White Duck (1971)

On the John Hiatt page, I reviewed the second album by an early-‘70’s country-rock band called White Duck, titled In Season, because that was the first recording that Hiatt played on. Hiatt had not yet joined the band when they recorded their self-titled debut album White Duck from 1971. I’ve finally listened to this album after being curious about it for many years. I must say I am disappointed.

The Hiatt-less album does feature the other three musicians who would soon play on In Season, all three of whom hailed from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin: Don Kloetzke, Paul Tabet, and Mario Friedel. They were rounded out by brothers Lanny Fiel (formerly of Willie and the Red Rubber Band) and Rick Fiel (who played with an apparently unsigned band called Prince of America). Reportedly, all of these musicians (as well as producer Buzz Cason) had worked with the then-unknown Jimmy Buffett shortly before recording this album.

Unlike the later album, on which all of the members took lead vocal turns, this album is dominated by Kloetzke, who is also a painter. As was the case on the later album, Kloetzke’s work is inconsistent. He alternately comes across as being clownish (as he does on “Billy Goat” and “Don’t Mix With Politics”) and sincere. When he romps on the simple and repetitive “No” and pines on the ballad “Lonely”, he does prove to be a capable performer. Friedel takes the lead vocal on “Anna Belle”, but he sounds somewhat disinterested; he made a better impression on In Season.

The album’s real downfall is its thin material, which is often just as simplistic as the song titles suggest. “World (Keep On Turnin’)”, “No Time”, and “Black-Eyed Susan” are obvious imitations of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and they do not come up to that trio’s level. This album is far less satisfying than its follow-up. One must wonder if replacing the Fiel brothers with Hiatt was a major causal factor of the band's improvement; it seems that Hiatt’s involvement may have been key to elevating White Duck’s depth and craftsmanship in time for their second album. Whatever the case may have been, In Season is the White Duck album that is worth searching out, while the self-titled White Duck is destined to remain forgotten in the ash heap of music history.

10/8/14 update: Both of the White Duck albums were reissued on CD in South Korea in 2014, on the Big Pink label. Thanks to Perfectly Good Cigar: The Unofficial German John Hiatt Page for this information.

White Duck “White Duck” (Uni 73122) 1971

Track Listing:

1. Billy Goat
2. World (Keep On Turnin’)
3. No
4. Lonely
5. Black-Eyed Susan
6. Really
7. Don’t Mix With Politics
8. Anna Belle
9. No Time
10. I Never Wanna Go

This album is certainly not the psychedelic or progressive opus that its cover art suggests.


loving dad said…
I could not disagree more with your review. Don Kloetzke is a rare talent musical ace, as is Mario Friedel. Their inspirations are more Lennon-McCartney driven than C,S&N. Kloetzke is not coming from a "clownish" vocal performance. He is showing off his chops, (i.e., McCartney "Ram" era.) You have it all wrong. The eponymous debut LP, "White Duck," deserves much more worthy credit than you have bestowed on it. You need to listen more. A bit of bias might be tainting your review because Hiatt is missing. White Duck was a Kloetzke-Friedel effort, through and through. Hiatt was secondary!
Justin Spivey said…
Right on! I couldn't agree more!
Unknown said…
There are two White Duck albums and a one-off single called "Baby." Quite a lot of it is very Beatley and "Baby" is a ringer for a McCartney track.