Album #516 – Duck Rock

Album #516

Malcolm McLaren is more known for his entrepreneurial skills than his music. Duck Rock was his first studio album and was guided mostly by co-producer Trevor Horn, best known as a member of The Buggles and one of the most in demand producers of the time, producing Yes’ comeback 90125 and Frankie Goes To Hollywood among others. The album challenge book describes McLaren as not having the faintest idea of what he was doing. At the time, he was a HUGE celebrity in England, having created the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow. Duck Rock symbolizes McLaren’s work: a melange of musical genres, modern and traditional, creating something new. In this case, it combined South African Jive with South American Merengue and hip hop. There is also a bit of country square dancing thrown in for good measure on the final track, Duck in the Oyster. This is probably due to Harry McClintock, a country singer, best known for his song Big Rock Candy Mountains, from the 30’s to whom the album is dedicated. At times, the album is silly and McLaren hardly sings. He speaks much of his parts and Horn even had to help McLaren with the rhythms in the studio. The album is notable for two reasons. First, it features the first time that the members of the Art of Noise appeared on a recording. Horn along with arranger and keyboardist Anne Dudley and keyboardist J.J. Jeczalik would form the synth group that would take the genre to new heights during the rest of the 80’s. Much of the sound of this album is similar to the Art of Noise. Second, in between songs are recordings of rap duo The World Famous Supreme Team’s New Jersey radio show, connecting hip hop to the sound of this album. The addition of that makes the album stand out. Duck Rock does not come without it’s share of controversy. McLaren did not credit many musicians on the album and was sued by South African band the Boyoyo Boys for plagiarism. Essentially, despite the controversy, the album fully shows the two genres that started in the 80’s and had staying power: hip hop and world beat. Despite McLaren’s clueless nature toward music, Duck Rock made world beat popular three years before Paul Simon. Even the artwork is cutting edge: artist Keith Haring did the background and famed artist, photographer, designer and music video director Nick Egan, helped create the album cover collage. Certainly a highlight from an awesome musical decade. Highlights include: Obatala (La Rupublica Dominicana), Buffalo Gals, Double Dutch, Merengue, Punk It Up, Jive My Baby, Song for Chango and Soweto. Overall, I give Duck Rock, 5 out of 5.

Next: Pyromania by Def Leppard

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