New Musical Express November, 8 1975



By Pete Erskine

BOXER SYMBOLISE just about everyone’s last chance.

Their sponsor/manager, Nigel Thomas, has had no notable successes since the demise of his professional relationship with Joe Cocker.

Mike Patto (vocals, occasional keyboards and guitars) and Ollie Halsall (lead guitar, keyboards) should both have "made it" long ago.

Their previous sojourn together under the former’s moniker produced some extraordinarily musicianly and witty music – perhaps too much so for most audiences; consequently they came to be regarded as ‘musician’s musicians.’

Patto, however, never really got it down on any of their three records for Island.

Ollie and Patto are well known and – worst of all – ‘respected’ within the business.

Both are remarkably talented, neither have ever been willing to compromise their ideals which means that neither have ever made a bean. Early this summer they got back together again with the intention this time of actually trying to make some money by putting together a band that would produce good commercial rock music without plumbing the depths of the lowest common denominator.

Tony Newman came in to play drums, Keith Ellis to play bass.

Their Roundhouse gig late last Sunday afternoon was their third or fourth since their emergence from a summer of intensive rehearsals and the recording of an excellent debut album that combines the most sophisticated elements of the old band with the drive and precision raunch so sadly lacking in Bad Company (who, I believe, they could ultimately render quite redundant if they proceed thoughtfully).

Boxer were not helped by being confronted with an audience that summed up the legendary worst of Roundhouse folklore – inert to the point of imitating gorgons.

On the other hand, the band should have realised that this was an audience that needed seducing rather than confronting.

As it was, it was sometimes difficult to relate to the percussive effect of such a constantly high-energy act. Particularly late on a cold Sunday afternoon.

The set previewed the debut album material. By far the strongest numbers were the most straightforward – the beautiful "More Than Meets The Eye," one of the best songs Patto has written, and the off-the-wall chord changes of "Save Me."

To a man, the band are excellent instrumentalists; corporately they perform with the split-second-timing and corpulent power seldom found in English bands. But in some cases their self-composed material raises doubts about their taste. While the playing on such numbers as "Shooting Star," "Luni Alli" and "California Calling" is urgent and exciting, the essence of the material leaves one with a sense of deja vu.

But, it should also be said that these minor teething troubles are offset considerably by Patto’s much-improved vocal control and projection and his convincing and often charmingly gauche stage presence laced with high kicks, knee bends, etc.

Ay, ‘e’s a great little mover.. At least Boxer take risks – which is more than can be said for Ace, the official Sunday night Roundhouse bill-toppers…

Pete Erskine

Nitpicking:  Only their 3rd LP, "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em", was on Island Records.  Their first two LPs were on the Vertigo label.  "Luni Alli" is actually titled "Looni Ali".

Note:  This is an excerpt from the article - the text about Ace has been omitted.

From this same issue of New Musical Express, here is an advertisement for a gig at University of London on 11-8-75.



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