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Kamijo/Shuttah

Martha/The Image Maker (Shadoks)

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Shadoks specializes in obscure relics from the hippie era -- bands with names like Mystery Meat and Love Depression. Two of the label's latest reissues spotlight Kamijo, a group out of Japan, and an English act calling itself Shuttah.

Released in 1971, Kamijo's Martha consists of humble tunes built from acoustic guitar, piano, and intimate harmonies. Also featuring the occasional harmonica and fuzz tone, the band channeled the Beatles, some Dylan, Village Green-era Kinks, and VU's softer touch. This doesn't mean Kamijo combined the best elements of these bands, although its sideways take is interesting in a strange-yet-familiar way.

On the other hand, there is nothing humble about Shuttah. The band's reach far exceeded its grasp. The Image Maker, its rambling double LP, also from '71, fancies itself a treatise on war and humanity. But it's a mess, representing Shuttah's misguided stab at making a grand artistic statement. Sure, that's something plenty of prog bands did in the '70s, but never like this. We get everything from field recordings and jazzy trombone interludes to sober ballads sung in one of those stern British voices -- think John Wetton (King Crimson, Asia). Shuttah's strangest quality, however, is its love for white-boy funk rock, which appears throughout the album. This was early '70s Britain, after all.

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