Dennis Tobell (who later used the name Demian Bell) was hit by a bus when he was four years old. Appropriately, the band he would go on to lead made music that can make you feel like you’ve been hit by a moving vehicle – a powerful engine that doesn’t inflict physical harm but leaves the ears ringing with loudly melodic music. The legend of Maypole is fraught with mafia connections, drug culture and the worst the music business had to offer, and the band had the misfortune of signing to a label that folded before it could do anything with its solid album. Originally released on Colossus in 1971, this self-titled effort was the only album to emerge during Maypole’s brief lifetime. Vinilisssimo isn’t the first label to tap this material–Anopheles reissued it on vinyl in 2006 as The Real–but if you missed out on that reportedly excellent reissue, here’s another chance to rediscover a hard rock concept album that deserved a wider audience.

Maypole bursts with power chords and pretty melodies and heavy psych all in the name of an ambitious suite, its songs flowing together for each album side. “Glance at the Past” opens the album with a musical explosion from drummer Paul Welsh before a guitar line with the power of “I Can See for Miles” pierces through. The band seems to morph through three different songs in three and a half minutes, and its first track is split down the middle by an atomic blast akin to Love’s “7 & 7 Is.” The lyrics begin after the blast, introducing a wild journey indeed: “You say it gets too hard to go on this way/ Would you like to sail along/ Catch the moon and drift away?

This is a controlled psychedelia, flights of musical and lyrical fantasy and experimentation built up with digestible chunks of accessible hard rock and melody. And what threads these strong pieces together, even more than Tobell’s guitar, may be Welsh’s drumming. “Show Me the Way,” for instance, shifts to a melody that might have been a gentle folk-rock track but given a wilder tone by reverbed vocals and Welsh’s driving rhythms.

The band claimed that it didn’t care about “snappy hooks,” but despite the expansive and experimental song structure, there are plenty of snappy hooks here. It’s just that instead of taking the form of radio-friendly choruses, the hooks would be scattered in a bridge here, a shifting verse there or a chiming guitar mid-song. With tracks running together, the album often seems like a single, frequently-changing composition, the Zep-like yowls of “Johnny” (over rhythm guitar so angular it could almost be from Captain Beefheart) easing in and out of the blues and tension-building rave-ups before exploding in drums and shifting gears again to the more melodic “Come Back.”

This was a two-guitar band, Steve Mace on second axe, but Welsh has so much energy that sometimes the drummer seems to be the lead instrument, cymbals almost constantly crashing but conveying almost as much melody as percussion.

After firing its first manager, Maypole lucked into good promo men, and a single release of “Show Me the Way” backed with “Johnny” got plenty of airplay on radio stations in and around the band’s native Baltimore, and members were happy to give interviews. Unfortunately, there was no label around to support the group. You can dance around thinking about buying this album, but you won’t regret taking a chance on it.

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