Friday, July 20, 2018

Sweathog - 1972 - Hallelujah


01. Road To Mexico - 2:18
02. Ride, Louise, Ride - 3:16
03. Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo - 3:17
04. Questions And Conclusions - 4:08
05. Things Yet To Come - 2:48
06. Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice - 2:30
07. Hallelujah - 2:55
08. Darker Side - 4:07
09. Working My Way Back Home - 2:55
10.In The Wee Wee Hours Of The Night - 4:58
11.Rock And Roll Revival - 3:22

Lenny Lee - Organ, Vocals
Frosty - Drums, Percussion
B.J. - Guitar, Vocals
Dave Johnson - Bass, Vocals

With Michael Omartian - Piano
Jimmie Haskell - Horns Arrangement

Sweathog was a San Francisco-based quartet whose sound was fairly far removed from the music normally associated with that city. They were a powerful ensemble instrumentally, keyboardist/singer Lenny Lee (aka Lenny Lee Goldsmith), guitarist/singer Bob Jones, bassist/singer Dave Johnson, and drummer Frosty (aka Barry Smith, aka Bartholomew Smith) all top players in their field -- Frosty had played with Lee Michaels on his third and fourth albums, while Jones had played on Harvey Mandel's Cristo Redentor and Righteous in the late '60s, and Goldsmith was an ex-member of the Five Americans. 

They were not bad as singers, either, with Goldsmith handling the leads. Their music was a mix of Southern-style soul, early-'70s funk, and blues, all wrapped around a virtuoso rock sound. The group was signed to Columbia Records at the time of that label's fixation on West Coast acts, under Clive Davis's regime -- they were always looking for another Big Brother & the Holding Company, or something to take the place of that act on their roster. The group's self-titled debut album passed mostly without a musical trace, without an AM radio hit to drive sales, though its cover image of bare buttocks was censored in various countries. 

In 1972, they seemed to hit paydirt with their single "Hallelujah," a driving piece of explosive Southern-fried rock & roll with a soul edge that was a killer showcase for all four players (especially Frosty). It got to number 33 on the national charts, but that relatively modest performance doesn't indicate how popular it was on the radio, where it got airplay closer to that of a Top 20 hit. 

The song got the album (also titled Hallelujah) into stores, at least, but it never sold in huge numbers, despite a respectable promotion effort and a lot of exposure for the band, touring behind Black Sabbath, among other top acts of the period. They broke up in 1973, and Goldsmith later played on Martha Reeves' first post-Motown solo album before joining Stoneground. 
by Bruce Eder

The Top 40 title track got Sweathog some chart action in 1971. Drummer Frosty found fame with the pop/blues minstrel Lee Michaels, and here forges a Southern rock sound with bassist Dave Johnson, guitarist B.J., and organist Lenny Lee -- none of them household names, and an album that is highly competent but as non-descript as the players. When your drummer and a guest pianist by the name of Michael Omartian have more recognition, it is clear it will be an uphill climb. 

There's an interesting version of "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo," a song which wouldn't hit until 1974 for Rick Derringer, so the band showed they have some taste (and that they toured with or at least listened to Edgar Winter's White Trash). For the times, though, heartfelt songs like "In the Wee Hours of the Night" needed a strong personality fronting the group. L. Goldsmith performing Joe Cocker's "Ride Louise Ride" or Sanford Townsend Band material makes for a solid outing, but not the additional hit singles this group needed to amass a following. 

Great music, stirring performances, it's just that the world wasn't quite ready for Three Dog Night meets the Allman Brothers Band. The title track remains a forgotten classic which oldies stations would be smart to add to their play lists. 
by Joe Viglione

Sweathog - 1971 - Sweathog


01. Nonbeliever
02. All I Ever Do
03. Still On The Road
04. Burned
05. Things Yet To Come
06. Runneth Over
07. You Just Took The Ride
08. Lock Up My Body
09. Layed Back By The River

Lenny Lee Goldsmith - Lead Vocals, Keyboards
B.J. - Guitar, Vocals
Dave Johnson - Bass, Vocals
Frosty - Traps, Trans-Celeste, Bells

