Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lee Michaels 1969

OK, there is no reason to bring up this album, or the wacky history of Michaels' career, but my iPod, just a little while ago, played his remarkable version of Stormy Monday from this 1969 jewel of a record, while in the midst of one of those amazing iPod shuffle moments. The crazy twenty-minute Tell Me How Do You Feel medley that is the first side of the record is manna from hippie heaven. Who Could Want More and Heighty Hi are pretty good, too.

Michaels was quite a character. A footnote in rock history today, he tried to sabotage his own career on several occasions, and he in fact succeeded. Hardly the first, but Michaels did it in style. After two mostly neglected baroque-rock records in 1968, Michaels took to the Hammond B3, and with drummer "Frosty" Smith-Frost, recorded this amazing record live in the studio. And they did this record live every night. I was fifteen when I saw them open for Jethro Tull, doing most of this record. That's probably why I love it more than you might.

After this effort, Michaels came back with Barrel in 1970, and played more piano than organ. As a snapshot into 1970 it's pretty good, and it has a great cover of Moby Grape's Murder In My Heart For The Judge. Michaels fifth record, Fifth, brought his greatest chart success with Do You Know What I Mean, a top ten single. Lee Michaels, Barrel, and Fifth 1971 are all worth hearing. But especially Lee Michaels.

From 1972 it was crash and burn time for Michaels. 1972 saw Space And First Takes, a terrible record on which Michaels played guitar. Huh? Guitar? And he's only a passing guitarist. 1973's Live tried to repeat the third record's formula with limited success. Switching to Columbia in 1973 he released Nice Day For Something. I can't remember much about it. At one time I owned all three of these 72-73 records, and they have all been removed from the stacks many moons ago. He made a couple more in the mid seventies before disappearing altogether.

But for two years between 1969 and 1971, he made some pretty good records, and one wild organ rock classic. He also had a fine voice with an incredible high register. I can't really recommend these records to you, because maybe you had to be there. But if you'd like to try something different, even if it's a little dated, there is treasure buried here.

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