An obscure spliff-rock masterpiece gets the digital reissue it deserves.
Once upon a time, in a record shop far, far away, fans of prog-rock could pick up a rare title for just a few quid. Not anymore. Thanks to the internet, as well as renewed interest in vinyl, original copies of LPs such as Leaf Hound’s Growers Of Mushroom can nowadays fetch pretty weighty prices. And while a pressing in pristine condition will likely set you back several hundred Pounds, don’t worry, the LP has thankfully been reissued, and remastered.
Leaf Hound emerged from the ever burgeoning London blues-rock scene in the late 1960’s early ‘70s, eventually securing themselves a deal with Decca Records, a label with a keen ambition of expanding their market base. Though due to budget restrictions, the band were allocated a mere eleven hours of recording time at Mayfair’s less than prestigious Spot Studios. Still, they managed to make the best of the situation by belting out an entire album’s worth of material (and then some), most often in one take.
One has to assume that apart from the heavy riffing, there must have also been quite a considerable amount of spliffing going on, as evidenced on opener “Freelance Fiend”, all hefty hazy guitars, and Peter French’s working class vocals. By today’s standards, it sounds like the band were recording somewhere in the basement toilet, although it does give the track a certain ‘garage authenticity’. “Sad Road To The Sea” and “Drowned My Life In Fear” are little more than vehicles for Michael Hall’s guitar skills, which are impressive, although he’s certainly no Jimmy Page, while French might well have strained a testicle or two singing the high notes, a la Robert Plant.
The eight minute “Work My Body” is another one of those stoner tracks with plenty of soulful vocals (“I’m dying… Don’t you leave me crying”) and long guitar solos in the vein of Free, while on “Stray”, “Stagnant Pool” and “With A Minute To Go” the band easily betray their Led Zeppelin influences, namely fast and furious riffs, lung busting vocals and a pumping rhythm section straight out of Stonehenge. The upbeat “Growers Of Mushroom” is probably how Cream may have sounded with Pete Townsend instead of Eric Clapton. On “Sawdust Caesar” Hall pulls off a superb guitar solo, as French wails like a man who’d rather be singing with Deep Purple.
The 2005 reissue includes three bonus tracks, “It’s Gonna Get Better”, “Hip Shaker” and “Too Many Rock ‘n’ Roll Times”, none of which were ever destined to set the world on fire, but are solid hard rock numbers all the same.
Growers Of Mushroom was Leaf Hound’s first and only release (with the exception of a 2007 reunion album that is), yet by the time it found its way into the shops, the band had already gone their separate ways, resulting in Decca deleting the LP from their catalogue soon after. Some have said that they were “wilder than Black Sabbath, heavier than Led Zeppelin and more psychedelic than Deep Purple”, which is a complete exaggeration. Leaf Hound were nothing more than your typical South London proletariats who knew how to rock (and toke) harder than many of their lower deck contemporaries. Spend your £800 on a first pressing by all means, but this listener is more than happy with his CD reissue, thank you very much.