New Musical Express February 21, 1976


BOXER: Below The Belt (Virgin).

By Tony Stewart

BOXER WAS guitarist Ollie Halsall and drummer Tony Newman’s conception. They marched into the executive lounge of Goodear, and, like all good crusading musicians in rock fables, dragged Mike Patto away from a deluge of paper work and told him he was going to sing again.

Patto liked the idea, picked up the phone to call Los Angeles, and instructed bassist Keith Ellis to get his butt back to Blighty. And he did.

Our heroes, you’ll notice, are familiar names.

Halsall was in Time Box with Patto, and both went on to form the band with the latter’s surname. On its demise Mike eventually ended up in Spooky Tooth, and Ollie in the second edition of Hiseman’s Tempest. Later Halsall found himself playing with Kevin Ayers – with drummer Tony Newman – who’d played with Beck, Sounds Incorporated and Bowie.

And Ellis, after spells in Van Der Graaf Generator and Juicy Lucy, met Patto with Spooky.

Genuine Cruft pedigree all of them.

Such a shame their music is so awful.

There’s really no other word for it, and indeed it came pretty much as a surprise to me.

On the first side with tracks like "All The Time In The World" where the rawness of production is merely a distraction from the tight arrangements, I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. They seemed to be striving for that kind of rock feel best epitomized by Bad Company, and almost achieving it.

Ollie knows his guitar inside out, and invariably demonstrates his talent. Newman is the kind of solid back-beat man who, in tandem with some steady figures from Ellis, sets the right environment.

And Patto is Patto. An uninhibited extremist with enough enthusiasm to compensate for his lack of skill and expertise.

But with apparently no collective purpose Boxer trundle along, and seem to sound like Bad Co., Slade and even, on "More Than Meets The Eye", a heavy Supertramp.

And side two illustrates both a lack of purpose and the obvious inability to play as a band. Whereas some of side one’s material may have had deceivingly precise arrangements, most numbers now are desultory bashes, with no melodic hook and no riff.

Listen to "Loony Ali" and you’ll hear what I mean.

And by the second to last track, "Gonna Work Out Fine" I reached the conclusion that the album had developed into what is commonly known as a bloody din.

But the sleeve’s great. And I don’t honestly see anything wrong with sticking a naked lady (showing. I might add, her pubes) on the back-cover.

At least it creates interest and probably sales, which is more than the music will do.

Tony Stewart

This issue of NME had a couple other Boxer-related bits...

From the NEWSDESK page:


BOXER have added the following gigs to their previously-reported tour itinerary: Aberdeen Robert Gordon Institute (tomorrow, Friday), Glasgow Strathclyde University (Saturday), Cheltenham Town Hall (February 26), Cromer Links Pavilion (March 13), Torquay 400 Club (17), Truro Plaza (20), Stoke North Staffs Polytechnic (23), Blackpool Olympia (26) and Retford Porterhouse (31). Birmingham Barbarella’s is switched from March 2 to 27, and Bromley Stockwell College from March 11 to 12.

From the TEAZERS column:

That Boxer Elpee with its fab ‘n’ racy design – seems a lady from Bromley, Kent, called Virgin pressman (sic) Al Clark to complain; Clark, impressed ("She was neither a feminist nor a prude"), uneasily reports that the complaineuse has contacted both Bromley Feds and S. Yard…


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