Ollie Halsall

Abbots Langley

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As a member of Patto and (in the studio only) the Rutles, as well as a longtime sideman to Kevin Ayers, Ollie Halsall was a beloved behind-the-scenes figure in British rock. It seemed he should have had enough in him to do a good album on his own, especially with the assistance of drummer (and bandmate in Patto and the Rutles) John Halsey. Alas, the tracks here, recorded in the early '80s and assembled for this 2007 CD release, were hardly done in the most optimum of circumstances, and it shows. Halsall himself was in a bad way, reduced to stealing food, playing on a borrowed guitar, and living in a home without electricity or gas. That might not be the precise reasons why this sounds so lo-fi, but even forgiving fans would have to admit it's threadbare and ragged, often as if there weren't quite enough voltage to warm the instruments up to full power. Halsall and pal had a good sense of fun, catchy British rock with a liberal dash of playful wit, and you can hear enjoyable echoes of the Beatles, the Who, and even Elvis Costello, the Police, and fake new wave pop-reggae rattling around in these workouts that avoid self-conscious imitation. But it is a problem that these sound like workouts, not proper songs that have been polished or finished (and three of the "tracks" are in fact versions of jingles they wrote for Marietta's Pizzas). It sounds more like friends getting together and working up ideas, and while there's nothing wrong with that, it doesn't make for the most inspiring listening, as much as these cuts might be cool souvenirs for the participants. Halsey's quite amusing liner notes are a plus, but even more than most "for fans only" releases, this is only for the fan.

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