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The Flock

Truth: The Columbia Recordings 1969-1970

Review by Gary Hill

This new compilation showcases quite a bit of great music from this killer band. The bulk of the stuff comes from two albums, The Flock and Dinosaur Swamps, but there are some singles and other oddities thrown into the mix. These guys came quite literally out of the same scene as Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears, but seemed to move their jazz rock sound more into progressive rock territory. This collection is a nice piece of music history that happens to be an entertaining listening experience at the same time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 5 at
Track by Track Review
CD One

Acoustic guitar brings this into being and holds it alone for a time. A violin joins after a bit, bringing some classical music to the table.  Continuing with just those two instruments, this works through a number of changes. It gets into some freeform Rock In Opposition styled weirdness at times. The full band only joins on the crescendo of this instrumental.

The rhythm section brings this in with style. The cut powers out from there into a killer jazz rock arrangement. This is energized and a lot of fun. They take it out mid-track into a cool jazz meets psychedelia jam. That movement definitely lands this under the prog heading. They bring it back to the song proper right near the end. Then a quick burst of noisy psychedelically tinged music ends it.
I Am the Tall Tree
Folk prog is the order of business at the start of this cut. As it continues forward there is a burst of jazz rock that really powers it up nicely. They drop back to the folky stuff from there, though. It continues in that style with another burst of jazz rock for a time. Then it works out to something closer to musical theater for a while. That gets another jazz rock bit at the end of it. They move out toward the folkier stuff from there. It gets a bit more powered up before ending.
Tired of Waiting
Crazed violin starts this and holds it for roughly 30 seconds. Guitar comes in to bring a new concept to the piece. They work it out to a psychedelic rock meets jazz kind of jam. This is an intriguing version of the classic Kinks piece. I don't think anyone would confuse this as the original. The trippy psychedelia and jazz rock here are big changes from the original. So is the extended jam.
Store Bought - Store Thought
This is freaky stuff. The lyrics are decidedly science fiction based. The music is quirky and steadily changing. This is packed with jazz, psychedelia and a lot more. It's odd, but also quite cool. There is some potent jamming built into it.

There is some blues rock built into this thing. In fact, there is a lot of that here. It's delivered with an arrangement that still has plenty of jazz and psychedelia to consider it as proto-prog. They take it out into an extended jazz rock jam further down the road. This cut is almost 15 and a half minutes long, so there is plenty of road to allow for exploration. There is also an extended violin solo later in the piece.  They bring it back out from there into some killer jazz rock jamming. It eventually works its way back out to the song proper for a while. It dissolves into some of the most freeform weirdness so far from there, though. This definitely qualifies as RIO. The section ends it.

What Would You Do If the Sun Died?
More of a mainstream jazz rock meets theatrical sounds concept drives this. There is plenty of psychedelia built into this, though.
Lollipops and Rainbows
This lands closer to the folk prog end of the spectrum. It has some definite jazz rock elements, too. I suppose you can argue that there is plenty of psychedelia here, too.
Tired of Waiting (Single Version)

Here we get a much shorter version of the earlier track. Of course, the fact that there is less time means that they have to be more concise. While that makes this less proggy, I also think it makes for a stronger piece. They do manage to include some of the killer jamming and a guitar solo.

Store Bought Store Thought (Single Version)
Again, this is a much shorter rendition of the previous piece. I think the results are bit more mixed on this number. This does manage to grab the listener a bit more in this format, I think.
Clown (Part One)
This shortened version of the earlier cut is a real powerhouse jazz rocker. It works quite well like this.
Clown (Part Two)

Another portion of the same pieces, this focuses on the mellower end of the spectrum at the start. The cut is much more about the instrumental process than the singing. Of course, that makes sense since it's fully instrumental for about three-quarters of its length. It's far proggier as it works through some weird musical explorations. The piece has a lot of changes and moods.

CD Two
Green Slice

Space atmospherics bring this in and hold it for a time. It works outward from there gradually with keyboards joining first. A horn sings sporadically over the top of that for a while. This instrumental never moves far from there and just serves as an introduction.

Big Bird
There is a healthy helping of bluegrass in this, but the overall arrangement lands more on the jazz side of things. At least all of that makes up the first couple minutes of the piece, essentially the extended introduction. From there they bring it into more of a psychedelic rocking jam to continue. This reminds me a bit of a cross between Little Feat with Dixie Dregs. They turn it out into an instrumental jam later that's purely on fire. The tune continues to evolve from there.
Hornschmeyer's Island
This starts with folk prog. It bursts out after the first vocal section to some scorching jazzy stuff, but drops after that back to the folk-like sound. They take it through some changes and come out into a scorching hot jazz prog jam mid-track. Eventually it works out to a powerhouse jazz rock section for the return of the vocals. Oddly enough there are some "chipmunk" styled vocals amongst the normal ones. That section takes it to a dropped down movement that serves as the outro.
Suitably a ship's horn starts this. Then some guitar rises up to bring us out into a psychedelically tinged jazz rock jam that really rocks. There are some bluesy elements at play. This is a scorching hot tune that really works.
A bit more playful, this rocker has a lot of jazz in the mix. In some ways it reminds me of the jazzier sounds of early King Crimson. It's another powerhouse. It has an extended instrumental section built around a long drum solo. That helps to beef this cut up to over eight minutes of music. There is some backwards tracked weirdness later, too.
This feels like the kind of music that's created for kids in a lot of ways. It has jazzy, bouncy sections. There are parts that are more like folk music. This is fun, but a bit odd.
Uranian Sircus
This starts appropriately with twisted circus music and a scary laugh. That section makes up the introduction. Then it powers out into a psychedelic meets jazz proggy jam. They work it through all kinds of changes and variants. This is decidedly prog-oriented. It's also a bit weird at times, but effective.
Psychedelia merges with fusion here. This instrumental is just about two and a half minutes long.
Atlantians Truckin' Home
Here we get some serious hard rocking jamming underway. There is an intriguing flute solo segment later in the track. This is another effective instrumental.

Trippy jamming emerges here and carries forward with cool psychedelic meets jazz rock stylings. This is another killer instrumental.

Just Do It
I dig this jazzy instrumental jam. It's a lot of fun. It has some great explorations. There are things here that make me think of King Crimson.
Mermaid (Single Version)
Here we get a single of the earlier cut. Again, this is playful. It just doesn't really do a lot for me.
Crabfoot (Single Version)
This single works better than the previous one. It comes across as a soulful rocker in this edit.
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