Sweathog was a San Francisco-based quartet whose sound was fairly far removed from the music normally associated with that city. They were a powerful ensemble instrumentally, keyboardist/singer Lenny Lee (aka Lenny Lee Goldsmith), guitarist/singer Bob Jones, bassist/singer Dave Johnson, and drummer Frosty (aka Barry Smith, aka Bartholomew Smith) all top players in their field -- Frosty had played with Lee Michaels on his third and fourth albums, while Jones had played on Harvey Mandel's Cristo Redentor and Righteous in the late '60s, and Goldsmith was an ex-member of the Five Americans. They were not bad as singers, either, with Goldsmith handling the leads. Their music was a mix of Southern-style soul, early-'70s funk, and blues, all wrapped around a virtuoso rock sound. The group was signed to Columbia Records at the time of that label's fixation on West Coast acts, under Clive Davis's regime -- they were always looking for another Big Brother & the Holding Company, or something to take the place of that act on their roster. The group's self-titled debut album passed mostly without a musical trace, without an AM radio hit to drive sales, though its cover image of bare buttocks was censored in various countries. In 1972, they seemed to hit paydirt with their single "Hallelujah," a driving piece of explosive Southern-fried rock & roll with a soul edge that was a killer showcase for all four players (especially Frosty). It got to number 33 on the national charts, but that relatively modest performance doesn't indicate how popular it was on the radio, where it got airplay closer to that of a Top 20 hit. The song got the album (also titled Hallelujah) into stores, at least, but it never sold in huge numbers, despite a respectable promotion effort and a lot of exposure for the band, touring behind Black Sabbath, among other top acts of the period. They broke up in 1973, and Goldsmith later played on Martha Reeves' first post-Motown solo album before joining Stoneground.

Fantastic short lived band that could have been superstars in my opinion. Both albums rock with Hallelujah being the better of the two, but not by much . They toured Black Sabbath, Grand Funk, J. Geils, Edgar Winter and others. Dave Johnson played with Dr. John & The Beach Boys, Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost also known as "Frosty" played with Lee Michaels (one of my favorites) they mostly hailed from No. Calif and played at all the Bay Area venues. Get these before they're gone Good Stuff !!!

Lee Michaels - 2015 - Heighty Hi

Lee Michaels 
Heighty Hi

01. Heighty Hi
02. Do Ya Know What I Mean
03. If I Lose You
04. The War
05. Goodbye, Goodbye
06. Hello
07. Carnival Of My Life
08. Uummmm My Lady
09. Keep The Circle Turning
10. Thumbs
11. Can I Get A Witness
12. Hold On To Freedom
13. Murder In My Heart (For The Judge)
14. Sounding The Sleeping
15. Stormy Monday
16. What Now America
17. Who Could Want More
18. No Part Of It
19. Own Special Way (As Long As)
20. Love

Nobody sounded quite like singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Lee Michaels during his seven-album run with A&M Records, circa 1968-1973, and while some have tried, nobody has quite nailed his unique, frequently minimalist creative vision since. A soulful vocalist often accompanied on album by only a lone percussionist, Michaels explored the use of piano, keyboards, and even harpsichord in rock music unlike any other artist at the time; even when he went the full band route by adding bass and guitar, it was Michaels’ keyboards that led the parade.

A reappraisal of Lee Michaels’ place in the rock ‘n’ roll history book as been long overdue, and perhaps the release of Heighty Hi: The Best of Lee Michaels will prompt a well-deserved rediscovery of one of the great lost rockers of the 1970s. Comprised of 20 tracks, including his lone Top Ten hit “Do You Know What I Mean,” Heighty Hi provides an insightful cross-section of Michaels’ music, pulling material from all six of his studio albums and offering a representative sample of his artistic ambitions. The compilation provides an introduction, of sorts, to new listeners and is being released alongside the seven-disc The Complete A&M Album Collection box set for those who desire to jump headfirst into Michaels’ milieu.

So what can the intrepid listener expect from Heighty Hi? Opening with the controversial title track, “Heighty Hi,” (hey, it was originally released in 1968), Michaels applies a jangly, Southern gospel vibe to what appears, on the surface, to be a pro-marijuana song but seems to me to be just as likely to also serve as an apt metaphor for peace and brotherhood. Led by Michaels’ wistful vocals and intricate piano playing, the song is certainly infectious in its charms. The comp cranks right into Michaels’ best-known tune, “Do You Know What I Mean,” a studio throwaway that, while based on a true story, the singer never really cared for…and ironically, it became his biggest hit. Featuring a repeating keyboard riff and minimal percussion, the song relies on Michaels’ tortured, tearful vocals that – whether he cared for the song or no – nevertheless channel true emotion.

