It would be difficult to overlook the eye-catching colourful cover of the Federal Duck’s only album (designed by Abe Gurvin, who was also responsible for the very appealing artwork on other Tito Rodriguez and Gene Pitney’s records released on the New York-based Musicor label). However, this self-titled LP was soon forgotten after not having any singles released as promotional support to the album and also, maybe, due to the complete absence of covers in the tracklist…
Federal Duck was one of the many college bands to pop up during the psychedelic years. It consisted of Tony Shaftel (vocals, bass), Jack Bowers (guitar), George Stavis (guitar, vocals and, moreover, writer to most of the songs), Huck White (guitar, French horn), Ken Stover (keyboards, tuba), Bob Stern (bass, vocals), and Timmy Ackerman (drums, percussion). They met at Haverford College, just outside Philadelphia, and after using other previous names (Stomp Jackson Quintet and The Guides) the band members came up with that name one night when they were lying on the bank of the campus duck pond and some ducks started waddling toward them in what looked like a purposeful and menacing way, as if they were working for the government… or so they thought. They played many gigs over the four years of the band’s short life and made a name for themselves as skilled musicians who would be able to play all night long if required.
The album was recorded at Groove Sound Studios, NYC, in 1968 and included a number of quality tracks, mixing elements of jazz, country and soft-psychedelia. ‘Tomorrow Waits For Today’ stands out as a wonderful piece of jazzy pop-psych that could easily rival the best recordings of the genre. But some will find ‘Bird’ is the most accomplished song on the album, featuring fierce guitars and energetic drums, bordering on hard psych, that eventually lead into a long jazzy piano solo in the middle of the +5 minute song. ‘While You’re Away’ keeps a similar high levels of energy, echoing harmonies reminiscent of bands like The Byrds. But it is the soft psych approach as on tracks like ‘Friday Morning’ or ‘Dawn Comes Slow’ what best describes the overall sound of the album. ‘Circus In The Sea’ is another quality song and the closing track on this solid LP that successfully mixes such a varied combination of sounds and deserved to have made a bigger splash when originally released.
“Federal Duck” is reissued here on vinyl for the first time, in its original artwork and
180g vinyl pressing.