Saturday, 29 April 2017

"Patto" by PATTO (April 2017 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster with Three Bonus Tracks) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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In truth I stumbled on Patto's guitar-player Ollie Halsall via Kevin Ayers. I was in a Dublin Record shop on Grafton Street in late 1974 - the kind of progressive chart store that used to remainder and cheap albums that hadn't sold due to artist obscurity or lack of interest or they were just plain crap. I'd pick up amazing off-the-beaten-track goodies in there like Greenslade on Warner Brothers, Todd Rundgren on Bearsville and Audience on Charisma.

One day I stumbled on the utterly extraordinary Kevin Ayers album "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" – his first for Island Records after a four-LP stint with Harvest. I took my two-quid deal home and although I hated/didn't understand the record at first - it began to grow on me to a point where it soon became indispensable (I reviewed the Peter Mew remastered CD of it a few years back). But what kept me listening initially was the pyrotechnic guitar playing of one 'Ollie Halsall' on the track "Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You" - the kind of axe-work that makes your head spin. If you backtrack you come to his former band – the obscure and criminally forgotten PATTO...

PATTO arose out of the ashes of a 60ts band called TIMEBOX from Stockport in Lancashire - singer Mike Patto, Bassist Clive Griffiths, Drummer John 'Admiral' Halsey and super guitarist Pete 'Ollie' Halsall. TIMEBOX never did get an album out but they landed seven rare and desirable 45s in the UK - two on Piccadilly and five on Deram - one of which was a minor hit - a cover of The Four Seasons "Beggin'" that peaked at a lowly No. 38 on the British singles charts in July 1968.

But as the Progressive Rock boom began to take over in the late Sixties - the four ex-Timebox boys wanted to move on from the restrictions of Pop and formed PATTO - signing to the then emerging label for all things Prog and eclectic - Vertigo. They made three albums in total - two for Vertigo and one for Island - none of which sold jack knob. Their debut "Patto" hit the streets of Blighty in November 1970 on Vertigo 6360 016 (February 1971 in the USA), the second "Hold Your Fire" in November 1971 on Vertigo 6360 032 and the final "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em Put Out Another Line" in October 1972 on Island ILPS 9210 – all are listed vinyl rarities in the 2018 Record Collector Price Guide valued at £300, £500 and £60 respectively.

Which brings us to this long-overdue and superbly presented 'Expanded Edition' single CD Remaster of their self-titled debut album from England's Esoteric Recordings. Here are the screaming spirals...

UK released Friday, 28 April 2017 (5 May 2017 in the USA) - "Patto" by PATTO on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2581 (Barcode 5013929468146) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster of their 1970 Debut LP on Vertigo Records with Three Bonus Tracks added on and plays out as follows (69:41 minutes):

1. The Man [Side 1]
2. Hold Me Back
3. Time To Die
4. Red Glow
5. San Antone [Side 2]
6. Government Man
7. Money Bag
8. Sittin' Back Easy
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut album "Patto" - released November 1970 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 016 and February 1971 in the USA on Vertigo VEL-1001. Produced by MUFF WINWOOD - it didn't chart in either country.

9. Hanging Rope
Track 9 recorded & Mixed at Island Studios, London, 16 July 1970 – first appeared as an outtake in 2004 on the reissue of the album by Repertoire (REPUK 1025)

10. Love Me
11. Government Man
Tracks 10 and 11 recorded 3 November 1970 for the BBC Radio One program "Sounds Of The 70t's" – exclusively licensed and Previously Unreleased

The 16-page booklet is festooned with ticket stubs, trade adverts, gig flyers, the Tony Benyon pencil cartoons on the inner gatefold of Vertigo 6360 016, black and white band photos from the period and even has an advert plugging the first two albums issued on Vertigo in the USA in February 1971 – Jimmy Campbell’s "Half Baked" on Vertigo VER-1000 and Patto's self-titled debut on Vertigo VER-1001. Some of the early photos and promotional snaps in the booklet smartly feature TIMEBOX in their 60ts glory while one of the gig ads sees PATTO share an unlikely bill with Shakin' Stevens & The Sunsets at Wardour Street's 'Temple' venue in London's Soho. More encouraging is sharing a Chalk Farm's Roundhouse line-up with The Who, Elton John and a new Warner Brothers signing called America. There are detailed and informative liner notes from noted writer SID SMITH too that feature reminiscences from drummer John Halsey about the band and the sadly passed Halsall (he died in 1992).

