Friday, February 5, 2016

Boxer - 1979 - Bloodletting


01. Hey Bulldog   
02. The Blizzard   
03. Rich Mans Daughter   
04. Big City Fever   
05. The Loner   
06. Why Pick Me Up   
07. Love Has Got Me   
08. Dinah Low   
09. Teachers

Boz Burrell - bass, vocals
Bobby Tench - vocals, guitars
Keith Ellis - bass
Ollie Halsall - guitar, keyboards
Tim Hinkley - keyboards
Tony Newman - drums
Mike Patto - keyboards, guitars, vocals
Chris Stainton - keyboards

"Bloodletting" was recorded in 1976, but for some reason was not released to the general public until 1979.  Strange, because it is a great album, despite the fact that half of the album's songs are cover versions and Ollie has no writing credits.  Every track is strong, and the band has a fuller sounding production than on the "Below The Belt" debut.

All of the original compositions are credited solely to Mike, and the "The Blizzard", "Rich Man's Daughter", and "Big City Fever" are perhaps some of the catchiest tunes he wrote on his own.  He redid "Rich Man's Daughter" for the 1977 Boxer album, "Absolutely". 

"Bloodletting" includes four great cover tunes.  "Hey Bulldog" rocks hard and includes some great guitar.  "Dinah-Low" is a fantastic version of the Terry Stamp/Jim Avery song from Terry's 1975 "Fatsticks" album, which both Ollie and Tony Newman played on.  Perhaps the star track on the album, though, is the live version of Leonard Cohen's "Teachers".  It is a smoking performance by the band, which features a bit of Ollie jamming alone towards the end. 

Unlike the first album, other musicians guested on "Bloodletting".  Chris Stainton was acknowledged in large print on the album cover for his keyboards.  Boz Burrell (King Crimson, Alexis Korner, Bad Company et al.), Bobby Tench (Jeff Beck Group et al.), and Tim Hinkley (Bo Street Runners, Jody Grind, Alexis Korner et al.) all played in Chapman/Whitney's Streetwalkers and were involved in the Hinkley's Heroes jam band, which Mike Patto was also involved with.  The three are only listed in small print on the record label, so their contributions to "Bloodletting" are unclear -- likely just backing vocals and minor instrumentation.

Supposedly, a number of promotional copies were pressed in 1976.  Expect to pay a lot for one of these rare pressings -- if they actually exist and you can find one.  However, there seems to be a general misconception that this album was never released to the public, and some record dealers are asking as much as $100 for the 1979 stock copies.  That seems a bit inflated.  Near mint copies of the 1979 pressing can usually be obtained from a knowledgeable dealers for $20-$30.  Buyers beware!

Boxer - 1977 - Absolutely


01. Fool In Love   
02. Red Light Flyer   
03. Big Lucy   
04. No Reply   
05. Can't Stand What You Do   
06. As God's My Judge   
07. Rich Man's Daughter   
08. Everybody's A Star (So What's In A Name)   
09. Hand On Your Heart   

Bass, Vocals – Tim Bogert
Drums – Eddie Tuduri
Guitar – Adrian Fisher
Keyboards – Chris Stainton
Vocals, Piano – Mike Patto

"Absolutely" was Boxer's and Mike Patto's final album.  Mike was the only member of the original lineup on the album.  Chris Stainton, who contributed on the "Bloodletting" from 1976, played most of the keyboards.  Tim Bogert's (Cactus, Beck Bogert & Appice et al.) creative bass playing is prominent throughout the album.  Adrian Fisher had the challenge of filling Ollie's shoes on guitar.  Adrian and Eddie were probably session players primarily.  Adrian played on a Sparks album that was produced by Muff Winwood, the producer of the Patto albums.

Of course, with the completely new band lineup, the "Absolutely" album is very different from the first two Boxer albums.  It moves away from the rawer, straight-ahead rock approach with a slicker production and more finessed instrumentation.  Mike's vocals are still in fine form -- he sounds great throughout the album.  While Adrian and Eddie are solid musically throughout the album, Tim Bogert's bass and Chris Stainton's keyboards perhaps dominate the musical side of things.  Tim Bogert's bass playing is particularly impressive, but it seems a bit too busy on some of the more simple tunes -- maybe too much of a good thing?

Mike collaborated with all the band members to write the album's material.  "Big Lucy", "Red Light Flyer", the Randy Newman-esque "Everybody's A Star...", and "No Reply" (despite the terribly out-of-place musical extravaganza after the first verses) are among the better cuts on the album..  Mike delivers a great vocal on "As God's My Judge".  "Rich Man's Daughter" is a remake of the version recorded by the original Boxer lineup for the 1976 "Bloodletting" album, which was not  released until two years later in 1979.

Eddie Tuduri's book, "Sideman", includes a section about his days with Boxer.  Click here to read it!

