Patto – Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out
Judging by the chaotic, unfocused but nonetheless glorious mess that this album is, it would seem its title was instructional rather than allegorical. Weirdly described by Rolling Stone at the time as the “missing link between Abbey Road and The Mahavishnu Orchestra”, Roll ’em… is all that and more…or less, depending on your point of view. It’s certainly nothing like The Beatles, but I suppose in the early ’70s everything was desperately linked to the Fab Four by pining journos, whether or not any connection actually existed.
By this, their third album it was fairly obvious that Patto’s bolt was almost shot. Having said that you don’t have to look far beneath the surface of this addled racket to find some real gems gasping and coming up for air, before being subsumed once more by extreme silliness or plain old messing about in the absence of any solid ideas for a song.
The barely controlled lunacy kicks off with some token looning around that sets the scene for the whole album, before lurching into an ode to a girlfriend with fallen arches, featuring some great barroom piano work from Ollie Halsall, who let’s remember started out as a keyboard player before picking up a guitar for the first time a mere two years before laying down the first album’s astonishing plank spanking.
Singing The Blues On Reds finds bassist Clive Griffiths and guitar savant Ollie Halsall pre-dating The Average White Band with a syncopated funk riff to die for, as singer Mike Patto digs deep to find his soul roots, nailed on the one by drummer John Halsey, in combination a white boy soul strut via James Brown that destroys anything the more well-known Scottish ensemble came up with a year or two down the line.
Despite being known for their wacky sense of humour in their live sets, the previous two albums had been played straight. Not this one, oh no, and the height (or depths) of the band’s surreal outlook is laid bare on the frankly unsettling Mummy, an Oedipal spoken word trip into outright queasiness that equals Jimbo’s eulogy in The End, with the dubious added bonus of comedy. You’ll probably play this track just the once! Mummy is also evidence of John Halsey’s statement that they didn’t have enough material going into the studio, and a lot of it was written on the hoof.
The scattergun nature of this record throws up some real curveballs, and immediately following that supremely daft and rather sick ode to mother we have the angry blast of overdriven guitar that propels Loud Green Song along like the proto-punk anthem it is. This song contains Ollie Halsall’s most furious and out there solos and it will leave your head spinning!
Turn Turtle is a great example of how this band could cram all sorts of inspired changes into one song, changing keys and time signatures on a sixpence. This song is a sort of sub-Mott The Hoople number with Mellotron girl choruses featuring more of that signature barroom Joanna, this time barely holding back a cascade of notes, seemingly wanting to go on a free jazz trip but always just holding back until a frantic and chaotic ending. This lot could play and then some!
I Got Rhythm is more laidback funky stuff, and Peter Abraham sounds like it was thrown together at the last minute and, while it contains some interesting guitar work from Ollie, is frankly a bit of a mess. The album ends with more of Patto’s brand of English eccentricity, and Cap’N ‘P’ and The Atto’s (Sea Biscuits Parts 1 & 2) is a throwaway slice of larking about, a nautical tale with accompaniment recited by John Halsey in the manner of Viv Stanshall. You can guess from all this, that most of Side Two of the LP was either slightly substandard or simply filler.
The fans may want this for the bonus tracks, taken from a contemporaneous John Peel session. Sounding great after all the intervening years, and recorded live the three tracks offered sound more immediate and give a taste of the band’s live sound to those of us way too young to have seen them at the time.
Despite their move to Island Records, a bigger brand than their previous home Vertigo, and the result of producer Muff Winwood’s contacts at the label, Roll ’em… died the proverbial death, and judging by the generic live shot on the cover, even less was spent on presentation that at Vertigo, who at least managed some neat cover art. The demise of the band was not far down the line. To be continued…
Patto – Monkey’s Bum
Subtitled “The world’s first ever scratch and sniff album”, Patto showed that even as the end loomed ever closer, their sense of humour never deserted them. Dispirited with being critically acclaimed but permanently skint, mercurial guitarist Ollie Halsall left the band at some point during the recording of this album. It would seem he is on most of the tracks, but only a handful have his signature jaw-dropping speedy runs in ever-shifting keys and time signatures, most notably on I Need You and Hedyob.