But the big news is the really clean and clear audio for what has always been perceived as a lo-fi production. To my knowledge there have been three CD reissues of this album before – Akarma out of Italy in 2002, Repertoire out of Germany in 2004 and one of those natty SHM-CDs in a card-repro sleeve out of Japan on Universal in 2010. But this amazingly is the first time a British label has had a go – Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings. And they've done a typically bang up job - especially on the audio front with a new Remaster from original tapes by Audio Engineer BEN WISEMAN – someone who has handled loads of these Reissues. The opening track "The Man" is a slow Rock builder - the kind of tune Free would have punched out of the park circa 1970's "Fire And Water" LP. Mike Patto's impassioned vocals build as Halsall licks away on the guitar. It's a hard song to transfer with any real power - and yet without trebling the thing out of existence - the audio on this sucker alone is worth the price of admission.

A word about the music – although the Vertigo Label was largely associated with all things Prog Rock - until the very trippy guitar-workout of the near eleven-minute "Money Bag" over on Side 2 – in fact "Patto" the album is way more Humble Pie than May Blitz. Most of the record feels like Hard Rock – its even Bluesy in places. In fact sandwiched between the angry social-conscience lyrics of "Government Man" and the Free-sounding riffage of "Sittin' Back Easy" – the track "Money Bag" seems wildly out of place – almost like its been transported in from another world entirely.

That doesn’t mean the music or the whole LP is lesser for it – its not. The album's wonderful opener "The Man" was featured on Disc 2 of 2005's "Time Machine" 3CD Vertigo Spiral Retrospective Box Set from Universal - a slow burning builder that feels epic and cool too. The rock swagger of "Hold Me Back" would do Grand Funk proud - while the Acoustic-delicate opening of "Time To Die" feels like the kind of song Marriott would have done on Immediate Records with late Sixties Small Faces or Humble Pie's 1969 output - "As Safe As Yesterday" and "Town And Country" again on Immediate Records before they signed to A&M. "Red Glow" ends Side 1 on a fabulous Rock chugger where Mike Patto sounds like Mike Harrison of Spooky Tooth getting his teeth into a neck-jerking groove while Halsall lets rip with brilliant rocking guitar. The album's Prog moments arrive as Jazz vibes introduced towards the end of "Government Man" literally lead into the near ten-minutes of "Money Bag" - an instrumental that lets Halsall indulge in his inner John McLaughlin for what seems like half-a-year. I’ve always found this meandering track difficult to take – but there’s no mistaking his playing that at times feels like Jeff Beck five years before he did "Blow By Blow". Song normality returns with "Sittin' Back Easy" where a slow beginning then rips into Family-type Rock with Mike Patto actually sounding a little like Roger Chapman. And those wanting more of Ollie Halsall and his guitar should check out Boxer and Tempest.

I wasn't expecting much of the Bonus Tracks - but Fusion and Ollie Halsall admirers will be in Seventh Heaven here. "Hanging Rope" clocks in at a huge 14:49 minutes and is similar to the Side 2 oddity "Money Bag". With some minor Roger Chapman-esque vocals from Mike Patto halfway in – it's mostly instrumental – Halsall soloing away on Guitar while cymbals clash and a Bass goes Miles Davis on proceedings. Musically it feels like Family have discovered Jazz and gone off on a Fusion wig out. I know it was on the 2004 CD reissue from Repertoire – but it's the first time I've ever heard it – and what a find. "Love Me" is PATTO as a Jazz-Prog band - eight-minutes of Vibes, Bass and Mike singing 'love me as i would love you'. An almost after-hours barroom vibe comes over in the BBC Session version of "Government Man" - it's good rather than being great and isn't a patch on the album's studio cut. But fans will welcome it.

1970's "Patto" is a genuine rarity LP given a properly decent CD reissue here - great audio, better presentation and genuinely complimentary bonuses. Well done to all the cats at Esoteric Recordings for putting it out there again and honouring Halsall's recorded legacy in such style...

PS: PATTO CD Reissues...
Also reissued in 28 April 2017 is their second Vertigo vinyl platter from November 1971 called "Hold Your Fire" - but as a 2CD 'Expanded Edition Remaster' with 13 Bonus Tracks (Esoteric ECLEC 22582 - Barcode 5013929468245). 26 May 2017 will then see their aborted fourth album recorded in 1973 called "Monkey's Bum" reissued by Esoteric and again as an 'Expanded Edition' CD (Esoteric ECLEC 2587). It will be the first ‘official’ release of the album sanctioned by the remaining members of the band and include three Previously Unreleased tracks – sessions recorded for John Peel’s BBC Radio One show on 13 February 1973 with the original line-up of the band...

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