Melody Maker  November 4, 1972

Patto break out
By Mark Plummer

NOW you'd expect Mike Patto to be sardonic, and embittered after five years in various guises and never really making it.

For he, like a whole bunch of musicians, knows how much the band that takes his name has to offer.

There's music that drives with the fury of a steam engine, touches of jazz in Olly Halsall's distinctive guitar playing. Then there are times when drummer John Halsey is out front rocking and rolling.

They have so much to give, and so little is taken from them. A little clique of musicians like Bob Fripp and Keith Tippett, and kids from London and provincial towns like Sheffield really dig them.

Just now, Patto is pretty happy and bursting out with ideas after a long, hard tour across America with Joe Cocker, then on to New Zealand and Australia where the busts and fights left three gigs cancelled.

When he got back from Australia after a dreadful continuous 36 hour flight last week Mike picked up a copy of the new Patto album, "Roll `Em Smoke `Em Put Another Line Out" and realised just what a fine album it was. Everything that had been missing from their previous two albums was there to be appreciated.

The biggest break to date for Patto came earlier this year. Cocker's manager, Nigel Thomas, rang Patto and suggested that maybe he and the boys would be interested in a few carrots Thomas had to dangle in front of them. They were intrigued and popped along to see him while Cocker was playing in Europe.

Two dates at London's Rainbow with the Sheffield singer were offered, to be followed by an American tour and dates in New Zealand and Australia. Following that, Thomas informed them he wanted to manage Patto. Four seconds of discussions followed, they sat outside his office, returned and accepted. America was going to love their music. All their friends had told them so.

But what of breaking out of the clique?

"Sure, we'd like to get out of that. Why not? We're not trying to appeal to a minority, we're not barmy. I mean, it's a gas that you do get a stronghold of people who are for you and make their presence felt, but it does become a personal thing like knowing guys by their names. It's musicians and a few people saying things about the band, but it's not the general public. We've got a biggish following in London and there's other parts of the country where lots of people come along to a Patto gig, and when they're feeling good and we're feeling it too, I'll tell you we have a ball."

It's the looning thing we're doing. It's such a gas to be able to laugh, laugh because we've been
such an intense little band at times playing 11/4 7/4 9/4 all in the same tune. It's a gas to have a
laugh now. We're still playing. There's nights when we're just playing and the thing is still there
holding us together.

"It's either lunacy or just hard grind," continued Mike, "It's all there in the background. Olly calls out a tune sometimes from way back past. The repertoire before the repertoire before the last one. It's like 'Christ I can't remember the words,' but it usually comes out a gas played with a fresh approach."

The looning that Patto get up to is important to the band for them as people to be able to let out steam and frustrations and to their stage act, which for once is almost caught on 'Roll 'em Smoke 'em Put Another Line out.'

The music on the album is hard and driving as always, but this time they've spent longer dubbing on organs and mellotrons to fatten the sound. They've gone into the studios with rough ideas, nearly finished, rather than a completely rehearsed set popped straight onto tape. The results pay dividends like the James Brown tribute, "Playing The Blues On Reds" which is a highly accurate portrayal of the typical James Brown rift and routine.

"I don't think the other albums were contrived," says Patto. "It wasn't penny pinching but we wrote all those things rehearsed them and went into the studio and recorded them straight off. The same went for this album in a way, all the ideas were there, but it was much looser the way we got them together. The third album working with Muff he now no longer takes a heavy handed attitude. He's like much more sympathetic to what we do."

America has had an affect on Patto, expect new things from now on, because it has left them full of ideas.

"To get an American audience going was an incredible feeling, like down South in some places we'd play our sort of send up of 'Shakin' All Over' at minus five decibels and they were all up in their seats whooping and letting you know they dug it. That's a gas feeling, I haven't had that anywhere else.

"I found the looning over there was a great break from the other things. It helped on this trip to the States. We hadn't been there before, the first two albums were almost secret releases over there, so we found the looning would help us get across. People seeing us for the first time could have a grin. It really helped in that way."

Nitpicking:  "Playing the Blues on Reds" is actually "Singing the Blues on Reds"



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