Even while many of the then-obscure acts of the late 60s and early 70s have earned the status of legend, The Flock remains something of a footnote. They’re probably best known for being an early home to violinist Jerry Goodman (of Mahavishnu Orchestra glory) but when speaking of their music it’s probably best to talk about them in the context of the contemporaneous ‘brass rock’ scene with which they were a part of. The fusion of driving rock and trumpet embellishments were flagshipped most notably by Blood, Sweat & Tears and the Chicago Transit Authority (better known to FM radio acolytes as Chicago), but there were plenty of imitators that didn’t fare nearly so well. The Flock would go on to release two albums following this self-titled debut, but they ultimately failed to realize the potential of their sound. With two saxophonists, a trumpeter and the aforementioned violinist backing up the more conventional rock musicians, I might have expected to hear The Flock bring a higher degree of sophistication to their music than they do. The Flock‘s debut is a fairly middling rock record with unessential jazz elements sprinkled overtop- the tired psychedelia and American blues rock fetishism aren’t anything special, but it’s the potential a seven-piece had to become so much more that makes The Flock‘s debut feel so disappointing.
It’s a common criticism I have for many debut albums, but The Flock don’t seem to have totally figured out where they want to go musically on this debut. The uninventively named “Introduction” suggests a focus on violins, whereas “Clown” offers up a strong blend of blues rock and jazz-tinged jamming. On the other side, “Truth” unfolds as a dreadfully overdrawn slow blues jam. “Store Bought – Store Thought” sees the band even try their hand at tepid science fiction themes. A more ambitious act could have made these ideas work together, but- to put it bluntly-The Flock aren’t particularly good at songwriting. All of the album’s greatest moments are when the music starts to take a more improvised turn (see “Introduction”); even then however, The Flock can’t seem to figure out how to maximize the use of their jazz instruments.
Frontman Fred Glickstein’s voice isn’t a mile away from that of the immortal Robert Plant, although he lacks the distinctive charisma that made Zeppelin‘s frontman spectacular; the vocals on this album however range from that to weak falsettos and headscratching pseudo-opera- believe me when I say it’s not nearly as interesting or groundbreaking as it might sound on paper! Although four of the seven musicians in The Flock are playing non-rock instruments, they never seem to figure out how to make proper use of the potential. The trumpets and saxophones are used as a light embellishment at most, and the abundant jams on the album are utterly typical for British rock at the turn-of-the-decade. Not surprisingly, it’s Jerry Goodman’s violin that earns the lion’s share of respect on the album. “Introduction” is a pleasantly misleading track, focusing predominantly on Goodman’s violin, even hinting at a possible avant-garde approach with the dissonant and playful way the instrumental unfolds. Of course, that’s an exception to the rule. Suffice to say, fans of the Mahavishnu Orchestra will likely find this album horribly underwhelming; even if Goodman’s work with electric violin is excellent, there are far better albums you can hear him playing on.
The Flock isn’t a bad band, nor is their self-titled a bad album. With so many bands of this ilk forming flash-in-the-pan careers around the same time however, it’s pretty difficult to get excited over what they were doing here. Overall, the impression is one of disappointment. The Flock had unconventional instruments enough to do something really interesting stylistically, and instead they stay clung to middling slow blues jams, Kinks covers and wimpy songs about robots. There was potential greatness lurking in The Flock, but like so many others, they failed to achieve the level of focus that needed to unlock it. A shame, really.
1. Introduction (4:50)
2. Clown (7:42)
3. I Am the Tall Tree (5:37)
4. Tired of Waiting (4:35)
5. Store Bought – Store Thought (7:00)
6. Truth (15:25)
* Fred Glickstein – guitar, lead vocals
* Jerry Goodman – violin
* Jerry Smith – bass
* Ron Karpman – drums
* Rick Canoff – tenor saxophone
* Tom Webb – tenor saxophone
* Frank Posa – trumpet