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The Flock


The Flock - Dinosaur Swamps - 1970 - Columbia Records

This was Chicago band The Flock's second release. Their first two albums for Columbia Records, "The Flock" and this one, set a standard for the jazz rock fusions that were to come. But unfortunately the original band broke up in 1971. A mix of light jazz and progressive horn rock, this is a very original, creative, and underrated album. An admirer of this group was John Mayall. He did the liner notes for the back of the first LP "The Flock". He stated: "The Flock was the best band I'd heard in America." Violinist Jerry Goodman later joined the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This album received some very poor reviews, but like a lot of undervalued albums, it needs a few listens to appreciate it's mixture of styles and excellent musicianship.


Side 1
Green Slice
Big Bird
Hornschmeyer's Island
Side 2

Uranian Sircus

All tracks written by - The Flock


Jerry Goodman (Violin, vocals),
Fred Glickstein (Guitar, lead vocals),
Jerry Smith (Bass),
Ron Karpman (Drums),
Rick Canoff (Tenor Sax),
Tom Webb (Tenor Sax),
Frank Posa (Trumpet).


Dinosaur Swamps is even more progressive, and completely bewildering - right down to the intricate gatefold artwork which almost indecipherable. It is a very dense sounding album - usually Glickstein (using both guitar and keyboards) and Goodman play at the same time, frequently with the horns as well (who get a larger role). Either the group or producer John McClure was fascinated with the already passé use of sound effects for the beginning or endings of songs, like making foghorn noises (the opening of the Steve Miller Band's Sailor anyone?), speeding up the track, or hideous laughing/calliope from hell noises. The songs are not much better, because the band has too many musical ideas. Dinosaur Swamps has psychedelia ("Hornshmeyer's Island" which alternates between quiet versus and loud, helium-voiced choruses), blues ("Crabfoot" with percussion solos, backwards noises, a strange horn noise section that's not quite a John Zorn wet dream), a romantic folk ballad with Salvation Army style horns ("Mermaid") and even a strong country feel on "Big Bird." The album's biggest surprise is the group's almost complete failure to capitalize on Goodman. Sure, he plays, but he has no lengthy solos, only spots now and again, and a couple of interesting tones (wah-wah on "Crabfoot", and an underwater tone that makes it sound like a mellotron on "Hornschmeyer's Island"). The last track, "Uranian Sircus," has ridiculous spoken versus, a chorus of "Uranian Sircus is on it's way to town!", and fun production tricks like reverb and slightly phased vocals. Repetitive, annoying, but grotesquely interesting. Actually, quite a bit of nice playing is within these tracks when the band get a chance to stretch out, but with so many ideas to wade through, the band frequently does not make it. As they never get around to playing, or the music changing too frequently, the weak lyrics (Hornschmeyer's Island" has a few 'gems') and inter-song filler (the intro to "Big Bird", Glickstein's guitar lines in "Lighthouse") shine through. While everyone had ample space on their debut (apportioned by talents, of course), Dinosaur Swamps' approach of everyone going at once makes the album neither overly structured or organized chaos, but like an large object made out of Legos(TM): done in stages, fun for the assemblers, perhaps interesting to look at for a short while, but with a utility approaching zero. In trying to do everything, the Flock amply demonstrate they are not the musical equivalent of an uncollapsed wave function, but instead a band that had too much time on their hands, too little quality control, and little knowledge about their strengths. © http://jhendrix110.tripod.com//Flock.html#DS


Forming in late-'60s Chicago, the Flock forever languished in the shadow of the Chicago Transit Authority (later famous as just plain Chicago), whose peculiar approach to art rock -- incorporating horns and other unorthodox instrumentation into rock and jazz forms -- they also pursued. But though they clearly lacked Chicago's smash-hit-penning abilities, the Flock possessed a secret weapon in masterful violinist Jerry Goodman, and their genre-smashing compositions were often even more extreme, if not exactly Top 40 material. Rick Canoff (vocals, saxophone) and Fred Glickstein (vocals, guitar, organ) were already performing in a garage band called the Exclusives in 1965 when they decided to rename themselves the Flock. The duo recorded a number of independent singles with various backing musicians over the next few years, but it wasn't until they discovered that their guitar tech, one Jerry Goodman, also happened to be a virtuoso violinist and invited him into the fold that the Flock's sound truly began to take shape. By 1969, the septet was completed by Jerry Smith (bass), Ron Karpman (drums), John Gerber (sax, flute, banjo), and Tom Webb (sax, flute), and had scored a deal with Columbia Records, for whom they recorded their groundbreaking eponymous debut that same year. But, not even enthusiastic endorsements from some of the era's most respected musicians (including English blues legend John Mayall, who famously dubbed them the "best American band" he'd heard and wrote the album's liner notes) could help sell the Flock's complicated music, which simply proved too unusual and inaccessible for most consumers. The band continued to plug along on the live circuit, including a stint at the prestigious 1970 Bath Festival (where they performed before a then-skyrocketing Led Zeppelin), but their label, Columbia, was already beginning to lose faith. Complicating matters further, 1971's Dinosaur Swamps proved a disappointing second effort, falling well short of its predecessor's inspirational flights; it is perhaps best-remembered for its beautiful cover artwork, rather than the songs contained within. A third LP, reportedly to be called "Flock Rock," was summarily shelved uncompleted, and the Flock had fallen apart by 1972. Violinist Goodman later worked with the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Dixie Dregs, among others, but except for a brief, disastrous reunion which yielded 1975's ill-received Inside Out album, the remaining members of the Flock soon faded into rock & roll obscurity. ~ Ed Rivadavia, All Music Guide

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