Although folk singer and future Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti is said to have composed “Hey Joe,” it was actually copyrighted by Billy Roberts.
Hundreds of artists have recorded the tune, which told the ghastly tale of a fellow who killed his girlfriend and fled to Mexico, but the Leaves were the only band, at least in America, to snag a genuine hit single with the heavily recycled classic. Marked by a wildly urgent vocal performance and a barrage of storming riffs, the Los Angeles band’s garage rock-generated cover of the song peaked at the No. 31 slot on the national charts in the summer of 1966.
But “Hey Joe” is only a glimpse of many marvels featured on the group’s debut album, which was resurrected by the One Way label in the early 1990s, bearing the same name as their sole claim to commercial fame.
Smothered in a blanket of noisy harmonicas and surly sneers, “Too Many People” spews angst-ridden, anti-establishment sentiments with convincing authority, and then there’s the throbbing Bo Diddley styled “Dr. Stone” that alludes to chemical substances.
Exposing a softer side of the band’s complexion, cuts such as the aching “Just A Memory” and the weepy “Goodbye My Love,” which was also relayed to vinyl by the Searchers, present a pristine partnering of frail folk arrangements and breezy choruses.
Buried under an avalanche of swirling cacophony and carnival-like whimsy, the aptly titled “War Of Distortion” examines the Leaves embracing the new psychedelic sounds of the day with enterprising ears, as does the moody atmospherics of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s “Words” that the Monkees later struck gold with.
Here on the reissue of Hey Joe, a few bonus tracks seal the deal — including an absolutely electrifying version of Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero,” along with the glossy garmenting of “Be With You” and “Funny Little World” that both brim with the kind of melody-riddled pop procedures executed by the Beatles and the Hollies.
Chiming guitars and divine harmonies interact with whining harmonicas and shuffling rhythms throughout the disc, leading to bridge the gap between the shimmering folk pop of the Byrds and the natty blues of the Rolling Stones, while psychedelic flirtations add extra appeal to the collection.
1967 saw the Leaves release another album, All The Good That’s Happening, which captured them exploring their psychedelic consciousness to further effects. But the record stiffed and the group dismantled. A truly great band, the Leaves expired far too soon, with their talent overshadowing the fact they wound up in the one hit wonder file.