Lasting only three years, Chicago's The Flock, might have ended up as nothing more than a footnote on the creative rock scene between 1965 and 1975. But this guitar trio with a horn section was the first sighting of violinist Jerry Goodman, who'd go on to greater fame as a member of fusion super-group Mahavishnu Orchestra. Mahavishnu fans might be interested in this double-disc reissue of the group's two albums solely on the strength of the violinist's involvement. Goodman is, unquestionably, the group's biggest calling card, but by no means the only one.
Guitarist/vocalist Fred Glickstein, along with saxophonist Rick Canoff, was one of the group's founding members. Perhaps not as immediately impressive as Terry Kath of Chicago Transit Authority (soon to be simply Chicago), who emerged around the same time, Glickstein was however, a loosely expressive singer and more versatile guitarist.
This may explain why The Flock never achieved the commercial success of other horn-sectioned bands of the time like CTA and Blood, Sweat and Tears. The eclecticism of The Flock meant that it was hard to pin down just what it wanted to be. Between the 1969 eponymous debut and 1971 follow-up, Dinosaur Swamps, there's a lot of territory covered, often within the confines of a single track.
"Introduction, from The Flock, moves from a jazz-centric duet between Glickstein and Goodman, (foreshadowing the violinist's later Mahavishnu work), to its energized gypsy-tinged finale. "Clown is a propulsive piece of funk that's driven by the horns but dissolves into a more abstract middle section, filled with rich horns voicings supported by a repeated bass figure and gentle but persistent groove.
"Truth, also from the first album, begins as a straightforward blues piece, with a potent a capella solo from Goodman leading into the jungle rhythms and sharp horn lines of its middle section. These might seem like odd non-sequiturs until the group brings things back to the blues again for the powerful ending to this 15-minute tour-de-force. The group also reinvents The Kinks' "Tired of Waiting, with a virtuosic solo intro from Goodman that leads into the most straightforward pop tune on either disc.
The Flock is ultimately more successful than Dinosaur Swamps, an recording that suffered from the "concept album bug that bit too many groups at the timeultimately too ambitious and self-indulgent for its own good. And if The Flock was eclectic, Dinosaur Swamps was positively schizophrenic, with tinges of bluegrass/country, psychedelic musings with electronic treatments, flat-out funk, higher octane blues/rock and hints of Zappa-esque absurdity.
However, the writing, arrangements and performances are at worst intriguingly flawed, at best viscerally punchy and while unequivocally dated, the music is fun in a guilty kind of way. Goodman may be the drawing card, but this reissue rescues from obscurity a group that may not have achieved the commercial success of its contemporaries, but over the course of two albums produced a far more diverse and interesting body of work.
Track Listing: CD1 (The Flock): Introduction; Clown; I Am The Tall Tree; Tired of Waiting; Store Bought - Store Thought; Truth. CD2 (Dinosaur Swamps): Green Slice; Big Bird; Hornschmeyers Island; Lighthouse; Crabfoot; Mermaid; Uranian Sircus.
Personnel: Fred Glickstein: guitar, lead vocals, banjo (CD2), organ (CD2); Jerry Goldsmith: violin, vocals; Jerry Smith: bass, vocals; Ron Karpman: drums; Rick Canoff: tenor saxophone, vocals; Tom Webb: tenor saxophone, flute, harmonica; Frank Posa: trumpet.
Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: BGO Records