If only for these first couple of songs, which stood proudly alongside the typical guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll fare of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Michaels deserves acclaim. As shown by Heighty Hi, though, there are lots of other fine examples of Michaels’ musical genius. “If I Should Lose You,” from Michaels’ 1968 sophomore album Recital, masterfully blends R&B roots with a bit of psychedelic pop for a quick shot of exhilaration: Michaels’ whimsical vocals and baroque piano are accented by former Paul Revere & the Raiders’ guitarist Drake Levin’s soaring notes and soulful blasts of horn on what should have been a radio-ready chart hit. Michaels’ original “The War,” also from Recital, is a somber but moving anti-war dirge lifted above the mundane by Michaels’ anguished, angry vox and his clever, effective juxtaposition of harpsichord and keyboards to create a discordant backdrop to the lyrics

Heighty Hi includes the non-LP track “Goodbye, Goodbye,” a high-octane rocker that was released as the B-side to single “The War.” A foreshadowing, perhaps, of the sort of (slightly) more commercial rock music that Michaels would explore on his album 5th, “Goodbye, Goodbye” is a busy, engaging tune with dynamic keyboards pitted against fluid piano licks, with steady percussion (including a resonant cowbell) and an upbeat, energetic feel that should have made it an AM radio hit. The title track from Michaels’ sophomore effort, “Carnival of Life” has a psych-pop edge that’s sharply honed by intricate keyboard runs and blustery percussion while “Keep The Circle Turning,” one of the many cover songs that Michaels visited on 5th, is provided a rich foundation built on Michaels’ gospel-tinged keyboards, the singer’s reverent vocals supported by the warmth of Merry Clayton’s backing vox.

Michaels’ cover of the Marvin Gaye classic “Can I Get A Witness,” also from 5th, was the singer’s only song to hit the Top 40, and a good ‘un it is, Michaels’ high-flying voice surfing atop a recurring keyboard riff similar in sound to “Do You Know What I Mean.” The urgency and romantic frustration found in Michaels’ vocal performance separates it from his better-known hit, and while it’d never be mistaken for Gaye’s incredible version of the Holland-Dozier-Holland gem, Michaels does the song proud. Michaels shared management with fellow San Francisco rockers Moby Grape, so his cover of their raucous “Murder In My Heart (For The Judge)” comes as no surprise. A rowdy take on the song that features Levin’s nimble fretwork and explosive percussion courtesy of drummer Frosty (a/k/a Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost), Michaels’ deft piano-pounding and gang vocals add a real sense of menace to the song.

Michaels’ original “What Now America,” from 1970’s Barrel, is the sort of gritty, socially-conscious protest song that he could sink his teeth into as a songwriter (Michaels has stated on more than one occasion that his ‘love songs’ were penned only to pacify hit-hungry label execs). With minimalist backing instrumentation and intelligent, probing lyrics, Michaels’ plaintive vocals slowly reach a crescendo before ebbing back into darkness. The shortest of the four songs from Michaels’ 1972 psych-rock experiment Space & First Takes, “Own Special Way (As Long As)” re-imagines the typical love song of the day with a clamorous, keyboard-dominated soundtrack that, along with drummer Keith Knudsen’s solid timekeeping and Levin’s subtle guitar, takes on an authentic funky undercurrent.

After his stint with A&M Records concluded with the release of the obligatory Lee Michaels Live album in 1972, the singer signed with Clive Davis and Columbia Records, recording a pair of albums for the label that went nowhere when Davis, the singer’s biggest advocate, was forced out of the company. Those Columbia label albums have become obscure footnotes to Michaels’ career, sought-after collectors’ items that command posh prices. After releasing one more album, Absolute Lee, on his own independent label in 1982, Michaels retired from music altogether to pursue a successful career as a restaurateur.

In spite of his unfair distinction as a “one hit wonder,” interest in Lee Michaels and his music remains extremely high to this day, better than three decades after he sung his last note. Four previous Michaels compilations have been released on CD over the past 25 or so years, with Heighty Hi offering more songs and a much more comprehensive look at the diversity and artistry of Michaels’ music. For the casually curious, Heighty Hi will satisfy your needs, providing the ‘hit’ and much more.

Lee Michaels - 1974 - Tailface

Lee Michaels 

01. Met A Toucan 5:20
02. Politician 3:52
03. Slow Dancin' Rotunda 4:26
04. Roochie Toochie Loochie 2:48
05. Drink The Water 4:26
06. Lovely Lisa 3:38
07. Garbage Gourmet 4:45

Bass – Frank Smith (Rank Frank)
Drums – Bartholemew Eugene Smith-Frost
Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals – Michael Olson

One of the most interesting second-division California psychedelic musicians, keyboardist Lee Michaels was one of the most soulful white vocalists of the late '60s and early '70s. Between 1968 and 1972, he released half a dozen accomplished albums on A&M that encompassed Baroque psychedelic pop and gritty white, sometimes gospel-ish R&B with equal facility. A capable songwriter, Michaels was blessed with an astonishing upper range, occasionally letting loose some thrilling funky wails. In 1971, he landed a surprise Top Ten single with "Do You Know What I Mean," one of the best and funkiest AM hits of the early '70s.

