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

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Cro Magnon - Zapp! – An interesting newcomer in the 'Chamber Music Rock' subgenre, this is a Belgian five piece featuring a lineup of dual violins, keyboards, alto and baritone saxes, and bass. Naturally, as might be...  (1993) » Read more

Church of Hawkwind - Church of Hawkwind – [this was written about the 1994 reissue on Griffin Records - ed.] The 1982 incarnation of Hawkwind that wrote Church of Hawkwind comprised Dave "Baron von" Brock, Harvey Bainbridge, Huw...  (1994) » Read more

Devil Doll - Dies Irae – I suppose it was inevitable that before long this band would find a concept such as this too good to pass up. Given the countless readings of this medieval concept in classical music, though, I'd...  (1996) » Read more

Crystals - Crystals – Featuring guitarists Marcello Todaro of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Nanni Civitenga of Raccomondata Ricevuta Ritorno, Crystals were a group of musicians trying to be the next big thing or at least...  (1996) » Read more

National Health - Missing Pieces – Finally! Most of the missing links between the last Hatfield and the North (1975) and the first National Health (1977) albums make their way into the light of day. Several copies of these sessions...  (1997) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues