Saturday, 17 June 2017

"Hold Your Fire" by PATTO (April 2017 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' 2CD Reissue with 13 Bonus Tracks and Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...High On Glory Seeds..."

A little background first. 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 these British sevens was a minor hit - a cover of The Four Seasons "Beggin'" that peaked at 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. 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 (January 1972 in the USA with different artwork) 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.

I’ve already reviewed the debut "Patto" – also released 28 April 2017 in an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster... Which brings us to this long-overdue, superbly presented and band endorsed 'Expanded Edition' double-CD Remaster of their second platter "Hold Your Fire" brought to us panting and ranting by those guardians of all things Avant and Prog - England's Esoteric Recordings. Here are the screaming spirals...

UK released Friday, 28 April 2017 (5 May 2017 in the USA) - "Hold Your Fire" by PATTO on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22582 (Barcode 5013929468245) is an 'Expanded Edition' 2CD Remaster of their 1971 second studio album on Vertigo Records (8-Tracks) with 13 Additional Bonus Tracks (including Previously Unreleased Album Outtakes and 1971 BBC Radio 1 Sessions) that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (51:28 minutes):
1. Hold Your Fire [Side 1]
2. You, You Point Your Finger
3. How’s Your Father
4. See You At The Dance Tonight
5. Give It All Away [Side 2]
6. Air Raid Shelter
7. Tell Me Where You've Been
8. Magic Door
Tracks 1 to 8 are their second album "Hold Your Fire" - released November 1971 in the UK on Vertigo 6360 032 and January 1972 in the USA on Vertigo VEL-1008 (in different gatefold artwork). Produced by MUFF WINWOOD - it didn't chart in either country.

9. Beat The Drum
10. Bad News
Tracks 9 and 10 Recorded & Mixed at Island Studios, London, 4 May 1971. Although Demo Versions of these two tracks appeared as two of three bonus tracks on the October 2010 Japanese SHM-CD (Vertigo UICY-94681) for "Hold Your Fire" – Esoteric Recordings have copyrighted these recordings as 2017 and in their website blurbs on the album have called these finished but different versions 'Previously Unreleased'.

Disc 2 - BBC Sessions & Out-Takes (59:12 minutes):
1. San Antone
2. Government Man
3. Beat The Drum
4. Sittin' Back Easy
5. So Cold 
Tracks 1 to 5 recorded 4 March 1971 for a BBC Radio One "In Concert"

6. Give It All Away
7. Air Raid Shelter
8. You, You Point Your Finger
Tracks 6 to 8 recorded 28 June 1971 for a BBC Radio One "Sounds Of The 70t's" session

9. Don’t Shoot Me ("Hold Your Fire")
10. Give It All Away (Alternative Version)
11. Air Raid Shelter (Alternative Version)
Tracks 9 to 11 Recorded and Mixed 29 July 1971 at Island Studios, London

The 20-page booklet is festooned with ticket stubs, trade adverts and reviews, gig flyers where they played with the likes of Stackridge, Rod Stewart And The Faces, Centipede and May Blitz, the different gatefold artwork to the US copy on Vertigo VEL-1008, black and white and colour photos of the band from the period and the three standing creatures drawn by Roger Dean that could only be viewed by pulling back the three flaps of the front sleeve (the original vinyl album in the UK came in lavish artwork). There are detailed and informative liner notes from noted writer SID SMITH that feature candid reminiscences from drummer John Halsey about the band and the sadly passed/much admired Ollie Halsall (he died in 1992). And Esoteric have smartly repro’d the lyrics that were on the inner gatefold sleeve too. The CDs are pictures disc (front cover) and the inlay beneath the tray is the underneath cover beneath the flaps mentioned above. It’s all very tastefully done and true to the original issues.  

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 (part of the 'British Vintage Rock Masterpiece Collection' series). But this amazingly is the first time a British label has had a go – Cherry Red’s Esoteric Recordings and with the full support of surviving band members. And typically they've done a bang up job - a new Remaster from original tapes by Audio Engineer BEN WISEMAN – someone who has handled loads of these Reissues.

