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Montgomery, James: Duck Fever

Approaching an album called Duck Fever, written in the same font as its obvious Saturday Night inspiration - and that features a cartoon of John Duckvolta on its reverse - is one of those, ‘what have I let myself in for??’ moments. However, much though there is a faux-disco feel to much of what Detroit’s James Montgomery delivered on his 1978 album, thankfully things also go much deeper than that. And yet, there’s no other decade than the 70s this album could have come from. Featuring a whole host of session musicians, of which the most noted might be Ritchie Zito, alongside the main man himself, who both sings and blows the harmonica to good effect, Duck Fever is very much an album of its time.

Montgomery penned or at least co-wrote only three of the album’s nine tracks, with “Working On A Love Affair” being a blues-harp led blast of funked up beats and layered backing vocals that brings a real upbeat vibe. The slow grind of “Heaven Help Me” is down, dirty and rather flirty; looking for a comparison, well it might be fair to suggest that both tracks come off as a decidedly favourable extension of the sort of thing KISS’s Peter Criss was trying and failing to jazz up on his 1978 solo album, crossed with Play Me Out era Glenn Hughes. If that sounds like a little bit of a mishmash, then it’s probably not too far from the truth. The final Montgomery composition is a stomping funked disco anthem although if there’s one thing undeniable about all three of these cuts, it’s their sing along value.

Three of the covers really stand out, with The Meters’ “Fire On The Bayou” perfect for this bass thrumming, holler and response setting, while a hi-hat popping rocked up version of The Yardbirds “For Your Love” really should have been a smash hit. It’s remarkably good fun and thoroughly irresistible, while still utterly throwaway. Whereas the thump, bump and brass of “Living For The Weekend” is an unabashed funk-a-junk strut. However it might just be the Barkan/Michaels composition, “New England Sunshine” that glitters in the brightest fashion here, the piano-strings ballad, again, as 70s as they come, with all the trappings of the huge swaying slowie from that era, but if you’re not crooning along by the end of it, then I’ll be very surprised.

There’s no doubting that Duck Fever wouldn’t usually be my normal listening fare, or that it doesn’t always take itself quite as seriously as it maybe should. And yet, by the time I’ve reached its end, I’m ready for the fun to start all over again. It may not be the best sounding reissue you’ll ever come across, with the occasional suggestion of vinyl swish audible at some of the songs’ conclusions, but this is still a welcome debut on CD for an album that if you approach it with the right mindset, is a fun listen from start to end.

Track Listing
1. Working On A Love Affair
2. Who’ll Be Next In Line?
3. For Your Love
4. Crazy About My Baby
5. Heaven Help Me
6. New England Sunshine
7. Not Your Clown
8. Fire On the Bayou
9. Living For The Weekend

Added: July 18th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Duck Fever at Angel Air
Hits: 568
Language: english

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Montgomery, James: Duck Fever
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-07-18 18:16:02
My Score:

Here’s a name out of the past and one you may have never heard of, unless you are from the east coast. James Montgomery was born on May 12, 1949 in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to the Boston area and in 1970 formed The James Montgomery Blues Band. The band would release three albums before Montgomery went the solo route and released Duck Fever in 1978. The cast of supporting session musicians is vast and the musicianship as would be expected is top notch. This album should have gotten much wider attention at the time but thanks to the good folks at Angel Air Records we have this nugget newly remastered and released on CD for the first time.

The upbeat and punchy funk ditty “Working On A love Affair” starts off the disc with a fine melody and groove as the sinuous backing vocals intertwine with Montgomery’s fine lead voice and smooth harmonica making for a very infectious beginning. The sly groovy shuffle in “Who’ll Be The Next In Line?” and the excellent rendition of Graham Gouldman’s “For Your Love” continue the disc’s more melodic moments. The tuneful blues of “Crazy About My Baby”, a highly satisfying and uplifting number with its bluesy guitar licks and stellar vocals and the fiery original “Not Your Clown” with its deep bottom end are more great tracks.

Duck Fever is a highly enjoyable blues/rock/pop album that really should have jettisoned Montgomery’s career at the time. The good thing is you can still hear what this vastly underrated singer/musician was doing at the height of his career. Highly recommended.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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