But Michaels was really much more of an album-oriented artist, from the time he began recording in the late '60s. Michaels started playing music in Southern California, where he was in a band with future members of Moby Grape, the Turtles, and Canned Heat. By the time he signed to A&M, however, he'd moved to San Francisco, joining the management stable of Matthew Katz (which also included, at various times, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, and It's a Beautiful Day). Michaels was unusual for a San Francisco act in that he relied mostly on an organ-based sound, especially after the first pair of albums, when for a time he played, live and in the studio, with the mammoth drummer "Frosty" as his only accompanist.

In the 80's, Michaels moved to Hawaii for an extended retirement from the music business; aside from a self-released album in the early '80s, little's been heard from him since.

In context of being a strangely unique later album from an established young musician who most record labels of the time would willingly and even blindly invite into their studio that resulted in producing a future classic album and setsvnew highes in sales. This was a period when the labels knew they had little understanding of what "magic" ingredients makes any record outsell another. One ingredient consistently associated with many successful albums happened with expressing an intense emotional experience any "deep" artist would commonly become fully immersed and proudly suffer the process; especially during a "you ripped my heart out and I don't understand why" period. So, certain artists were allowed endless studio time with full control in hopes a groundbreaking album that sets a new high in sales.r was resresultedexperiment with produce anything they wanted in a top selling album could be repeated that would guarantee sales.guarateewere doing guidelines or rules that could be followed derstood some records became big sellers sold of 70's "whole thing" has a certain charm that 70's music fans and Lee Michaels fans will appreciate. Fans already know the details of Lee Michaels moving from A&M to Columbia and this brief switch from his trademark Hammond to these raunchy guitar riff sounds. The cover is perfectly hilarious, and for me, this cover photo also captures the special charm of this timepiece: Three music dudes livin' for their craft and stopping for a quick snap to visually document the magic of the moment. You then put this on your turntable to be treated to slightly catchy riffs, silly lyrics, and simple rock vocals. The lead guitar work is weak while the rhythm is very, very good. The back photo is Lee playing as he might have live though I don't think this album ever toured (I saw him late seventies and he was all Hammond again). A unique album that did not work. Many will find this album amusing and interesting, and some may even like it for several spins. If it is ever put out on CD I would probably buy it. But, I also like instant coffee....

Lee Michaels - 1973 - Live

Lee Michaels 

01. Hold On To Freedom 10:50
02. Call It Stormy Monday 6:28
03. Mad Dog 4:55
04. My Lady 3:26
05. Thumbs 5:35
06. Day Of Change 7:30
07. Drum Solo 6:20
08. War 4:16
09. Forty Reasons 4:40
10. Oak Fire 4:10
11. Heighty Hi 9:00
12. Rock Me Baby 4:00

Drums: Keith Knudsen
Organ, Guitar, Vocals: Lee Michaels

Recorded in concert accompanied by drummer Keith Knudsen, Lee Michaels goes through mostly extended versions of various songs from five of his first six albums, interspersed with numbers unique to his concerts, such as "My Lady." Oddly enough, Michaels doesn't perform his biggest hit, "Do You Know What I Mean," preferring numbers such as "Oak Fire" and "Rock Me Baby" from the same album. This is an honest presentation of a Lee Michaels concert, with a raw, un-retouched sound, and he is in excellent form, instrumentally and vocally, on numbers like "Hold on to Freedom," "Stormy Monday," and most of the rest of this album. It might not be the best way to start listening to him, however; Recital and the self-titled third album are better in that connection. Lee Michaels Live is a heavy dose of Michaels' brand of bluesy, R&B-based rock, and while he does coax a nice range of sound out of his two-instrument combo, ultimately it lacks some of the variety found on his early studio albums, which also had more of a psychedelic feel than is to be found here. Ironically, the six-minute Keith Knudson drum solo, more than anything in Michaels' own performance, is the one artifact that dates this album.

By the time of the release of: "Lee Michaels Live" in 1973, this musician was indeed well known in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lee, migrated from the central valley of California to San Francisco in the mid-sixties, and very quickly became known as: "The B3 Beast" By the end of that decade, Lee was a headliner on two coasts {Lee, was the headlining act at the Fillmore East in 1971 when Humble Pie recorded their: "Rockin' The Fillmore" LP}.

By the early seventies the Lee Michaels Band consisted of Lee on Hammond Organ and a massive drumming army named Frosty. And at the time of this live recording Lee had five albums under his belt and was as popular as Steve Miller {Pre:"Joker"} His white soul was a force to witness in concert and with Frosty on his left side facing him these two men seemed to be having a duel on stage, and enjoying every second of it!

