Friday, March 12, 2010

The Leaves - Hey Joe (1966)

One of the first L.A. folk-rock groups to spring up in the wake of the Byrds in the mid-'60s, the Leaves are most remembered for recording the first -- and one of the most successful -- rock versions of "Hey Joe," which reached the Top 40 (and was a huge California hit) in 1966. None of their other releases approached this success (although "Too Many People" was a local hit), but the group recorded a fair number of strong covers and original songs during their brief existence. More explicitly Stones and Beatles-influenced than the Byrds, they didn't project as strong an identity as competitors like the Byrds or Love, despite displaying considerable talent for harmony rockers in both the folk-rock and British Invasion styles. After cutting some singles and an album for the tiny Mira label, they moved to Capitol and disbanded after a disappointing follow-up (All the Good That's Happening, 1967) that offered less distinguished material and a more diluted sound. Leaves bassist Jim Pons went on to join the Turtles for a while in the late '60s.

**
Hey Joe

This is one hell of a debut album, especially for a group that only lasted for about a year after its release. The Leaves perform some superb folk-rock in a Byrds/Beatles vein ("Just a Moment," "Girl From the East"), excellent lyrical garage punk ("Words," "Tobacco Road"), and solid hard rock ("Hey Joe," "Too Many People"), and cross swords with the Rolling Stones ("You Better Move On," "Back On the Avenue" -- the latter a ripoff of the Stones' "2120 South Michigan Avenue") and Bob Dylan ("Love Minus Zero"). The sound isn't exactly consistent, given the gamut of influences at work here, from Bo Diddley ("Dr. Stone") to primitive psychedelia ("War of Distortion"), but there isn't a bad song on the disc, and the CD reissue has about the best sound ever heard on this material, bringing out the guitars in a genuinely crisp and vivid fashion. Maybe the strangest and best track in that regard is their cover of "He Was a Friend of Mine," which incorporates elements of both the Searchers' "When You Walk In the Room" and the Byrds' "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" into its structure and beat -- the guitars are a real kick there. The bonus tracks may have come from vinyl sources rather than tape, but they hold up very well for sound quality. Anyone who enjoyed the first two Byrds albums must own this disc.

01. Dr.Stone (2:23)

02. Just A Memory (2:21)

03. Get Out Of My Life Woman (2:51)

04. Girl From The East (2:57)

05. He Was A Friend Of Mine (3:25)

06. Hey Joe! (2:52)

07. Words (2:24)

08. Back On The Avenue (3:13)

09. War Of Distortion (2:13)

10. Tobacco Road (2:15)

11. Good Bye, My Love (3:09)

12. Too Many People (3:24)

13. Be With You (Bonus Track) (2:08)

14. You Better Move On (Bonus Track) (2:29)

15. That's A Different Story (Bonus Track) (2:33)

16. Love Minus Zero (Bonus Track) (2:33)

17. Funny Little World (Bonus Track) (2:06)
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