “Gloria,” “Bony Moronie,” or any number of mid-60s standards; however, the band seems to have made the decision to make it on their own talent alone or not make it at all. Although they seemed to have fallen to the latter, I admire their commitment to original music, and I’m happy that some of these songs made it out there for us to enjoy. If you’re into soft-psych, get this album. If you’re like me, and like the harder stuff, this one may not be for you. That being said, I can say that you’d be hard-pressed to find something as unique. And uniqueness is always a good thing…right?  C+

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