Boxer - 1975 - Below The Belt

Boxer - 
Below The Belt

01. Shooting Star   
02. All The Time In The World   
03. California Calling   
04. Hip Kiss   
05. More Than Meets The Eye   
06. Waiting For A Miracle   
07. Loony Ali   
08. Save Me   
09. Gonna Work Out Fine   
10. Town Drunk

Mike Patto: vocals, keyboards
Ollie Halsall: guitar, keyboards
Keith Ellis: bass guitar
Tony Newman: drums

Approximately two years after the breakup of Patto, Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall reunited in 1975 to form Boxer along with Keith Ellis on bass (Van Der Graaf Generator, Juicy Lucy, Spooky Tooth, et al.) and Tony Newman on drums (Sounds Inc., Jeff Beck Group, Kevin Ayers, et al.). 
Keith and Mike were in Spooky Tooth together.  Mike left that band after a year and began working as a promotions man for Good Ear Records, owned by Mike's manager, Nigel Thomas.  Nigel would also become Boxer's manager and give them their name.  Ollie and Tony were playing together touring with Kevin Ayers, and when the touring stopped they got Mike to quit the record biz and form a new band.

This time the music Mike and Ollie brought to the table was straight-ahead rock that reflected little of their Patto past, except for possibly some of the songs on the unreleased Monkey's Bum album. 

The band released it's first album, "Below The Belt", in 1975.  "All The Time In The World" was released as a single with a great non-LP B-side titled "Don't Wait".  They recorded a great second album called "Bloodletting" that would for some reason not be released until 1979. 

Very little of the Boxer story seems to be documented, especially about the breakup of the original lineup.  Sometime in late 1976, Halsall is said to have quit the band.  But somehow Boxer's management ended up in possession of the band's equipment, including Ollie's guitars (as late as 1981, Ollie still didn't own an electric guitar of his own).  This is just hearsay, but the story is that the band was very deep in debt with Nigel Thomas, and he held on to all their equipment.  Then Nigel's company was liquidated, and Ollie's guitars were likely auctioned off by the official receivers.  Where is Ollie's white Gibson Custom SG now?

Mike put together a new lineup of the band to record one more Boxer album in 1977 called "Absolutely".  The new lineup band consisted of Mike, Chris Stainton on keyboards, Tim Bogert on bass/vocals, Adrian Fisher on guitar, and Eddie Tuduri on drums.  The album is not as raw and rocking as the first albums, but there are some fine moments of musicianship and songwriting on this album.  The Randy Newman-esque song "Everybody's A Star" was released as a single.  This album would be Mike's final release before passing away in 1979 with lymphatic leukemia (cancer of lymph glands).

They did some BBC sessions, and their tours, at least for the original lineup, were critically acclaimed.  Their first LP cover did get them some attention through controversy.  Many seem to remember their first album cover, even if they never did heard the contents.  But, as is typical of the Patto story, Boxer did not achieve a great deal of attention or success. 

"Below The Belt" established that Boxer would be a straight-ahead rock band. Ollie and Mike were writing together again, but the new music did not hark back to the days of Patto (you may notice that "Shooting Star" has a chord progression that was also used in "Time To Die" on Patto's first album, though).

According to the host for the BBC session the band did prior to the album's release, it was originally going to be titled "Round 1" or "Round One".

Their first album was produced and engineered by Richard Digby-Smith, an engineer for Patto's "Hold Your Fire" and "Roll 'Em Smoke 'Em..." albums.  Overall, the production gives the band a good, full sound, but as with many bands, it's been said that the album  failed to capture their impressive live sound.

All of the band's members were great players, but showcasing of their soloing capabilities was kept to a minimum, which shows that Mike and Ollie were more focused on the songwriting than the extended guitar/keyboard solos that were typical of the early to mid-seventies.  In fact, the "All The Time In The World" single does not feature any soloing at all.

For the guitar fans, there is still plenty of great guitar from Ollie.  The slide work in "California Calling", the tasteful solo in "More Than Meets The Eye", the volume/echo bits in "Gonna Work Out Fine", and Ollie singing along with his guitar on "Save Me" are a few of the moments that come to mind

The album contains some great tunes.  "California Calling", "More Than Meets The Eye", "Waiting For A Miracle", and "Save Me" are my personal favorites.  "Waiting For A Miracle" is a great remake of Ollie's tune from the Tempest "Living In Fear" album (1974).  "Town Drunk" is a  slow, bluesy tune that features a great vocal from Mike -- it was written by Terry Stamp and Jim Avery for Terry's "Fatsticks" album (1975), on which both Ollie and Tony Newman played..

Unfortunately, the album cover received more attention than the music. The first pressings of the album had a full-frontal nude photo on the back cover, which caused the jacket to be banned.  The cover was redone covering her lower private bits with a Boxer logo.  The original uncensored covers are supposed to be quite rare.  Of course, in the United States, they wouldn't allow even her breasts to be shown, so they completely redid the cover using the band photo from the inside of the UK gatefold cover. 

The vitruvian woman, just in case you're interested, is model Stephanie Mariann.
But I haven't got her number, I'm afraid...