Well, for some reason, this 1973 record is without Frosty, and as Keith Knudsen, {a later member of the Doobie Brothers} is a fine drummer it was Frosty who was the 'Yang' to Lee's 'Ying', and without him: "Live" is the begining of the end.

This album is a fine document of Lee Michaels in concert, and with "Heighty Hi" "Stormy Monday" "Forty Reasons" and "Day Of Change" it is peppered with Lee's best known songs, performed with all the normal gusto in front of a very happy crowd. The sound is much like the double LP that I purchased in 1973, it isn't great, and this album does not seem to be tweaked or sweetened from those original tapes. For the spoiled sound children of the digital age, the sound may indeed be a problem but, records of the seventies DID sound like this so for old geezers it's quite nice. The real issue is this: Lee Michaels is all but forgotten today and few remember his greatness 45 Years on And that, is the real crime!

This was a record that meant a lot to me in the early seventies, and as it was always a pleasure to see Lee play live in San Francisco, he would all but disappear soon after this record was in the shops. This is a Great album, it is too bad that just a very few of us are left to remember the great Lee Michaels, and enjoy this fantastic music.

This album is a direct reminder of an era, that we will never be a part of again.
Thank You, Lee, Frosty & Keith.

Lee Michaels - 1973 - Nice Day For Something

Lee Michaels
Nice Day For Something

01. Your Breath Is Bleeding 3:35
02. Same Old Song 2:30
03. So Hard 3:50
04. High Wind 5:55
05. Olson Arrives At Two Fifty-Five 6:40
06. The Other Day (The Other Way) 3:00
07. Rock & Roll Community 3:36
08. Bell 4:25
09. Went Saw Mama 3:00
10. Nothing Matters (But It Doesn't Matter) 6:30

Drums – Keith Knudsen
Guitar, Organ, Vocals – Lee Michaels

I guess somewhere in the mid-1970s, Lee Micheals--"You Know What I Mean" was his big hit in 1971--left A&M and the 1960s behind. Nice Day is on Columbia.

And is a good album. Michaels keyboard-based sound does not change from his earlier albums--although he does try using a synth here, and has replaced booming organ with piano.

What is different is the writing. Michaels has given up 1960s heaviness for condensed, streamlined songs. Nothing wrong with this--given that this was the early 1970s, tightening your keyboard sound is miles above sailing smackface into ELP goop. And there is an easy going, bluesy feeling which Michaels polishes to his advantage, sometimes even getting suddenly funky.

I do miss the experimental, uncharted feel of Michaels A&M albums like Carnival of Life and Recital--just blasting echo keyboard and space cadet art soul all over the place. But that was a different time and place, one we can always visit. I fully recommend this.

But for good tight writing and a tasteful transition into more home spun rock, it is a nice day for this album

Lee Michaels - 1971 - Space And First Takes

Lee Michaels
Space And First Takes

01. Own Special Way (As Long As) 4:33
02. First Names 13:36
03. Hold On To Freedom 5:02
04. Space And First Takes 16:40

Bass – Joel Christie
Drums – Keith Knudsen
Guitar – Drake Levin
Organ, Piano, Guitar, Vocals – Lee Michaels

This album is a fascinating hybrid of psychedelia and mainstream hard rock, incorporating elements of both. Consisting of two short numbers (clocking in a under five minutes) and a pair of extended tracks running a quarter-hour each, it stands apart from most of the extended art rock jams of its era by virtue of its consistent, driving beat and the emphasis on crunchy guitar sounds (courtesy of ex-Paul Revere & the Raiders ax-man Drake Levin and Michaels himself). The title track and "Hold On to Freedom" seem like a lot of empty posturing, although the playing and production on "Space and First Takes" have enough of a psychedelic edge that its 16-minute length is mostly a virtue. "First Names" is slightly shorter, and intense enough across 14 minutes to pull the listener in even deeper and more successfully.

I'll bet it surprised Lee Michaels when 'Space and First Takes', released in 1972, never took off commercially. After being relegated to a spot as a second tier California rocker in the late 1960's, Michaels scored a rousing accidental hit with 'Do You Know What I Mean?' on 1971's 'Fifth'. This album followed, and Lee put together a hard rock delight. The album only consists of four songs, neatly divided into a short and an extended piece on each side of the vinyl. The late 1960's spawned the era of the opus, with many pioneering bands offering long-winded exposes, such as Iron Butterfly's 'In-a-Gadda-da-Vida' and the Chambers Brothers 'Time Has Come Today'. This phenomenon so gripped the times that many bands took Top 40 hits and expanded them into lengthy show topping excursions, such as The Byrds take on 'Eight Miles High', and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's epic 'Carry On'.

So in 1971 it's no surprise that an aspiring artist like Lee Michaels would take a cue from everything happening around him, and produce his own extended works. These songs do not come across as productions that would have been better in a truncated version. The instrumental variations on the basic themes are intriguing and deserving of the vinyl they displaced. In fact, for avid fans of lengthy guitar jams, the performances offered by Lee Michaels and former Paul Revere and the Raiders lead guitarist Drake Levin are nothing short of exquisite. They are hard rocking and varied, making the approximate quarter hour devoted to each tune a rewarding investment. The two shorter numbers are also strong guitar based compositions, the best being side two's 'Hold On To Freedom', which would appear as the opener on 1973's 'Live'. The live version is actually superior, as it is delivered on Michael's cherished and familiar B3 Hammond organ with great weight and energy. The studio version offered here is good, but the song is much better tendered on the B3 than guitar.

If there is any explanation for why this album essentially became Lee Michael's swan song, it would have to be the lyrics. While Lee could at times be a compelling lyricist, he could also come up with some of the most mundane or confusing of lyrics. He offers a pertinent example of each on this disc. 'First Names', the extended piece offered on side one, delivers trite thoughts such as "First names, running around my brain. First names, they all sound the same". Sometimes I think Lee actually wrote songs, including his hit, "Do You Know What I Mean?" as Ecclesiastical statements on the meaninglessness of it all. On the other side of the coin, and the other side of the vinyl, we have the title track, the last extended piece. I'm really not sure what Lee is talking about in 'Space and First Takes', though it does seem to have to do with the musician's studio experiences. As on most of Lee's albums, however, the lyrics are certainly secondary to the instrumental prowess and captivating guitar performances churning throughout.

The Lee Michaels catalog contains four discs that I consider essential to my musical collection, 'Live', 'Lee Michaels' (his third studio album), 'Fifth', and this release. Of the three, this one gets the most frequent spins in my CD changer. I've always been enamoured with extended guitar jams, and these make the half-hour listening time fly by swiftly, effortlessly, and with great aural gratification. Unfortunately, a used copy of this out-of-print disc will set you back forty dollars at present. The MP3 tracks offered by Amazon consist of only the two shorter songs from the album, certainly due to the extended length of the more desirable tracks. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for these relatively obscure productions to be released again, so if you find a reasonably priced copy anywhere, be sure to grab onto it. In lieu of that, contact a friend who can make a copy for you. Life is short. Don't be without it.

Lee Michaels - 1971 - 5th

Lee Michaels 

01. Keep The Circle Turning 2:41
02. You Are What You Do 2:58
03. Willie & The Hand Jive 3:02
04. Didn't Have To Happen 2:32
05. Rock Me Baby 2:28
06. Do You Know What I Mean 3:11
07. Ya Ya 2:19
08. Can I Get A Witness 3:02
09. Oak Fire 2:53
10. I Don't Want Her 2:25

Percussion – Joel Larson
Guitar, Organ, Bass, Vocals – Lee Michaels
Saxophone – Jackie Kelso

Following the success of his third album, Lee Michaels continued the path of a solo artist -- solo meaning that most of the sounds on the record were primarily recorded by Lee alone. Organ (Hammond and pipe), piano, harpsichord, and organ bass create a heavy, dense foundation. Michaels had a unique sound, and along with his larynx-shredding vocals, the results are staggering. Aided by Joel Larson on drums, Michaels does a lot of covers on this record -- including "Willie and the Hand Jive," "Ya Ya," and "Can I Get a Witness." Michaels renders them all in an infectious, gospel style. There are only a few originals on the album, and one, "Do You Know What I Mean" (which really sounded like a cover), was a monstrous hit and cemented Lee Michaels as one of the best white blues performers of the period.

Lee Michaels - 1970 - Barrel

Lee Michaels

01. Mad Dog 3:44
02. What Now America 3:25
03. Uummmm My Lady 3:00
04. Thumbs 4:05
05. When Johnny Comes Marching Home 2:04
06. Murder In My Heart (For The Judge) 3:36
07. Day Of Change 3:32
08. Think I'll Cry 2:42
09. Games 3:09
10. Didn't Know What I Had 3:12
11. As Long As I Can 1:27

Frosty - Drums
Drake Levin - Guitar
Lee Michaels - Bass, Keyboards, Vocals

Thumbing through dollar bins at record shops can be depressing, particularly when the pickings are slim. Plumbing the depths of milk crates jammed with forgotten vinyl, which no longer lie on shag carpets and basement floors, but in mounds that neglect their prior value, that reject what they once might have meant to someone, somewhere, upon their original release, is a real downer. Here lie bands without a myth, un-legendary singers, devalued albums that once topped the charts, last names written in faded Sharpie ink on moldy album covers. Indefinitely, these albums and their memories remain in $1.00 purgatory, doomed to a needle-less existence.

But one recent find dispelled the notion that happiness can’t be retrieved from the bottom of a barrel. Lee Michaels, a laidback rocker with soul from the West Coast, known for making his Hammond the core of his sound, released Barrel to little notice or airplay in 1970. (Michaels wouldn’t tap the mainstream until the following year with “Do You Know What I Mean?,” a corny-cool, organ-led tune which implores the listener for empathy over a girl who’s scrammed.)

And notice and sales really weren’t warranted. Among Barrel’s eleven tracks, only a few pass muster—Michaels’ cover of Moby Grape’s “Murder In My Heart (For The Judge),” “Mad Dog,” and “Didn’t Know What I Had” achieve brief moments of hallelujah-rock exaltation, thanks to Michaels’ skills as a keyboardist and rock vocalist with a gospel edge. The other songs, several of which attempt to address the war in Vietnam,” don’t do the trick, nor does the album’s weakling of a ballad, “Uummmm My Lady.”

Whereas the quality of the songs leaves something to be desired (Barrel was recorded at Michaels’ California ranch, which features prominently on the cover and jacket art), the spirit of the music-making doesn’t disappoint. Listening pleasure is drawn from the fact that Michaels, along with frequent drummer, Barry “Frosty” Smith, and guitarist Drake Levin of Paul Revere and the Raiders, don’t seem to be taking their jobs too seriously. 

The songs have a one-off feel, and the photo montage on the inside jacket is an awesome monument to stoner-slackerdom—one photo shows Lee feeding a pair of cheetahs on his back deck; another reveals a heavyset Frosty gesticulating, sporting spotted pajama pants. This makes the experience of Barrel not quite a joke, but it does give us license to laugh off its artistic flaws, and forget that overwhelming critical and commercial success are even legitimate criteria of how listening choices are made.  Barrel is not trying to be anything more than what it is, and this is a hallmark of all classic good-times music.

So if you find a copy of Barrel in a bin somewhere, don’t expect too much, but expect to be amused, bemused, and occasionally, moved. It might have meant something to some lost teenager from the ’70s before it wound up at the bottom of the heap.
by Meghan Roe

After "Recital" this is another great Lp by this great keyboard player. For some reason I find it hard to categorize this music. It's closest to singer songwriter, but with a more 60's vibe. If you can imagine the barrelhouse keyboard player in a saloon in the old west playing occasionally funky, mellow 60's music with piano, hammond organ and'll get the idea. Although, the harpsichord is mostly missing on this set.

Lee had a real talent for writing really nice melancholic ballad-y tracks and he continues here with "What Now America" & "I'll Think l'll Cry, however the best track for the newcomer to start on is the Hammond organ driven "Day Of Change" which is probably the easiest track on the Lp to latch on to.

Lee Michaels - 1969 - Lee Michaels

Lee Michaels 
Lee Michaels

01. Medley 20:29
Tell Me How Do You Feel
(Don't Want No) Woman
My Friends
Think I'll Go Back
02. Stormy Monday 5:10
03. Who Could Want More 3:42
04. Want My Baby 2:58
05. Heighty Hi 5:57

Recorded June 2, 1969

Lee Michaels – lead vocals, organ, bass
Barry "Frosty" Smith – percussion

One of the masterpieces of the period, Lee Michaels was essentially recorded live in the studio by only Michaels (organ/bass pedals) and Frosty on drums. It's a fabulous performance and one of the finest R&B/rock sets of the period. The first side is comprised of a medley of soulful workouts that come out sounding not unlike Led Zeppelin. Here, Michaels pulls out all the stops (literally) and showcases the organ as a bona fide rock instrument. Despite the lengthy drum solo, it's one of the finest sides of Los Angeles rock & roll. Michaels also reprises "My Friends," a song from his first album, to great effect. Lee Michaels is also home to the good-time, pro-drug anthem "Highty Hi," as well as an awesome cover of "Stormy Monday." A true party platter.

All these years later I still love this album. If I had a dollar for every version of Stormy Monday that was ever recorded I would be rich. And a lot of those versions are damn good. Having said that I have never heard a better version then the one Lee recorded on this album. Lee displays what a powerful and incredible instrument the Hammond organ is in the right hands. He's got that thing firing on all cylinders and man, on Stormy Monday Lee will take you to church. Every time I play that song I have to crank it up.

I love the whole album, especially side 1 but it's Stormy Monday that defines this album for me. It just doesn't get any better!

Lee Michaels - 1968 - Recital

Lee Michaels 

01. If I Lose You 2:30
02. Time Is Over 3:34
03. No Part Of It 2:11
04. Fell In Love Today 1:54
05. Blind 2:53
06. Grocery Soldier 2:32
07. What Can He Do 0:42
08. Basic Knowledge 3:29
09. Gonna Leave 2:24
10. The War 3:15
11. Spare Change 7:25

Bass – Larry Knechtel
Drums – Frank Davis
Drums – John Barbata
Guitar – Drake Levin
Vocals, Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Bass – Lee Michaels

This is Lee Michaels' second album, and while his debut release, Carnival of Life, remains his strongest effort in my book, this second outing runs a close second. It is most notable for Michaels' expressive vocals and his brilliant overdubbing of various keyboards into each song (ie., Hammond organ, pipe organ, electric piano, grand piano, up-right piano, and harpsichord)to create a "keyboard wall of sound", and all of it without guitars, save the opening track of "If I Lose You", and which is notable for Drake Levin, late of Paul Revere and The Raiders, contributing some excellent licks. Like Carnival of Life, Recital's songs are mired in 60's psychedelica and sentiment, commenting on the Vietnam War, panhandling hippies, and altered states of consciousness. The songs still hold up, despite the dated themes, because of Michaels' inventive arrangements, multi-layered keyboard treatments, and soulful vocals. Highly recommended

Lee Michaels was a bit of a keyboard virtuoso popular in the Late 60's / Early 70's, although maybe a bit more on the fringe rather than part of the mainstream. This Lp features him on Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and briefly Pipe organ. It's somewhat singer songwriter in attitude, but more fuller, melodic and upbeat in a 60's sense. Side 2 is probably the best place to start checking this Lp out. Although I thought overall the whole Lp is great, it was an acquired taste and it took few listens to click. Spare Change" has a fantastic funky keyboard intro, somewhat wasted when it peters off into an oversimplified, overlong extended track...I still love that intro anyway.

A great upbeat track left over "Goodbye Goodbye" (..which really should have been on the Lp) was the B side of "The War" single and is worth hunting down.

Lee Michaels - 1968 - Carnival Of Life

Lee Michaels 
Carnival Of Life

01. Hello 4:24
02. Another One 4:08
03. StreetCar 3:35
04. Love 5:07
05. Carnival Of Life 3:00
06. Why 3:23
07. Tomorrow 4:33
08. Sounding The Sleeping 4:05
09. My Friends 2:40

Bass – John Keski
Drums – Eddie Hoh
Guitar – Hamilton W. Watt
Organ – Gary Davis
Piano, Organ, Harpsichord, Vocals – Lee Michaels

Lee Michaels' debut studio album Carnival of Life includes nine tracks which are all pretty nice but nothing totally mindblowing. The sound of this record is organ driven psych rock style with some pop-psych elements here and there. I dig the sound of these guys but the problem is the songwriting which is decent at best.

This album was quite something back in the late '60s. Lee's large vocal range and his Hammond organ work (along with piano and harpsichord) was pretty awesome. And the band with Hamilton W. Watt III on guitar (full of huge slabs of tightly controlled fuzz) along with the impressive drumming of "Fast" Eddie Hoh (who recently passed) who also played on Tim Buckley's "Goodbye And Hello" album, along with Jimmy Bond on bass, and an added guitarist give this set some good period excitement. Even the lighter songs have a certain something that makes this album a perfect example of late '60s rock. And check the cover photo of Michaels--another example of the late '60s.

Carnival Of Life, I'll bet, is one of those albums that grazed across very early FM radio for a few months, before the formats became more streamlined, back when the "underground" was really only 500 or so albums.

It's got soul influenced, pre-progressive organ jams, with a little acid guitar, and Michael's voice riding someplace under the huge organ and the huge drums, which, I understand, were played by a huge guy named Frosty.

Carnival Of Life also has a muddy sound--which I like. It almost takes on a FM 3am dream quality-the type of music you THINK you heard, a long, long time ago, maybe at a 1968 party at 3am. Maybe studying in your dorm with your hip roommate, the one with all the "groovy" records. Maybe doing something else with your hip roommate. Use your 1968 imagination. Did you EVER hear this music? Did it even exist?

Yeah, it did. Still does. If you're ever curious about the underbelly of the underground or want to hear some of the music the world has completely forgotten--except for a record sleeve eating crazy like me--check Carnival Of Life out