A word about the music first - although the Vertigo label was largely associated with all things Prog Rock - "Patto" were way more Humble Pie than May Blitz - more Faces circa their second album "Long Player" than the Jazz Rock of say Beggars Opera. Most of their self-titled debut LP played like Hard Rock - Bluesy in places too. The second "Hold Your Fire" is way more sedate, measured and to use that old cheddar chestnut - mature. And a smart move too on the part of Esoteric is to reproduce the lyrics that dominate the sentiments of every song and are incredibly smart and hip. Check these out in "You, You Point Your Finger" where Mike Patto lashes out at accusers - "...You, you call me a junkie, call me filth and scum, keep me from your daughter, but my time will come..." and "...You, you think you're civilised, with your connections you can't fail, but you treat your wife and family, like you bought them in a sale..." By the same token he's not afraid to send up his own kind - take a jab at silliness and hypocrisy amidst his own generation - how about these from many rhyming couplets in the superb opener "Hold Your Fire" - "...well my skin turned yellow and my eyes sunk back from my diet of boiled brown rice...I would shuffle past bright warm houses to my groove pad cold as ice..." and "...I've smoked a ton of marijuana, I sat crossed-legged till my legs went numb...I made peace signs at the farmers when they called me no good bum... " Nice one son.

A change comes with the languid and almost soulful "How’s Your Father" – a slow piano pace accompanies Patto lyrics about being on the road and having to connect with the right people (don’t get in the way). Halsall plays some fluid guitar during a very Steely Dan solo moment. Things go all Faces with "See You At The Dance Tonight" – Halsall and his guitar sound not unlike Ronnie Wood playing cool and loose. And then just when you got used to the eight-minute songs with a social conscience – you get the pure experimentation and Jazz Rock of "Air Raid Shelter" over on Side 2. Patto scats lyrics while Halsall goes all John McLaughlin on the Guitar as cymbals clash and the Bass player thinks he’s auditioning for the Miles Davis touring band. The album finishes on a genuine high. With its cymbals and vibes backdrop - "Magic Door" feels the most BASF track on the album – sophisticated Rock with Jazz hints - Patto in fantastic vocal form with the band joining him on the ‘are you real’ chorus in truly lovely harmony vocals. You’re left with an abiding impression - definitely not your average Rock & Roll band – and a shockingly good ending to a mature and confident album. Why didn’t it get better sales?

The extras will be exciting to fans that have waited the guts of 40 years for these rarities in proper audio and not bootleg. The two out-takes on Disc 1 - "Beat The Drum" and "Bad News" – simply feel like lesser versions of "Magic Door" – even if they are beautifully rendered here. Those looking for signs of Halsall will go straight to Disc 2. John Peel wryly introduces Patto to the ‘in the studio’ audience (Produced by Jeff Griffin) – the band launching into a cool and rocking "San Antone" sounding not unlike Family on a good night. You immediately notice his playing that you feel is only getting by the minute. Peel cracks jokes before he introduces another track from the debut "Patto" – and before a very laid back but sweet "Sittin’ Back Easy" he introduces the band as a five-piece (Bernie Holland supplementing as second guitarist while Halsall handles lead and the vibes). Luckily it has great audio and is a genuinely cool Bonus Track. In fact you’d have to say that the whole of Disc 2 puts the reissue up there.

Properly decent CD reissues - great audio, better presentation and genuinely complimentary bonuses. Well done to all the cats at Esoteric Recordings for putting these out there again and honouring Halsall's recorded legacy in such style...

PATTO on 2017 Esoteric Recordings 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissues & Remasters

Also reissued 28 April 2017 is their first Vertigo vinyl platter from November 1970 called "Patto" but as a single-CD 'Expanded Edition' remaster with three Bonus Tracks on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2581 (Barcode 5013929468146).

On 26 May 2017 you got their third album "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em Put Out Another Line" from 1972 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2586 (Barcode 5013929468641) with three Bonus Tracks (a Peel Session from 24 January 1973).

26 May 2017 also saw their aborted fourth album recorded in 1973 called "Monkey's Bum" reissued by Esoteric and again as an 'Expanded Edition' CD on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2587 (Barcode 5013929468740). 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...
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