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The Flock - The Flock CD (album) cover

THE FLOCK

The Flock

 

Eclectic Prog

3.36 | 49 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 282

The Flock deserves more than a footnote, but not the full fledged treatment that an entry in The Annals of American Progressive Rock would surely give them. They released three separated albums all which had separated ideas behind them. Their eponymous debut studio album focuses on the classical violinist Jerry Goodman, with counter point done by a horn section, after all this was a Chicago band, and guitarist Fred Glickstein. Shifting between styles within songs was the key to their success, as was letting Goodman stretch out as much as possible. Their second studio album, "Dinosaur Swamps" reigned also with Goodman, in hampered itself by changing styles too much, and was way over produced. But, both albums are certainly a different form of progressive rock, a sort of Chicago with Seatrain's violin.

But, Jerry Goodman then left The Flock for John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and the band fell apart in 1971. Still, Fred Glickstein and the rhythm section revived it in the mid of the 70's, this time without horns, but with a token violinist and a synth loving keyboardist, James Hirsen. The third The Flock album, "Inside Out" was self consciously progressive and laid claim to being one of the first progressive American bands while stumbling all over themselves to imitate popular progressive rock music like Styx, curiously another American prog band that came from Chicago. However, a fourth studio album was released in 2014, "Heaven Bound ? The Lost Album". As it name indicates, the album has 70's lost recording tracks from the band, recently discovered. These recordings were never released before.

So, "The Flock" is the eponymous debut studio album of The Flock and was released in 1969. The line up on the album is Jerry Goodman (backing vocals, violin and guitar), Fred Glickstein (lead vocals, electric guitar and 12 string acoustic guitars), Jerry Smith (backing vocals and bass), Rick Canoff (backing vocals and tenor saxophone), Frank Posa (trumpet), Tom Webb (backing vocals, tenor saxophone, harmonica, flute and maracas) and Ron Karpman (drums).

The Flock is similar to Chicago. But, while Chicago was more a rock group with strong jazz influences, The Flock was even more out there. Most of this is due to their violinist Jerry Goodman, who played in a downright classical style. The word virtuoso is not one to use lightly, but it applies to Goodman. Goodman's playing is very fluid. It helps that the rest of the band are no slouches either. Guitarist/vocalist Fred Glickstein usually just acts as support while Goodman does his thing, but he is a decent player in the distorted electric mold. The rhythm section of Jerry Smith and Ron Karpman acquits itself well on the jazzy beat. The horn section, Rick Canoff, Frank Posa and Tom Webb, are great too. Together, the music is one huge melting pot, varying between rock, classical, jazz, blues, and even soul, often within the same song. Lyrically, The Flock has a lot of counter-culture stuff. The music is well planned no matter where they go. The vocal harmonies are well constructed. The songs are not jams, but spotlights that rotate over the members of the band.

"The Flock" has six tracks. "Introduction" is an excellent instrumental track, basically a vehicle for Jerry Goodman and his high flying violin, and a tune that would have found a home in the Mahavishnu Orchestra set list. "Clown" is an upbeat rocker in the tradition of the early Chicago, with lots of horns, stinging violin, distorted guitar solos, and the powerful vocals of Fred Glickstein. The band manages to create an effective mix of rambunctious rock & roll with progressive jazz here that is one of the album's highlights. The band goes for a more folky flavor on "I Am The Tall Tree", with some nice vocal harmonies from the band, as well as wispy violin work from Jerry Goodman. By the other hand, the horn arrangements, violin and guitar solos on the remake of the Kinks classic, "Tired Of Waiting" are quite good, whyle the vocals are a bit sloppy and strained. It flows to classic rock style. It's perhaps a modestly decent track in relation to the others. "Store Bought - Store Thought" is a rambling blues rocker, with scorching guitar leads from Fred Glickstein. Still, on the last track, "Truth", the band concludes the album with some bluesy touch. It goes for some nice flavor completed with emotional vocals and an acrobatic solo from Jerry Goodman. Nice way to close the album.

Conclusion: "The Flock" is a great album from 1969, the year of the "horn band" explosion. The Flock is really a big band with the violin, the horns, the rhythm section and nice lead and backup vocals. Yet, this adept music is never overcrowded, never flashy. They actually make their tracks sound less complex than they are. This stuff will grab you in a first listen, but listen more. Listen to how good these guys were, in those times. The writing, arrangements and performances are viscerally punchy and while unequivocally dated, the music is fun in a guilty kind of way. And even if Chicago is more consistent songwriting rightfully led to them notching all the chart hits and raking in all the dough, The Flock deserves some credit for having carved a more unique, if significantly less successful, style which remains largely without equal. This is a great album indeed and I still listen to it, even in our days. So, this is great classic stuff.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |

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