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The Unicorn, Camden, London 9 January 2010

A gig early in the year is always just the thing to lift the post-Christmas blues, especially in a freezing cold winter such as this one, and a rare one-off date by Leaf Hound was just the thing to send spirits soaring.

Theirs is an amazing history: despite having the raw quality of contemporaries Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they never made it only for their sole album, 1970's Growers of Mushroom, to later become a legendary ‘lost' LP selling for four figure sums on eBay.

Wind forward nearly a quarter of a century and a chance meeting in the Heavy Load club off Oxford Street led to singer Pete French forming a new version of the band, that has survived to this day and released a fine follow-up, Unleashed, in 2007.

The most remarkable thing is the extent to which the band boast a dedicated younger following, who contributed to a healthy three figure crowd in this Camden pub despite the gig receiving little publicity.

Old and new songs blended seamlessly, beginning with Stagnant Pool and Drowned My life in Fear from the debut, but moving on to now familiar newer tunes in 105 degrees, and Overtime, guitar hotshot Luke Rayner delivering a great solo with his typical fluency.

Despite now being in his sixties, Pete's warm, bluesy voice is still in good nick, and he still looks the seventies rocker with his hair and fringed leather jacket.

Too Many Rock'n'roll Times, a Crossroads for the new millennium, is still their catchiest number, but a couple of things struck me more than I could recall from seeing them previously.  Some of the new songs, notably The Man with the Moon in Him, had a much heavier edge than on CD, while in the latter part of the set, the band really got into a jamming groove for Freelance Fiend and their guitar heavy revamp of Atomic Rooster's Breakthrough.

Bassist Ed Pearson and drummer Jimmy Rowland both showed great energy, not just holding down the beat but creatively shaping the sound in the manner of a Cream, Mountain or Zeppelin.

They closed with the psychedelic freak out of Growers of Mushroom, the song that more than any other built their legend in stoner rock circles, yet appearances can be deceptive: in truth it is actually a story of a man whose wife poisoned him with inedible fungi.

The Leaf Hound legend is very much alive and well, and some appearances on the festival circuit this summer would in my view be a great way to mark their '40 years'.

Review and photo by Andy Nathan

FM is one of the Ten for 10

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