Albums you should know, Part 4: Patto

Song: The Man (1970)

Hailing from Southport, Merseyside, Timebox was an atypical northern soul band, releasing a few singles during the mid to late 60s to no particular acclaim, other than being one of the few bands of the era to feature a vibraphone. The band did feature two gifted members, vocalist Mike “Patto” McCarthy and guitarist Peter "Ollie" Halsall, and was rounded out with Chris Holmes on keyboards, John Halsey on drums and Clive Griffiths on bass. In 1968, they scored a minor hit with the Four Season’s “Beggin’” b/w “A Woman That’s Waiting” for Decca, rising to No 38 in the UK charts. However an album (provisionally titled Moose On The Loose) remained aborted, and by the end of the decade, Holmes had split. Rechristened as Patto, the remaining quartet signed with Vertigo, enlisted the talents of producer Muff Winwood and made the switch from the psychedelic to the progressive. “The Man” kicks off and reveals their unique mix of rock, blues and jazz, the track punctuated by Halsall’s very sexy vibraphone midway through. “Time To Die” slows the pace, with Mike Patto’s coarse but earthy voice to the fore. “San Antone” paces through some major chord/time changes before dropping back into a fine swing, propelled by Halsey’s hard-hitting drums while “Government Man” contains more of the fine hooks of the Patto/Halsall writing team. The monster track is “Money Bag”: free jazz without keyboards, Halsall’s blistering guitar is contrasted with Griffiths’ bass, while Halsey’s drumming an absolute marvel. Halsall is indeed a talent, his fluid playing similar to that of a jazz reedsman. Mike Patto eventually chimes in, his fine prose accentuated by the music’s dramatic rests. Unfortunately the album did not sell particularly well, but their live reputation kept the band in play for another album.