Following The Flock once again

The band The Flock

The band The Flock. Publicity photo.

By Mike Greenblatt

It was the year of Woodstock. I was 18. Discovering new bands in 1969 yielded tremendous results. In London, you were either a Mod or a Rocker. White kids in Newark, N.J. — ever since the race riots in the long hot summer of 1967 — were segregated by social caste into four major categories. You were either a greaser, nerd, jock or head.   

Us “heads” smoked a lot of pot and listened to music. With no Internet, we relied on music magazines and newspapers to tell us who the cool bands were. I gravitated toward a band from Chicago called The Flock.

     “You gotta hear these guys,” I yelled to my buddies as we camped out one night playing our acoustic guitars by the campfire and making sure our canteens were filled (bottled water had yet to be invented). Not being able to call home (cell phones had yet to be invented), we were free of any parental restrictions. “I’m telling you, they’re better than Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears! They have a jazz-rock sound and feature this amazing violin player whose name I can’t remember.”

1849 TheFlock_Heavenbound     The violinist was Jerry Goodman. The album was the self-titled debut by The Flock on Columbia. It ruled. Goodman quickly left the band to go join The Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Flock came out with a second album in 1970 called “Dinosaur Swamps,” but by that time, I had forgot all about them.

     Fast-forward 46 years later. “Heaven Bound: The Lost Album” by Flock is released by Cleopatra Records.

     So what happened?

     The Flock broke up in ’71. Singer Fred Glickstein moved to Florida, but within the year was back in Chicago with Flocksters Ron Karpman and Jerry Smith looking for a replacement violinist. Enter Mike Zydowsky. They spent the next two years touring Europe before returning, adding singer/songwriter/keyboardist Jim Hirsen, and signing a record deal with Mercury to be produced by Felix Pappalardi of Mountain. “Inside Out” came out in 1975 and the band supported it with a Midwestern tour before it all fell apart.

    Before the 1970s came to a close, Glickstein and Karpman formed Strategic Ear Command but couldn’t get a deal. “Heaven Bound: The Lost Album” resurrects songs from that era of Flock history. The 15 tracks bespeak a soiled dignity somewhere between prog rock and hard pop, complete with multi-tracked vocals sweetened by lush harmony and that ever-present violin, which not only adds the progressive but builds the mix into a slathering of different sounds and personalities.

     On “Makes It All Worthwhile,” the violin is replaced by a squealing saxophone that surrounds the harmonic aspects. It’s all very hippie-dippie but don’t forget, this is the late-‘70s we’re talkin’ ‘bout, with tried’n’true ‘60s dudes. Sure, some of it doesn’t hold up all these years later and some of it is corny. “Noise Boys” is totally dated. The production throughout is muddy but the way the guitar goes from speaker to speaker and the attention-to-detail on the vocal arrangements befits late ‘70s prog. Had they stuck with Pappalardi as their producer, it might have sounded better, but the Mountain man who produced Cream had lost his hearing and was well on his way to being murdered by his wife in 1983.

     “Mama” starts off with the crowing of a rooster. This country music rip-off is either a joke or, if serious, embarrassingly bad. Guess they wanted to make hay while they had a fiddle amongst their ranks. “Rolling With The Clones” is fun but I wouldn’t want to play it loud in public. A self-styled take on the Rolling Stones and “Brown Sugar” in particular, it goes, “you heard of the Rolling Stones? Well, here comes the Rolling Clones.” Give me a break.

     Overall, this time-trip blast from the past is but a mild curiosity. GM

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

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