BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Sunday, June 11, 2006

OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES: Leafhound and Astralasia re-issues arrive at Iguana HQ

Two new CDs landed on me doormat this week. One is a re-release of old Astralasia stuff that has previously only been available of cassette, the other is a CD re-issue of the extremely rare cult album by Leafhound, originally issued in 1971

I am on a bit of a role of writing reviews for Peppermint Iguana at the moment, so I might as well tell you what I have said about them.

LEAFHOUND: Growers of Mushroom (Repertoire) 2005 (1st released 1971)

Originally released in 1971 this dose of 70s rock managed to deftly avoid the mainstream and swiftly became an underground cult legend. No doubt delays in its release till after the band split had something to do with this. The members of the band went their separate ways and were involved with other bands, most notably singer Peter French had a stint with Iguana favourites Atomic Rooster. Over the years though the album developed a mystique, mainly due to its rarity. In 2004 an original vinyl copy went for £2,000, making it one of the most valuable of all the 70s rock albums. In 2005 the album finally saw the light of day on CD, with two bonus tracks from the original band and a special bonus track from a newly reformed band. Yes, that’s right, all the hype and mystique around the band has persuaded French to reform the band and they are gigging again, although the gigs do appear to be at European festivals and other such places where flares are still legal.

Anyway, what is the album like? Well, the terms 'underground' and 'cult classic' can often be euphemisms for shite; not in this case though. This is first grade psychedelic blues-rock with shades of contemporaries Zeppelin, The Groundhogs, Free and the Pink Fairies. If you are into that sort of thing and think you have heard it all before, relive your youth and check this out because it stands up against the best of anything around at the time. If you have all your old stuff filed neatly in alphabetical order, and you thought your collection was complete, you now need to make a space on your shelf between Laine, Ronnie and Led Zeppelin. Raw rootsy blues without all the pomp and bollocks that the later 70s brought us, if that guy in ‘Life On Mars’ discovers this he wont want to come back to the present! ESSENTIAL LISTENING

ASTRALASIA: Volumes 1&2 (Voiceprint) 2004 (originally released 1988 on cassette only)

Before becoming major players on the UK underground trance/rave scene, Astralasia were a side project for members of the Magic Mushroom Band. This disc is a collection of the first two cassette only releases, originally released back in 1988/89 when they played events alongside such artists as the Shamen and Mixmaster Morris. Volume One is laid back psychedelic hippyish stuff that would have come under the banner ‘Ambient House’; more chill out lounge than dance floor. Volume two picks up the pace a bit in places but the fact that it was recorded on an 8 track and the fact that all this sort of thing was still in it’s infancy makes it sound a little dated now and a far cry from the full on techno assault that was to come from them later when they split from the mushrooms to become a proper band in their own right. There are two previously unreleased tracks on here as a bonus, rough versions of things that mutated into proper tracks that would be released later in their career. This is a good taste of how the trance scene of today was born, but would probably only be of interest to those were there. For those of you that were not there, you would be better off spending your hard earned on their later releases.

.........................................Well, that was the review, but I will add something about Astralasia… I had loved this band for years, then I put them on in Blackwood. It was a case of never meet your heroes, I did not get on with them at all. I interviewed them back stage and they were generally arrogant and hostile to me bringing up the Magic Mushroom band, being quite dismissive of their own past. Matters were not helped by the fact that I had spoken to a mate who had worked with them in the past and had given me some dirt on them. They also had a go at me because the crowd was not as big as they would have liked; I was getting a bit annoyed by the time this happened and just told them that any lack of crowd said more about their popularity than my promotional skills. This is a little bit of a distraction really, ‘cos despite all this I quite like the band musically. I thought they were no more, but they released a new album ‘Away With The Fairies’ last month, which I will no doubt check out in the near future.


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