Summer Of The Ducks (The Godfatherecords G.R.944/945)
Santa Cruz, California Summer of 1977
Disc 1 : Gypsy Wedding, Bye Bye Johnny, Long May You Run, Sailor Man, Younger Days, Love You Forever, Gone Dead Train, Hold On Boys, Sail Away, Silver Wings, Two Riders, Poor Man, Mr. Soul, Tore Down, Wild Eyed And Willing, Truckin’ Man, Don’t Let Em Get To You, Your Love
Disc 2: A Deeper Mystery (cuts in), Little Wing, Hey Now, Human Highway, Honky Tonk Man, Hold On Boys, I’m Ready, Windward Passage (cut), Car Tune, Leaving Us Now, Sail Away, Do Me Right (cut on last notes), Cryin’ Eyes, Are You Ready For The Country, Comes A Time, Windward Passage (uncut version) Homegrown
Bonus tracks from The Catalyst Club, Santa C ruz August 22, 1977 and Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz September 2, 1977.
CD 1 and CD 2 Tracks 01 – 12 Soundboard Source
CD 2 Tracks 13 – 17 Audience Source
The Ducks (formerly known as the Jeff Blackburn Band) were a short-lived super group formed in the summer of 1977 by singer-songwriter Jeff Blackburn, and consisted of musicians Bob Mosley (an original member of Moby Grape), Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young, and Johnny Craviotto. The band played a series of impromptu bar gigs around the Santa Cruz California area in 1977. Fans would often quack and blow duck calls before the band began playing.
In the spring of 1977, former Moby Grape vocalist and guitarist Jerry Miller was working with various musicians and Young found his way on stage one night with Miller and a singer/songwriter named Jeff Blackburn . Young began hanging out with Blackburn in the days that followed with Blackburn on rhythm, Bob Mosley on bass, and session musician Johnny Craviotto on drums. They decided to call themselves the Ducks and within weeks every duck call within miles had been purchased.
The local entertainment tabloid got wind something was up and had a conversation with the group. They announced they were forming a band called the Ducks, that would play local clubs for cover charges of less than $3. Further Young was moving to Santa Cruz and would stay “as long as it remains cool.” This exchange was later written up as a front-page story in a local newspaper. By mid-June the Ducks began to play, normally two sets a night, three or four times a week. The Ducks had become a local sensation.
The set list for their shows was very democratic. All four could sing and had material, so they took turns throughout the sets in a strict manner. Highlights included “Mr. Soul,” a Blackburn tune entitled “Silver Wings,” a soul/R&B tune of Mosley’s entitled “Gypsy Wedding,” and hard Chuck Berry -esque sessions sung by Johnny Craviotto. “Comes a Time” was played as a country rocker before turning up in its country-folk studio authenticity. They also did “Homegrown,” a cover of Ian and Sylvia ‘s “Four Strong Winds” with Young singing lead, and an instrumental guitar showcase entitled “Windward Passage.” Young played “Old Black” which sported a Santa Cruz sticker that summer. He usually wore a plaid shirt with drawstring pants that were high fashion at the time. In the smaller clubs the band would shake hands with the crowd at the end. Even in larger venues like the Catalyst which had a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, people would often bump into Young and company waiting in line at the bar between sets.
They played all over the Santa Cruz area, from the showcase Catalyst, to the very cozy Crossroads, to down-to-earth spots like the Veteran’s Hall. They were not without some drama though, Craviotto seemed kind of thirsty some evenings, and he passed out behind the drum kit during intermission at a show.
The Ducks managed to end a mere seven weeks after they began. Young’s rented house was burglarized and he lost a number of instruments and other items of great sentimental value. As word had spread in the national media about Young joining a local group, crowds increased with out of town “Duck Hunters” less content to let the band have its own identity and more inclined to mindlessly yell for old perennial Neil Young concert favorites. The Ducks continued on for a while without Young and held out hope that he might return, but it did not come to pass.
The Ducks played a total of twenty-two shows and one hundred and seventy-eight performances. Their longest show featured twenty-eight songs, which took place at the Crossroads Club in Santa Cruz. Their shortest, at Santa Cruz’s Civic Auditorium, featured eighteen songs.
Godfather has done a very nice job in capturing the essence of this outstanding, albeit short-lived group. Featuring a nice mix of material in excellent quality. It is impressive to hear the chemistry between these four musicians in the longer improvisational bits, when you consider they basically came together so quickly, especially Young who had no real history with the others until then.
Packaged as usual in a cardboard trifold this release offers some very cool artwork on the inside and also includes a very nice 8 page booklet.
For its historic value alone this release can be highly recommended, and Neil Young fans especially should not overlook it. Another winner from The Godfather Records.
A++If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)