Surprisingly Halsall’s departure is not the disaster it could have been as Mike Patto and John Halsey stepped up to the plate and finished the songs and the recording in some style. The sonic template is beefed up on Get Up And Dig It and Hedyob with Mel Collins’ funky sax work, and a whole uncredited brass section appear on Pick Up The Phone. With Ollie gone, Mike Patto takes centre stage and his raunchy R&B style dominates. The lack of Ollie’s inspirational flights of fancy, and a far more controlled recording than the lunacy of Roll ’em… makes for a much tighter and frankly far more consistent record.
Producer Muff Winwood prophesied that no-one would be interested in releasing the album without Halsall, and he was right. The record was shelved, only to appear in bootleg form many years after the event. This is the first official release for Monkey’s Bum, with all parties’ agreement.
The bonus tracks are from a John Peel session and therefore recorded practically live. They show what fabulous players the band were, especially a supercharged and crazy version of San Antone from the first self-titled album. After a typically comedic intro, the tune is ushered in on the brink of chaos, and the already fiery original arrangement is played at an even more frantic pace, but not a note or a beat is missed. The take on the proto-punk Loud Green Song kicks the original in the butt too, the already manic air of that tune enlivened yet more by Dave Brooks’ sax wailing.
The album opens with the prophetically titled My Days Are Numbered, and as John Halsey says, the band ended because “…we had no money. We made those four albums…and never earned a penny from any of them. The critical acclaim kept us going…(but) to end up potless was very dispiriting”. Bad luck seemed to dog the individual band members after the split, with both Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall leaving this world way too early, and bassist Clive Griffiths suffered a bad head injury in a band van accident, to an extent where he has no memory of Patto at all. Only Halsey escaped unscathed and it is his reminisces that fill Sid Smith’s fine essays in both these re-releases. You can tell from the joyous racket this band make when they hit the groove that it wasn’t all doom and gloom, and hopefully Esoteric Recordings’ reissues of all four albums will bring this criminally ignored band to greater prominence.
Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out
01. Flat Footed Woman (8:06)
02. Singing The Blues On Reds (4:57)
03. Mummy (2:21)
04. Loud Green Song (3:55)
05. Turn Turtle (6:09)
06. I Got Rhythm (4:48)
07. Peter Abraham (6:20)
08. Cap’N ‘P’ and The Atto’s (Sea Biscuits Parts 1 & 2) (5:48)
~ Bonus tracks: BBC Radio One John Peel Session – 24th January 1973:
09. General Custer (3:23)
10. Flat Footed Woman (7:30)
11. Singing The Blues On Reds (5:51)
Total Time – 59:13
01. My Days Are Numbered (5:12)
02. Last Night I Had A Dream (1:52)
03. Sugar Cube 1967 (4:10)
04. I Need You (3:29)
05. Good Friend (3:47)
06. Get Up And Dig It (3:15)
07. Sausages (4:18)
08. Hedyob (6:45)
09. Pick Up The Phone (3:13)
10. General Custer (3:25)
~ Bonus tracks: BBC Radio One John Peel Session – 12th February 1973
11. San Antone (4:02)
12. Holy Toledo (4:11)
13. Loud Green Song (3:35)
Total Time – 51:21
Mike Patto – Vocals & Electric Piano, Piano (Roll ’em…, track 7)
Ollie Halsall – Guitar & Keyboards, Vocal (Roll ’em…, track 7)
John Halsey – Drums & Percussion, Recitation (Roll ’em…, track 8)
Clive Griffiths – Bass Guitar
Mel Collins – Saxophone (Monkey’s Bum, track 6 & 8 (uncredited))
Dave Brooks – Saxophone (Monkey’s Bum bonus tracks)
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 2586 & ECLEC 2587
Year of Release: 2017
Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out – Cherry Red Records Product Page
Monkey’s Bum – Cherry Red Records Product Page
Ollie Halsall & Patto – Facebook Fan Page
Ollie Halsall – Website