Monday, May 18, 2009

Leaf Hound-Growers of Mushrooms(1971)

To hear sample song Freelance Fiend, click here.

Singer Peter French was asked to join a British blues rock band, Black Cat Bones. Rod Price, their guitarist, would then leave Black Cat Bones to join Foghat. After Price's departure, French and his cousin, guitarist Mick Halls reorganized Black Cat Bones, hired a new drummer and became Leaf Hound.

Leaf Hound toured heavily for a year and blew their headliners off the stage. Their prowess on stage landed them a record deal with Decca, who for unknown reasons, originally was going to not release the record. When Leaf Hound heard this, they broke up. A year later, Decca finally released the record but with no band to promote, they only issued a limited number of copies.

However, those who did buy the record really liked what they heard, but word traveled slowly. In 1993 Record Collector magazine decided to do a cover story on Leaf Hound and their album Growers of Mushrooms. As a result, the album was reissued on CD to great critical acclaim. The few original vinyl recordings of Growers of Mushrooms are a collectors' item. The asking price is said to be in the thousands.

The album is a hard rock classic and deserving of its reputation. Like Badfinger is to the Beatles, Leaf Hound is to Led Zeppelin. Also like Badfinger, Leaf Hound is not especially innovative and clearly imitating a better known band, but they also manage to imitate the nuances and spirits of their source.

It is not only Peter French's Robert Plant-like voice(he sounds like Rod Stewart in the softer numbers) that makes one think of Zeppelin but it is also some of the numbers as well. Stray is propelled by a Heartbreaker-like riff. The ballad With a Minute To Go sounds like Thank You.

Zeppelin are not the only ones they seem to be inspired by. There are traces of the Who in Sad Road To The Sea and the title track. The album opener Freelance Fiend has a cowbell that makes the song reminiscent of Mountain's Mississippi Queen. (I choose it as the sample song, because like any good album opening, it grabs you right by the throat and pulls you into the album.) The B-side to one of Leaf Hound's single Its Gonna Get Better (one of the CD's extra tracks) sounds like it would neatly fit onto a Paul McCartney album.

Though not likely, Leaf Hound appears to be influencing other artists as well. One can hear future echoes of Soundgarden in Drowned My Life In Fear. You also have to wonder if the mighty Zeppelin was listening to Stagnant Pool when they decided to do The Ocean. Not only did Zeppelin refer to a body of water in the song title, but they seem to have copied Stagnant Pool's main guitar riff.

Contrary to what some might think, the band name Leaf Hound does not refer to smoking pot. The name is taken from a short story by Ray Bradbury; a dog returns from the dead covered in mud and leaves. Even the album and song title Growers of Mushrooms are not drug related, it refers to a poisonous mushroom.

Singer Peter French had some success after Leaf Hound's demise. He sang for two mildly successful bands in the 70s, Cactus and Atomic Rooster. When he learned about the belated acclaim that Leaf Hound received, he formed a group of new musicians and currently tours as Leaf Hound. It's a shame they are only touring in Britain. American fans are deprived!

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