Ollie Halsall’s blistering guitar solos have been a well-kept secret among guitar enthusiasts, despite the admiration of some of the world’s greatest six-stringers. Born in 1949, Halsall began his music career as a drummer and vibraphonist before taking up the guitar in 1967. As a member of the cult-favorite band, Patto, he evolved into one of the world’s most sensational players. His music incorporated speed, technique, and a melodic sense that few could match. Disillusioned with Patto’s musical direction, Halsall left the group in 1973 and went on to work with top-tier artists like Allan Holdsworth, Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, and John Cale.
To experience the brilliance of Halsall’s guitar work, we’ve compiled an audio/visual list of some of his most revered solos. From the memorable “Give It All Away” and the insane “Loud Green Song” with Patto, to the pure rock ‘n’ roll of “Let It Rock,” Halsall’s one-of-a-kind skill shines through. Other highlights include the liquid jazzy playing on “Hanging Rope,” the start of his collaboration with Kevin Ayers on “Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You,” and the serious riffage with post-Patto group Tempest on “Turn Around.”
Halsall’s talent extended beyond his primary bands, as demonstrated by his unique approach to session work on tracks like “Dribble Dribble” from ex-ELO member Mike de Albuquerque‘s 1973 solo album, and “Momma Bee” from Neil Innes‘ solo album How Sweet To Be An Idiot. Furthermore, we showcase two live recordings from Kevin Ayers performances of “May I?”: one in Leiden, Holland (1988), and another in Rennes, France (1992) – Halsall’s last tour – both highlighting his emotive playing. Finally, we conclude with a video from Halsall’s performance alongside John Cale on the Old Grey Whistle Test, featuring the captivating track “Dying On The Vine.” Regrettably, the camera angle switches and misses the most intense part of the solo, a common occurrence in the scarce footage of Halsall’s incredible performances.
A YouTube comment by @swaxesarlschweiz sums it up perfectly: “He was way better than Hendrix. I have all his stuff. Period.” To experience the full range of Ollie Halsall’s incredible guitar work, check out our compilation on YouTube, or go deeper and pick up the archive live CD/DVD set And That’s Jazz or the newly demix remaster of their debut album. Aside from amazing guitar work, Halsall has great pop sensibility as demonstrated on his “lost” solo album, Lovers Leaping.
From his white 1967 Gibson SG Custom to his legendary technique, Halsall’s influence remains an inspiration for generations of guitarists to come. Don’t miss the chance to explore the captivating sounds of a true guitar legend.