The Flock were a prog/jazz/blues rock band from the late 60's, early 70's, whose claim to fame is that they were the launching pad of violinist Jerry Goodman. Goodman went on to later fame with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and recently the Dixie Dregs. This recent reissue of The Flock's first two albums shows a band searching for an identity, at times finding it, and others coming up a bit empty.
Disc One kicks off with the excellent instrumental "Introduction", basically a vehicle for Goodman and his high flying violin, and a tune that would have found a home in the Mahavishnu set list had John McLaughlin allowed it. "Clown" is an upbeat rocker in the tradition of early Chicago or Electric Flag, 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 whispy violin work from Goodman. While the horn arrangements, violin and guitar solos on the remake of the Kinks classic "Tired of Waiting" are quite good, the vocals are a bit sloppy and strained. "Store Bought-Store Thought" is a rambling blues rocker, with scorching guitar leads from Glickstein, while the band goes for some Delta flavor on the tune "Truth", complete with emotional vocals and an acrobatic solo from Goodman.
Dinosaur Swamp, featured on Disc Two, shows that band more at home with their prog and jazz sensibilities. "Green Slice" a brooding instrumental,has some melodic sax accompanied by swirling organ, and seques into the bluegrass feel of "Big Bird." It's interesting to hear the combination of country fiddle and a full horn section, and comes across like the early Dixie Dregs if they jammed with Chicago. "Hornschmeyer's Island" is a more straightforward pop tune, and very indicative of the late 60's San Francisco hippy sound, which makes it sound pretty dated by today's standards. Things take a turn for the better on the heavy "Lighthouse", with throbbing bass lines from Jerry Smith, Glickstein's power chords, and a raging horn section, as well as on the symphonic jazz of "Crabfoot." The band pre-dates Gentle Giant on the song "Mermaid", a complex little ditty featuring violins, trumpet, and medieval sounding vocals, and finishes the album with the jangly guitar rock of "Uranian Sircus."
While certainly uneven in spots, these two albums represent early American prog before it really became a household word. Jerry Goodman fans, if you don't already have copies of these recordings, what are you waiting for?