Leaf Hound - ‘Live in Japan 2012’ (Code 7/Ripple Music) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Michael Anthony   
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 03:00

Leaf HoundFor the uninitiated, Leaf Hound are often described as a proto-metal heavy rock band whose “seminal” 1971 album ‘Growers of Mushroom’ influenced the development of both heavy metal and stoner rock.


‘Growers of Mushroom’ has rightly been regarded as “a bona fide worldwide cult classic” and “one of the true lost gems of the early British hard rock scene.” Reportedly recorded and mixed in one 11 hour session in 1970, the band had already split up before it hit the racks the following year.


The current version of the band is still led ably by vocalist Peter French – the only original member left. Post ʾ70s split, French plied his trade with a host of ‘name’ musicians and bands (Atomic Rooster and Cactus among them), before a Record Collector retrospective, an official CD release for ‘Growers of Mushroom’, and a groundswell of fresh interest, persuaded him to put a new version of the band together. Leaf Hound have been active again since 2004. The current line-up includes Luke Rayner (guitar), Jim Rowland (drums) and Peter Herbert (bass). Rayner and Rowland were part of the line-up that recorded the 2007 ‘comeback’ album ‘Unleashed’ with French, and Ed Pearson on bass.


Astonishingly, ‘Live in Japan 2012’, captured over two hot and sweaty nights in Tokyo in July 2012, is the first officially available live recording of Leaf Hound. And, it has to be said, it’s an impressive CD/DVD set.


The DVD features an 11 track, 68 minute “full concert”. The DVD features 5 tracks from the classic ‘Growers of Mushroom’ album, 5 from 2007’s ‘Unleashed’ set (including ‘Breakthrough’ from French’s Atomic Rooster days, in memory of Vincent Crane) and a heavy rocking and doomy version of the Howlin’ Wolf standard ‘Evil’ (which French performed and recorded with Cactus). The CD contains seven of the 11 tracks, and clocks in at around 38 minutes.


The DVD footage itself is rather good, taking you ‘up close and personal’ in a small but seemingly packed venue, and creating a strong sense of what it must have been like to be there at the time. (I particularly like the shots from behind the drum kit.)

There’s an energy and crispness to both the recording and the performance. Despite its heavy early ʾ70s blues-rock vibe, the music sounds fresh and vital. French’s vocal performance is strong and commanding, and his ‘young guns’ are clearly into it. Rayner and ‘new boy’ Herbert smile and groove throughout, while Rowland anchors proceedings superbly and with the minimum of fuss.


Personal favourites include opener ‘One Hundred and Five Degrees’ (nice solo), the classic ‘Freelance Fiend’ (though I ain’t gonna live like one), ‘Barricades’ (“smash ʾem down”), the bluesy ‘With a Minute to Go’ and ‘Growers of Mushroom’ (“nobody could tell”).


One of the most striking features of the set for me is the seamless way in which the material from ‘Growers ...’ and ‘Unleashed’ seems to mesh, despite the considerable time gap and shift in personnel between the albums. There is no let up here in either quality or vibe and it all makes for a coherent and satisfying listening (and viewing) experience.


New label Ripple Music specialises in bringing “classic rocking bands to a modern audience”. They’ve certainly released a nice package here, which, it is to be hoped, will do the band proud.


I’m all for bands keeping the truth alive and reclaiming their rightful place in rock history. ‘Live in Japan’ does more than this though – Leaf Hound still rock!





To pick up your copy of 'Live In Japan 2012' (CD&DVD) - CLICK HERE