Saturday, October 3, 2015

Shuttah - 1971 - The Image Maker

The Image Maker

101. Image Maker (3:06)
102. Bull Run (5:15)
103. Cry My Little Darling (2:27)
104. Lady Smith (4:21)
105. Village Green (0:54)
106. The Crimp (7:27)
107. Christmas 1914 (2:15)
108. The Fens (5:51)

201. Guernica (2:36)
202. World War II (6:51)
203. Concrete (1:14)
204. Imjin (5:04)
205. She's a Bad Girl (3:01)
206. The Wizard (5:34)
207. Tell Me Why (2:23)
208. Conclusion (5:09)

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.

...and then, Am I the only one that finds this story too good to be true... any more info out there?



  2. Yeah... If you are a fan of obscure British bands of this era you should really hear this one. Music is an excellent mix of melodic British rock and doom-laden heavy progressive rock,from superb audio quality.

    Probably embossed tentatively in September 1971 (no cover - in the form of double acetate, with yellow sticker IBC studios in London - visible on the CD label!), but album never released, completely unknown.. the British group. Who they were?...musicians group Shuttah, it is certain that they recorded an excellent, very professional and perfect sounding, full of changing moods and very diverse concept-album, concerning the the problem of World War II. Well-arranged songs, strong vocals, sound effects, organ and heavy guitar-drenched decent dose of acid is the real underground music with a heavy progressive slant,all this makes one of the best studio albums , these sessions supposedly were recorded for a Vertigo LP that never came out, and nobody seems to know who exactly wrote the songs or played on the LP! The original exists as only a single copy on IBC Studios acetate and this pressing exactly reproduces the labels of the acetate. Publishers (Shadoks Music) tried to get Geoff Oliver, the former owner of IBC recording studio, at least a little information about the group, but he could not remember a damn thing - there were too many engineers working in the same time in the same Check records of different groups - who recorded to tape, and who was at myzykalnyh tools is not clear. Archival documents has been preserved - a mess.

    IBC was famous for making recordings for bands such as The Kinks, The Who and The Beatles, plus many, many others, which leads one to the conclusion that this recording of Shuttah was very expensive to make, so there must be a famous musician behind it. The recording, arrangements and concepts are on a very high professional level. Even a search at UK copyright control did not show any results revealing the identity of who, exactly, Shuttah was. Since the original acetates appeared many years ago, this is still a very provocative unsolved mystery of the UK underground. The word Shuttah is a religious reference, if you have a Bible handy. The title of the album The Image Maker also suits the religious meaning. Double CD containing the only known recording by this unknown UK progressive rock band that survived as an acetate. Funky, atmospheric concept based progressive rock from 1971 with swathes of heavy keyboards, harpsichord, bass, guitar and melodic vocals that at times sounds like Home's "Alchemist" epic. What distinguishes this album is the top quality production and fully detailed booklet and it all adds up to one stunning reissue by Shadoks Music.
    Thx :)