One of the modest heroes of stoner rock are English dogs LEAF HOUND, even if there was no such "stoner" tag when they first operated in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Originally known as BLACK CAT BONES, one of the biggest notables to the first ensemble was that it housed Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke, who soon departed and formed FREE. Rod Price also left, bringing his guitar over to FOGHAT. LEAF HOUND is best known for their 1971 album, "Growers of Mushroom", with vocalist Peter French (also of ATOMIC ROOSTER and CACTUS) joined by the vintage lineup of Mick Halls, Derek and Stuart Brooks and Keith George-Young.
These days, LEAF HOUND's remaining principal is Peter French, flanked by his right hand man Luke Rayner on guitar plus Peter Herbert on bass and Jimmy Rowland on drums. In 2007, the reinstituted LEAF HOUND released "Unleashed", an unapologetic throwback to classic rock and blues that was met enthusiastically by diehards. BAD COMPANY, LED ZEPPELIN and just about every sweaty bar band you've ever heard all factor into the rebooted LEAF HOUND, along with the occasional knock back upon the door of early psych and prog.
Leave it to rock preservationists Ripple Music to trail behind LEAF HOUND and bring the music world "Live in Japan 2012". Capturing LEAF HOUND's two night stint at the Fever club, Shin-daita, Tokyo in late July of 2012, fans of the band will assuredly be delighted with this CD/DVD package. LEAF HOUND devotes half of their set to "Growers of Mushroom" songs and another half to "Unleashed", adding a tasty cover of HOWLIN' WOLF's "Evil" for good measure.
From "Growers of Mushroom", you get the title track, "With a Minute to Go", "Work My Body", "Stagnant Pool" and "Freelance Fiend". Then "One Hundred and Five Degrees", "Barricades", "The Man With a Moon in Him", "Stop, Look and Listen" and their quasi-cover of ATOMIC ROOSTER's "Breakthrough" (which Peter French originally sang on) represents the "Unleashed" album.
French acknowledges his Japanese audience by noting how worth it was bringing LEAF HOUND to Tokyo and judging by the packed attendance for both gigs and their respective warm receptions, the Japanese are in the know and equally appreciative of LEAF HOUND coming to town. Not much different than western concertgoers, the crowd whoops and yells sometimes, pumps fists and forefingers and even the occasional horns-up at French and company. Up go the cell phone cameras as French confidently works center stage. He's hardly flashy, ditto for Luke Rayner and Jimmy Rowland, not that LEAF HOUND is a full-frontal band. Only Peter Herbert pogos and gyrates onstage to give a sense of animation.
For blues rock aficionados, there's plenty to munch on with "Live in Japan 2012" as LEAF HOUND delivers a classy, if sometimes understated performance. You get the suspicion these guys could tear roofs apart if they so desired, but instead, they simply dial in and groove. "The Man With a Moon in Him" and "Growers of Mushroom" are the two best performances along with a headstrong version of "Stagnant Pool" to close their set. Translucent solos from southpaw Luke Rayner compliment "The Man With a Moon in Him" and "Growers of Mushroom" while Peter Herbert's rolling bass lobs on the latter song help work the rendition to a fever pitch. Too bad neither of these inspired presentations made it onto the CD portion of the packaging since they're the most stellar portions of the program. Nevertheless, "Live in Japan 2012" shows LEAF HOUND has plenty in the tank if not the deep catalog to back it up with.