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Shuttah - The Image Maker vol. 1 & 2 CD (album) cover

THE IMAGE MAKER VOL. 1 & 2

Shuttah

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.91 | 16 ratings

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Atavachron
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album represents one of the great mysteries in the Prog world: who were these guys and how did they make such a carefully arranged and well-produced recording without anyone recalling much about them? It is possible we may never know. What we do know about this English group of organ, drums, guitar, bass, horns and voice is that they created an underground concept record when that notion was still new, or at least warm, and it's overflowing with big, adventurous ideas, story development, atmosphere and a sophistication missing from much psych rock at a time when the form was near exhaustion. Their one and only album, 'The Image Maker Vol. 1 & 2', has an acid-blues foundation but shakes things up all the way through with surprising classical fugues, sound effects, theatrical fun and quality musicianship. Their sound reminds of early U.S. protomorphs Touch but shows greater skill, vision and direction. Even those involved at the time couldn't remember who this band was; "Shadoks Music spoke to Geoff Oliver, the former owner of IBC recording studios, but he could not remember any of the recordings made by Shuttah in his studio-- there were just too many engineers busy at the same time, during those golden days of the London underground, where studios were recording music which became big hits". Lucky for us those Prog trainspotters at Shadoks did the footwork and give us a great little moment in the psychedellic/progressive interface, preserving the rarest of the rare during that glorious but all too brief time.

A horsedrawn carriage delivers the groovy opener, a conjoining of hard blues rhythms, classical organ, trumpet and banjo, followed by the tribal 'Bull Run' with more brass and a stone-heavy organ/fuzz guitar vamp. This is really tremendous lost prog, grinding with walls of power and weird horns, sensitive guitar easing in and out of sadness... one great cut after another brimming with the spirit of the 1960s but showing clear signs of the rock progressive. The main theme involves the English war experience in the 20th century but we're never hit over the head with harsh messages, rather the symbolism is expressed as an undercurrent and avoids getting in the way of the fine music. 'The Crimp' is straight up musical theater with irreverent Jesus Christ Superstar imagery and rebel youth Hair-isms, 'Christmas 1914' is sardonic holiday bliss, dark humor and a Kinks-like delivery, and the first disc ends with 'The Fens', fond memories of Eastern England with hot organ and an uplifting arrangement. A sparkling first half of a brilliant piece of work. Disc Two is just as solid, starting on a pseudo-classical guitar solo rudely interrupted by the sounds of the Blitz, the war themes coming out more for 'Guernica' and the get-up-and-dance beats of 'World War ll', a sober but humorous reflection of war torn Britain. In 1971, just a handful of bands had attempted something this comprehensive in scope and it boggles the mind that the players involved are unknown. 'Imjin' careens with deep drones and lava lamps. A radio's dial is slowly turned years before Pink Floyd did it for 'She's a Bad Girl', and 'The Wizard' and 'Conclusion' are flat out Prog Rock in all its glory with a heavy Hammond, driving bass & drums, and classical dirges everywhere.

Widely panned as trite and too ambitious for its own good, 'The Image Maker' is dynamite stuff, and a must for anyone serious about early prog development. Some of the blues elements may turn you off but stick with this treasure and it will pay off in a big, big way.

Atavachron | 4/5 |

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