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.