A mallard is both a species of duck and a make of steam locomotive. The short-lived band Mallard probably named itself after both, as there´s a flock of ducks flying over a train on the cover of their fine self-titled first album. Mallard started out as an offshoot of Captain Beefheart´s Magic Band. Unsatisfied - and rightly so - with the quality of the Beefheart-album Unconditionally Guaranteed, guitarist Bill Harkleroad (aka Zoot Horn Rollo) and bassist Mark Boston (aka Rockette Morton) decided to form their own ensemble. John French (aka Drumbo) joined as well, but went back to Captain Don Van Vliet before things really got underway. Art Tripp (aka Ed Marimba) was recruited on drums, one John ´Rabbitt´Bundrick on keyboards and as a vocalist they found Sam Galpin, a guy who had last played piano in a Vegas casino and hadn´t even heard of the Magic Band.
The first Mallard album was financed - pay attention rock trivia freaks - by none other than Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, Magic Band fan and friend of Mark Boston. It was released by Virgin in ´75 and has a surprisingly rootsy feel. But although there´s no avant garde à la Trout Mask Replica present here, the unique way of playing that Beefheart taught his disciples always shines through. Harkleroad´s guitar work is especially fine throughout, and their respectful take on Guy Clark´s beautiful Desperados Waiting For A Train works wonders.
Also covered is Beefheart´s guitar miniature Peon (the original can be found on Lick My Decals Off, Baby). It´s credited (duck joke alert!) to Donald Van Vliet. Beefheart called Mallard a bunch of quacks though... Follow-up In A Different Climate was released in ´77 with new guys on drums and ivory. It´s got some fine tracks (opener Green Coyote for instance) but overall it lacks the drive of the debut. Shortly after Mallard disbanded due to lack of succes, but Mallard and In A Different Climate (buy them both on one cd on Virgin records) prove they were more than just a footnote in Beefheart history.
Mallard - Back On The Pavement MP3
Mallard - Desperados Waiting For A Train MP3
Guy Clark - Desperados Waiting For a Train (live in Florida ´00) MP3
Mallard - Peon MP3
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band - Peon MP3
Mallard - Green Coyote MP3