Patto: Give it All Away (The Albums 1970-1973)
Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 42762
Eternally the guitarist’s guitarist the irreplaceable Ollie Halsall who died in 1992 graced many records throughout the 1970’s & it is the band Patto, fronted by Mike Patto (who sadly passed away in 1979, another great talent gone too soon), with John Halsey on drums and Clive Griffiths on bass, that he first came to some prominence.
Having previously been remastered and reissued in deluxe editionsin 2017 & 2018 (and in the case of Monkeys Bum for the first time officially on CD) the four studio albums by this highly inventive and innovative band that straggles rock, jazz, prog and many other genres are now available in one place, a clamshell boxed set, with replica LP slipcases.
Retaining the informative sleeve notes by Sid Smith, this set loses some of the extras from the original individual CDs (Patto is missing 3 BBC live tracks, Hold Your Fire is missing it’s 2nd disc of BBC sessions and outtakes, Roll’Em, Smoke ‘Em, Put another Line Out is missing 3 BBC tracks and Monkey’s Bum is missing 3 bonus tracks) however both Patto and Hold Your Fire do retain acouple of bonus tracks that weren’t on the original albums.
Similar to the recent boxes from both Fruupp and Curved Air what you get here is the original studio albums, and if you’ve already got the 4 separate CD’s then there’s nothing new for you here.
If you’ve never heard Patto before then this set is an ideal introduction, and for a casual fan contains all the Patto you’d ever need.
Patto, the debut album was originally released in 1970, and like so many albums of that era, instead of sitting in the limitations of any particular genre, the band decided to write and play what they wanted to. This was an era of great experimentation and explosion of sound where genres melded and merged and there was no scene, just music, and this is one of the most explosive and exciting debut albums that have ever been released.
With the superb vocals of Mike Patto, the band underneath create some astonishing sonic templates for him to weave his magic, tracks like Time to Die, the Government Man and Money bag are worth the price of entrance alone, whilst Halsall sounds like no other guitarist on earth, his unique sound is the lynchpin to this record, and is responsible for so many spine tingling moments.
1971’s Hold Your Fire is a musical eveolution of the debut, usually with second albums, the band have sometimes shot their bolt by utilising all their tricks and best tracks on the debut, making the sophomore effort harder work for both the band and the listener. That is not the case here, firing on all 4 cylinders, and with plenty to say, Hold Your Fire showcases a band comfortable with each other and confident in their own ability. Musically as well they were expanding their sound and refining their sonic palette. You get hard social commentary You, You point the finger mixed with more elaborate rockers like Give it all Away(which provides the title of this boxed set) and the mesmerising Air Raid Shelter which sees them pushing and driving as hard as they can. Halsall and Patto are men at the peak of their powers, the vocals and guitar contrasting and combining with each other, the sort of musical marriage that only comes along occasionally (and would be reunited in the late 70’s as Boxer, which is another story) while Halsey and Griffiths provide the anchor to the sound, so the balloon doesn’t fly too far away.
By 1972 the band had moved to Island records however they hadn’t got as much material as before, due to the life of a band in the 1970’s being a relentless schedule of touring and then recording on the fly before hitting the road again.
Luckily the touring had honed Pattos skills and so they were able to pull together an album that is closer to their live act than the earlier albums.
Roll ‘Em, Smoke ‘Em, Put Another Line Out is a rollicking collection of hard rocking tracks, as well as tracks that reflected the bands surreal sense of humour, as the sleeve notes point out the band had an interest in English whimsy of the ilk of bands like The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (and of course Halsall worked on the soundtrack to The Rutles film, as well as session work for Neil Inness and Viv stanshall) and this is reflected in some of the material, the off the wall “Cap’n P” and the Atto’s (Sea Biscuits parts 1 &2) as well as the genuinely creepy Mummy (recited by John Halsey) which is one to listen to once, and then skip (such a great function the skip button on the CD player) whilst the rockier tracks like Singing the Blues on Reds and I got Rhythm show the band were firing on all cylindars at this stage.
Following this they reconvened into the studio to record Monkeys Bum, which remained officially unreleased until 2017 (in the sleeve notes John Halsey refers to the Italian label who bootlegged it as ‘a bunch of cunts!’) and when Esoteric remastered the bands albums in the deluxe editions Monkeys Bum was finally reinstated into the bands catalogue.
During the recording Ollie Halsall quit the band, so the remaining trio enlisted for mer King Crimson man Mel Collins (on saxophone) and Dave Brooks (also on sax on different tracks) and they pulled the album together, although without a label, and with Halsall gone the band split.
With no band, there was no record deal and Monkeys Bum languished in the archives, a lost album.
With Mel Collins and Dave Brooks on saxophone the bands sound is slightly different, a more bluesy looser sound than earlier albums, and there’s a cracking cover of Randy Newmans Last Night I Had a Dream, a brilliant Halsall piece sung by Ollie called Sausages, and the prescient title of the opening track My days are Numbered which forshadowed the end of the band.
This is a fine collection and shows the direction the band could have headed in, had they been able to keep going. Instead, with Mike Patto dying in 1979 and Ollie Halsall in 1992 having worked with old friend Kevin Ayres for the rest of his career, Patto were one of those bands who faded from view and didn’t get their due at the time.
Musically they were a combination of being of their time, and so far ahead of their time that is hard to just describe and pigeonhole this band.
Instead you need to listen to it, immerse yourself in some of the best music you have never heard and enjoy the sound that 4 like-minded musicians make as they push each other and strive to create musical beauty, and this box, with it’s fine liner notes from Sid Smith, and the albums in cardboard slipcase replicas of the original, is a fantastic way to celebrate their talent.