Exposé Online banner

Maelstrom — Maelstrom (AKA On the Gulf)
(Black Widow , 1973/2013, CD)

by Paul Hightower, 2014-06-15:

Maelstrom (AKA On the Gulf) Cover art A 1973 release originally titled On the Gulf, this album from American sextet Maelstrom is representative of what myriad groups were attempting in the early 70s following the explosion of progressive rock that hit the planet. The influence of early Gentle Giant, Genesis, and King Crimson can be heard, though not many American bands were even this adventurous at the time. Traces of late 60s psych, Canterbury, avant-garde, and even Zappa are also fused within these grooves, and in some ways this could be considered the forebear of what Dan Britton is doing today with Deluge Grander. It’s colorful, eclectic, dynamic, and unpredictable, with music alternating between the heavenly and the diabolical. Countering the heavier, Mellotron-laced passages are lighter, pastoral washes that evoke early Strawbs (singer/guitarist Jeff McMullen even sounds a lot like Dave Cousins). Besides the standard prog rock ensemble, Maelstrom also employed an impressive arsenal of instruments that included sax, vibes, and even harmonica, and all of it is put to full use across the album’s eight tracks. These aren’t toe-tappers, and several of the arrangements lose their way at the end, so don’t expect any Ivor Novello awards here. As a bonus, two songs are included from a 1980 reformation (as a quartet) that was entirely instrumental and much more keyboard oriented. If the original Maelstrom was a bit behind the times stylistically, this later incarnation was hopelessly doomed, even if the songs themselves have merit. Kudos to Black Widow for resurrecting a flawed but daring effort.

by Henry Schneider, 2013-09-23:

Black Widow has unearthed an extremely rare and overlooked gem from the early 70s. Maelstrom was formed and led by the late Roberts Owen (guitars, piano, Mellotron, and sax), James Larner (flute, vibraphone, marimbas, piano, and harmonica), Paul Klotzbier (bass), Mark Knox (Hammond organ, Mellotron, and harpsichord), Jim Miller (percussion), and Jeff McMullen (lead vocals and electric guitar). They recorded their one and only release as a private pressing at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, hence the album's original title. Why this record never received attention is a mystery as the eight songs are an eclectic combination of symphonic and Canterbury progressive rock. Perhaps they were ahead of their time or their LP got buried in the mass of progressive music coming from Europe in 1973 (ELP, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, VDGG, Le Orme, Ashra, Klaus Schulze, Popol Vuh, etc.). Nevertheless, Black Moon Records reissued On the Gulf on CD in 1997 with the title changed to Maelstrom for some odd reason. On the present reissue, Black Widow added two bonus instrumentals recorded live in 1980 at “The Three Rivers Festival” in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The disc opens with “Ceres,” a very pleasant song with flute, Hammond organ, guitar, and high tenor vocals. Halfway through it turns sinister with Mellotron and chanting, something common these days, but innovative in the 70s. There is any number of comparisons that you can draw with the music, but they are all subtle tinges of ELP, VDGG, Genesis, etc. Maelstrom was unique, especially considering that US bands at the time were more rock oriented (Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Grateful Dead) and not exploring the limits of progressive music, though Carlos Santana and Frank Zappa were beginning to experiment. A couple of songs stand out for me: “Chronicles” and “Below the Line.” The two live tracks, recorded seven years later, showcase a different side to the band, with only Roberts and Paul from the original Maelstrom. “Opus None” is an organ and keyboard dominated classical/rock fusion number that shows the ELP influence, but during the last two minutes an analog synth comes in with the standard sine waves of the 70s, which detracts from the music. It just did not work. Moreover, the closing track “Genesis to Geneva” has a dated sound, unlike the original LP, mainly due once again to the unimaginative use of analog synths. Though this last track does rock, there is still a fair bit of keyboard noodling with no direction. Overall, a great find by Black Widow.

Filed under: Reissues , 2013 releases, 1973 releases

Related artist(s): Maelstrom

More info

Latest news

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Quasar Lux Symphoniæ - Abraham - One Act Rock Opera – First, let's clear up any confusion: This is in no way related to the British neo-symphonic group Quasar that once featured Tracy Hitchings as vocalist. Instead, QLS is an Italian four-piece core band...  (1994) » Read more

Magenta - The Gathering – Magenta’s first live DVD was filmed in their native Wales in 2005 following the tour for the Seven album. Material from the Home album is previewed, though the set is mostly taken from the...  (2007) » Read more

Curved Air - Live at the BBC – Something I hear often regarding Curved Air is complaints about the band's lack of focus and the unevenness of many of their studio recordings. This may be due to the fact that the only recordings...  (1997) » Read more

Richard Bone - The Eternal Now – With four releases under his belt, Richard Bone has touched on a variety of different musical avenues, of which The Eternal Now is his nod to the New Age / ambient realm. While I'm usually loath...  (1997) » Read more

Sadhappy - Good Day Bad Dream – Sadhappy has been one of Seattle’s quietly active units for the last few years. The group has undergone some famous personnel changes (in particular the departure of key saxophonist, Skerik from...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues