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Maelstrom - Maelstrom CD (album) cover




Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.61 | 41 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Maelstrom's eponymous effort is one of those very hidden gems of USA's prog that generate unexpected pleasure once they are discovered by the meticulous collector: originally released in 1973, the Malestrom album is an impressive catalogue of appealing songs that are framed in a combination of British proto-prog (Gracious, Procolo Harum) and the melodic side of Caravan, with added touches of mellotron layers and counterpoints that seem to hint to Genesis and Gentle Giant to a certain degree. The psychedelic R'n'B elements are related to Vanilla Fudge and Traffic. The vocal deliveries are competent but are not the band's forte: that should be the instrumental input, enriched by the musicians' disposition to bring in lots of diverse items (two keyboards, flute, saxes, tuned percussion) besides the usual guitar/bass/drums. Even though, the ensemble's sound is never charged: the dynamic rhythm section and the calculated interactions keep it flowing through teh controlled complexity of the basic compositions. As outdated as the album is, the melodic ideas remain fresh for everyone who cares to listen closely. 'Ceres' kicks off the album on a very lyrical fashion seasoned with jazzy undertones: a succession of various section begins before arriving at minute 2, displaying a real musical treat that includes some slight dissonant progressions. The Canterbury influence is more easy to notice in the impressive instrumental 'In Memory', a hell of a piece that wouldn't have been out of place in an Egg or early Soft Machine album: the GG-friendly adornments and the bluesy edge add extra spiece to the track. 'The Balloonist' sets a sort of confluence between both previous tracks' moods, this time giving the lead guitar more room for expansion. 'Alien' slows down the pace of things in order to create a more relaxed ambience, close to the standards of Procol Harum and Gracious. 'Chronicles' follows a similar path during its first half; for the second half, there is a shift toward a jazzy interlude that eventually leads to an effective climax. 'Law and Crime' is the least complex track in the album, setting a Traffic-oriented mood in a catchy R'n'B workframe. With 'Nature Abounds' and 'Below the Line', the band resumes its progressive ambitions in full swing. The former is based on a melancholic atmosphere based on a moving motif; the latter alternates pastoral nuances and dense ambiences, always preserving a well-defined basis that develops with fluency through its increasing intensity. The Cd edition contains 2 bonus tracks, performed by a very modified line-up in a rock festival that took place in 1980. The material is totally instrumental, and more decidedly focused on the symphonic side of prog: Camel and ELP sound like the most recurrent influences in 'Genesis to Geneva' and 'Opus One', although the jazz factor is still a powerful component in tne band's music at the time. Maelstrom is a very pleasant surprise for the collector - original 70s prog rock from the USA.

Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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