The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Thirty-Four): Fuzzy Duck

Don’t let the afro and fringed pouch fool you: Fuzzy Duck packs quite a punch. Hailing from England, this rare bird of a band managed to release only one album before falling into obscurity. Like Steppenwolf and Atomic Rooster, Fuzzy Duck produced organ-driven music with an edge to it. Here are some of the highlights:

The opening number “Time Will Be Your Doctor” begins with a groovy bass line and drum beat courtesy of bassist Mick Hawksworth and drummer Paul Francis, who provide a solid foundation throughout the album. Guitarist Graham White and organist Roy Sharland also show off their chops on their respective instruments, and it is the latter two gentlemen who truly carry this album.

“Mrs. Proust,” the following piece, will probably remind many listeners of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”: Sharland shreds on the organ during a superb solo, but White is never far removed from the scene with his crunchy, distorted guitar providing an extra edge to this song.

White does his best work on “Country Boy,” a dynamic song that has a “rushing through the city” feel to it. Robin Trower’s influence can be heard on this – arguably their heaviest – track.

The album closes with the tongue-in-cheek “A Word from Big D,” an organ-led instrumental punctuated with (somewhat annoying) duck calls. It doesn’t hold up well compared to the other tracks on the album, but it’s not the worst attempt at levity I’ve ever heard.

Aficionados of organ-driven hard rock and prog – especially Vincent Crane’s work in Atomic Rooster and Goldy McJohn’s in Steppenwolf – will appreciate this solid effort. It may not blow anyone away, but as far as early proto-metal bands go, Fuzzy Duck is one of those under-appreciated worth a listen or two.

Stay tuned for number thirty-five!

The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twenty-Three): Polyphony

Although the name of this band refers to a musical texture defined by two or more lines of independent melody, I want to call your attention first to the album artwork, which is among the most beautiful I have seen in any genre of music. According to a review on Prog Archives, the artist wanted to show the “four elements of the universe subsiding toward an energy force which was ‘polyphony’.” The rich detail on the cover provides the perfect complement to such a complex album. With elements of ELP, Atomic Rooster, Jimi Hendrix, and Deep Purple, Polyphony seemed poised for success, but like so many other talented bands of the day were instead lost in the shuffle, and Without Introduction remained their only release. Here are my thoughts on the four tracks:

“Juggernaut” is a fitting title for the opening piece, which hits with a burst of keys and guitar right from the start. If Jimi Hendrix had joined ELP to form HELP (rumor has it he nearly did), it would probably sound like this piece. The interplay between Glenn Howard’s slide guitar and Craig Massey’s organ is excellent – and intense. It actually reminds me a little bit of Boston’s “Foreplay,” the lengthy introduction to their superb “Long Time.” We don’t get any vocals until after the nine-minute mark, and they may remind some listeners of Nad Sylvan, Progarchy’s favorite Vampirate.

The next piece, “40 Second Thing in 39 Seconds” is a brief experiment with a Moog synthesizer. It’s a bizarre piece, but considering what Emerson did with the Moog, it would be music to many a progger’s ears.

“Ariel’s Flight” is the longest piece on the album and, despite featuring more vocals, nevertheless remains dominated by Howard’s raw guitar and Massey’s deft work on the keys. Martin Ruddy’s pounding bass and Chris Spong’s steady beat on the drums are also superb; the rhythm section on this album is not to be ignored.

The closing track, “Crimson Dagger,” also opens with a blitz of guitars and keys but transitions to a smoother, psychedelic soundscape about three minutes in. This piece also features the strongest vocals on the album, including some solid backing vocals by all members except the drummer. Unfortunately, the song ends rather abruptly, but this is one of the album’s few weak points.

It’s too bad Polyphony was little appreciated in their day, as their debut album suggests they could have contended with some of prog’s heaviest hitters. Lovers of symphonic and “classic era” prog rock will especially enjoy this hidden gem, but it will no doubt appeal to many in the prog world.

Stay tuned for number twenty-four!