I dragged myself to the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham on Thursday night to catch a set by Leaf Hound, a band perhaps better known for the ludicrous price that their debut album sells for on eBay than for the music contained in the grooves. On the rare occasions when the original Decca LP turns up on the auction site, it can fetch in excess of £4,000. Even the Akarma reissue from 2003 can command a sum of £50 with the wind behind it. Having, some time back, conceded that I was never likely to stumble on an original in a charity shop amongst the James Last and Paul Young LPs, I had, myself, plumped for the Akarma reissue.
|Leaf Hound: fun guys.|
Once the dust has settled after the stampede to proclaim Leaf Hound the greatest band that never made it, it will become clear that Growers of Mushroom, although a superb album with intimations of brilliance, falls somewhat short of the greatness that has been bestowed upon it by those looking for a lost masterpiece to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of Zeppelin or Sabbath. You need to look to Captain Beyond's debut for an album that scales those dizzy heights. By all accounts, vocalist Pete French had already jumped ship to front Atomic Rooster by the time Growers of Mushroom saw a UK release, so perhaps the band members themselves weren't entirely convinced of the LP's ability to launch their careers into the stratosphere. Having said all that, it would be hard for any album to live up to the hype that has surrounded this LP. I'm sure that if I had stumbled on Growers of Mushroom without any prior knowledge of its existence or reputation, I would be considerably more evangelical about its potent, Psych-tinged, Proto-Metal stew of Led Zeppelin and Free.
In a live setting, despite looking like a bunch of random blokes who met at a bus stop, the current incarnation of the band does a great deal to convince that maybe, just maybe, the spores of greatness were sown with that debut LP. I've yet to hear the band's 2007 follow-up album, Unleashed, but on the evidence of the band's live symbiosis, it's entirely possible that it builds upon and seamlessly picks up from where the debut LP left off, despite the intervening years. The Eel Pie Club's ambience leaves a lot to be desired, with the stage as bright and unimaginatively illuminated as a branch of Homebase, but good musicians can transcend the limitations of their environment, and so it was with Leaf Hound. Bass player Pete Herbert had me shrugging off my initial reservations (founded purely on his lumbering, grease monkey appearance) and had me singing his praises for the duration of the gig. With a man as dexterous and musically attuned as Herbert on the bass, there is never a moment when the sound needs fleshing out with a second guitarist or a keyboard player. His playing gives Luke Rayner the freedom to weave his Hendrix-inspired magic. Pete French's seasoned-old-pro demeanour suggests a man who doesn't feel the need to showboat, who's happy to share the spotlight with his bandmates. For me, the only weak link musically is drummer Jimmy Rowland whose lack of subtlety grates at times, particularly during the sustained and unimaginative bludgeoning of his crash cymbals. Perhaps he had an off-night as I can't recall singling him out for criticism on the previous occasions that I've seen the band.
I guess Pete French's pre-song chat puts to rest any thoughts that he might have a loft-full of copies of the original LP squirreled away to boost his pension. Careful kicking yourself with those cowboy boots, Pete!