Waterhouse 1978 / Angel Air 2018
With wings of heaven on his shoes, Detroit auteur sings the blues – and then some.
It takes a birthplace to leave a burning brand on one’s skin, and in the case of a certain rock city a mocking attitude to your art is surely a trait displayed not only by Alice Cooper but also by James Montgomery. This singer’s band could be huge, playing Alabama-hued numbers in Boston area yet, having tucked a couple of collective albums under his belt, decided to go solo, “Duck Fever” being the result of such a bold move. In tune with the period’s prime style and with a healthy dose of parody, the record hasn’t lost an iota of initial allure – unlike many more straight-faced products of that time – and while today James isn’t avert to self-aggrandizing, the veteran’s individual debut can firmly stand, or display a few dance moves, on its own two feet.
The album’s agenda may be revealed in its latter part on “Not Your Clown” – one of the three Montgomery originals on offer – whose riff and a quote from “Entrance Of The Gladiators” reflect the artist’s defiance, but the punchy, catchy funk that fuels “Working On A Love Affair” is given urban vibe by bluesy harmonica to purify the piece from suggestive sleaze and infuse it with romantic jive. James’ soulful vocals sound rather liberating amidst guitar glimmer so, once the plea of “Heaven Help Me” receives a righteous oomph and bomp, redemption could be guaranteed if not for the leisurely delivered “Living For The Weekend’ which would snap to disco groove before loosing up again to enhance the overall hilarious effect.
There’s a lot of humor here, of course – and logic, too: despite the funny drama put into “For Your Love” to give it a 10CC makeover, Montgomery is actually transferring the classic back to Graham Gouldman, whereas “Fire On The Bayou” gains a great deal of ire in James’ rendition. It’s impossible not to crack a smile when rhythm-and-blues shuffle of “Who’ll Be Next In Line?” gets off the ground to glide above slider-caressed fretboards and sly background vocals – courtesy of Stiv Bators and Jimmy Zero, a couple of DEAD BOYS – or when “Crazy About My Baby” flutters around Hugh McCracken’s six-string rumble towards infectious call-and-response. Still, the orchestral halo makes “New England Sunshine” seriously sweet, and that’s when the titular fever is lifted from the record.
The singer would release more platters, yet this one will remain special… for all the right and wrong reasons.