Tuesday, November 1, 2011


For two years I've been in occasional touch with Pete French of Leafhound and he helped me through some hard times two years ago. Thanks Pete. I promised him a blog on Leafhound who reformed several years ago with Pete French the only original member and 3 young musicians stepping in for the rest of the group. This new, revitalized Leafhound released the poorly promoted, but astonishingly good Unleashed CD. If ever I needed proof this was something done from the heart and pure music of the soul not the cash register this confirmed my belief. Many bands who reform you wish would never have had that brilliant idea when they come out with a poorly conceived attempt at emulating the worst trends and trendiness sending rock to rot these days. Sometimes it works as in the case of Magnum who actually sounded a lot better than their albums before their early 90s split on Breath Of Life (2002) and Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow (2008), but usually we end up with crap put out by bands who think their already wholly stupid past makes them legendary- here I am talking about Amerikan garage/psych bands who think the world owes them a favour for their expensive and overrated record. However, it has bitten some really good bands too and none have made anything the quality of Leafhound. Unleashed may look like Heavy Metal, but it sounds straight out of the early 1970s tradition that sparked Leafhound's amazing Growers Of Mushroom.
Onto that album.. At a current value of 2500 to 3000 pounds Growers Of Mushroom is the most expensive British major label album and even before half the other highly prized masterpieces were going for huge $$$ it was already hugely expensive. Considering Decca did nothing to promote the band and released the album after they were history and Pete French had joined Atomic Rooster that's not surprising. I don't own the record. I own the Repertoire CD which has unusually good sound quality for that label and I'd like to find the album reissue to put up there with The Koobas, Pussy, and Kaleidoscope's Faintly Blowing for huge rarities beyond my price range.
So you'll probably want to know what makes Leafhound so special. It is several things. The tight ensemble playing isn't stiff and often goes into blazing leads and passionate riffing. The production is perfect for the heavy blues/prog rock sound that  they have. Also, it must be noted that Pete French's wailing vocals and intelligent lyrics, many of which are based on horror stories rather than the usual blues, are outstandingly good. The whole album just rocks and flows together in the way of the very best and most creative bands of that time. Self indulgent solos and overbearing "My Woman Done Left Me" lyrics are avoided for the entire album with instead the influences of Cream, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix weaving through brilliant song after brilliant song of dynamic hard rock. Like most British heavy rock/early metal bands Leafhound had their roots in the blues with French coming from The Brunning Hall Sunflower Blues Band and Stu and Derek Brooks were in the band who would become Leafhound Black Cat Bones. The Black Cat Bones record Barbed Wire Sandwich stuck too much to the blues base and with both the Brooks brothers and French in the band they would become Leafhound- a band who had grown tired of playing the blues. Like Cream or Free or Zeppelin the blues influence is taken into the stratosphere and blown up then reassembled. While Free would stick a bit more to blues and R&B Leafhound are closer to Hendrix or Sabbath or Led Zeppelin yet they had their own sound. In fact, there are no imitations of those aforementioned bands present here regardless of what you may hear about the album.
On a personal note, I can remember back to when I was just a young boy and I thought that I was seriously into heavy metal. It turned out my musical taste had no room for the kind of bullshit coming out under that banner and I was firmly a classic hard rocker. I still love the bands like Diamond Head who stuck to an earthy base to build their molten hard metallic foundation on. Diamond Head and Leafhound have some similarities to each other and so do Leafhound and UFO. UFO were my favourite band. Hands down. Going back to their music now it's amazing how good it still sounds. And I can't forget The Scorpions. For me, and I'm not just talking about hard rock I'm talking about ALL MUSIC, for Rock to be Solid Rock it has to have a warm, passionate, emotional basis for all it may add to that. The 90s were completely devoid of this and the new millennium hasn't been much better. In actuality, the rot set in with Iron Maiden who are the most appalling band ever produced along with Metallica and Megadeth, Slayer, et all. When I was 12/13 the nastiest kid in school was an Iron Maiden freak and I hated them. I would go through 3 periods of Maiden Mania and I don't know why but guess I figured out what crap it was when I started to notice how the guitars sounded like they were made of tin foil, Bruce Dickinson is always off key and can't sing a note, and the lyrics are right wing fanatic Neo Nazi bullshit. The last and final falling out with Iron Maiden left me lividly angry with them and I've not recovered from it. That's beside the point, though. The point is Uriah Heep may indulge in many influences, but they keep and have kept a steady groove going only going astray the scant few times they depart from that groove. Leafhound never miss a beat, and when it comes to groove nobody has the kind of riffs and tasty leads these guys have. Check out the opening track "Freelance Fiend" or the slow to bludgeoning epic hard bluesy progressive all out brilliance of "Work My Body." Pete French is a fantastic singer and he still has The Voice. His strong, powerful, emotion filled vocals are just what Leafhound needed to complete this package of tough and heavy brilliance which is from the soul and made out of love. These guys were passionate about their music. In fact, if you are lucky enough to track down Unleashed you'll find out they way still are.
One of the most interesting things is how Growers Of Mushroom and Unleashed sound more deep and meaningful than most of their peers back in the 70s and most of the nonsense around today. Whilst Warhorse vocalist Ashley Holt was an off-pitched screamer and so is Ian Gillan of Deep Purple who Warhorse came out of (original Purple bass player Nick Simper formed Warhorse), and Horse are a whole lot of posing and hot air (and Satanic gibberish), the mistakes of the 3 aforementioned bands don't affect Leafhound at all. This is the best. It really is an intense and powerful work and hopefully despite the promotional problems and the need to find a new label Pete French who still sounds and looks great will keep plugging along. Find Growers Of Mushroom and Unleashed. You will blow your mind.

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