Acoustic Sounds

The Ducks

High Flyin'



The Ducks

Label: Shakey Pictures Records/Reprise

Produced By: Tim Mulligan with Jeff Blackburn & Neil Young

Engineered By: Tim Mulligan

Mixed By: Tim Mulligan, Jeff Blackburn, Neil Young, John Hausman, Jeff Pinn

Mastered By: Tim Mulligan

Lacquers Cut By: Chris Bellman

By: Michael Fremer

April 23rd, 2023


Rock Grunge



The Ducks Flew High in Santa Cruz '77

Neil Young's Bootleg Series Disc 2 is hard rocking' fun

Ducks aren't an endangered species but in 2023 feedback drenched, electric guitar driven 4/4 rock music so popular in the 1970s seems to be just about over, Jack White and a few others notwithstanding. While Crazy Horse is Neil Young's best known live collaborator, the Ducks prove they are equally worthy on this adrenaline producing 3 LP live set recorded summer, 1977, Santa Cruz, California—and the sound recorded by Tim Mulligan is remarkably hi-fi "live" yet intimate.

The Ducks were Young, Moby Grape alumnus bassist Bob Mosley, guitarist Jeff Blackburn and drummer Johnny Craviotto. Part of the magic here is that they all vocalized and the rest is that they all played maniacally hard, driven by Mosley's ferocious, insistent bass lines and Craviotto's no holding back, hard pounding drumming. Wailing feedback guitar screams and well-meshed but pleasingly ragged multipart harmonies, produced a manic sound that was sort of Crazy Horse meets CCR meets Moby Grape on speed (though it's possible that the Grape were always on speed). Whatever these guys were on or not on, "high flyin'" perfectly describes the music on this three record set, which veers from country-rock, to blues-rock, to just plain rock. No keyboards involved.

Sadly only Young (77) and Mosley (80) are still with us. Drummer Craviotto passed away in 2016, age 69. He went on to found a successful Nashville-based drum manufacturing company. Guitarist Blackburn was involved in the production of this record but died this past January 5th at age 77 just a few months before the album was released, though it was originally scheduled for 2020. He's also credited with writing the immortal lines "It's better to burn out than to fade away" that Young incorporated into "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)"

Fans of Young with Crazy Horse will definitely want to pick up this one. It's anything but "second rate Crazy Horse" or leftovers from an abandoned project. What it is, is young men playing rock and roll with youthful energy and abandon sure to get the adrenalin pumping in the veins of aging rockers and among young people sorry they missed out on this musically exciting time.

Young of late has pumped out a large volume of records, some great and some mediocre. This is one of the greats. It's got the ferocity of Buffalo Springfield (the "Mr. Soul" below should make that clear), plus the crunchy wall of guitar sound perfected by Crazy Horse plus a rare occasion where Neil Young blends in with a band instead of leading or dominating it. He's also in fine voice and the recording is "you are there" immediate analog multitrack to digital mix down you're sure to enjoy cranked up club level loud.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: 093624885061

Pressing Plant: RTI


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 140 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: analog multitrack mixed to digital

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-04-23 08:13:54 PM

    Josh wrote:

    Thanks for this review! The best part of the Shakey biography is the section describing the various misadventures of the Ducks, Neil in typical fuck-the-career contrarian mode. My local brick-and-mortar couldn’t order it for me, but I’m definitely going Ducks hunting. (Unfortunately Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the other recent Neil Young bootleg, had no-fi sound quality, like it was recorded from inside the trunk of a car. I’d been looking forward to that one too since reading Shakey, and learning one of the great Neil performances was on my actual d.o.b., 11/5/73. The record is crudtastic, but maybe I have wrong attitude, maybe it’s “supposed” to sound bad—but why would someone intentionally put out a poor recording, especially Neil, whose first several records were constantly being re-mastered even during initial release?

  • 2023-04-23 08:45:54 PM

    Josh wrote:

    Listening to Somewhere Over Rainbow again— yes there’s a thick film of grime slathered on the recording (figuratively) but if you get past the bootleg quality it’s a great performance, at times thrilling, especially when the guitars penetrate and pierce past the recorder grot!

    • 2023-04-23 08:47:39 PM

      Josh wrote:

      Also the correct title is “Somewhere Under the Rainbow”

  • 2023-04-24 10:09:09 PM

    Frank Gazzo wrote:

    No matter how many Neil albums I have I'm always ready for more! I might have a problem but its a good one... cheers ! fmg

  • 2023-04-26 09:46:19 AM

    Georges wrote:

    This must be his 498th album, right?

  • 2023-04-26 03:28:02 PM

    Sam wrote:

    Craviotto’s drum company was located in Watsonville, less than 20 miles from Santa Cruz, during his lifetime. The company relocated to Nashville several years after his death.

  • 2023-04-28 04:10:32 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    I agree with Josh here. The sound vs. Live at the Roxy is... very back of the hall, audience recording. Yes, the music and vocals are intelligible and there even is some glow to the singing, but this is one where Neil should be charging a lot less for this release. I was even thinking that it should be free... lol. 'Supposed' to sound bad? No. It's a pure bootleg, pretty much not fit for LP release. I'm still waiting on Neil to explain why he's released 25 LPs in the last 2 or 3 years and charging top dollar for them, when they are now being pressed on 140gm vinyl and when the first Official Release Series were all 180gm and basically the same price. I love Neil but in recent years, quality-wise, he has definitely descended into mediocrity and concerned with being prolific vs. anything pre-90's. To keep up on the release schedule means taking out a 2nd mortgage for normal folks. I have an issue with that when the recording resembles this release's quality level. What's worse is he's not re-releasing the stuff people actually want like the 1st series boxset of his albums that have been out of print for over a decade. Cry later indeed...