Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Lee Michaels Massive CD Box Set Coming!
Nobody sounded like Michaels during his critical and commercial peak, circa 1968-72, and nobody else has come close since. Sadly, much of Michaels’ back catalog has remained difficult, if not impossible to track down on CD except for Fifth, which had yielded a pair of hits, including the timeless “Do You Know What I Mean” (#6 on the Billboard singles chart) and Michaels’ cover of the Marvin Gaye hit “Can I Get A Witness” (peaking at #39). In the absence of readily-available CDs, fans and collectors like the Reverend have been digging through used LP bins to find vintage Michaels’ albums on vinyl.
Start saving your pennies, Lee Michaels fans, ‘cause we’ll be getting an early Christmas present on November 20th, 2015 when Manifesto Records releases The Complete A&M Album Collection, a seven-disc box set of the singer’s complete run for the label. For those yet to be sold on Michaels’ charms, Manifesto will also be releasing Heighty Hi – The Best of Lee Michaels, a 20-song CD featuring just Michaels’ hits, including “Do You Know What I Mean,” “Keep The Circle Turning,” and “Heighty Hi.”
With the release of Michaels’ self-titled 1969 album, though, he’d hit upon the formula that would bring him a modicum of commercial success. Accompanied only by drummer Frosty, Michaels delivered a sizzling set of R&B infused rock ‘n’ roll with inventive keyboard work and percussion. The following year’s Barrel followed a similar musical blueprint as its predecessor, although guitarist Drake Levin contributed to several songs. Both albums displayed meager commercial prospects, charting in the middle of the Billboard Hot 100.
Michaels was making great music, but fighting constantly with his label, the allegedly “artist friendly” A&M wanting more return on their investment. Given one more chance, Michaels responded to the label’s demand for a hit single with an album of R&B covers and original songs that sounded like 1960s-era R&B hits. The result was 1971’s Fifth, which included the biggest hit of Michaels’ career in “Do You Know What I Mean” alongside songs like B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” and the Johnny Otis classic “Willie & the Hand Jive.” Provided a bit of momentum courtesy of his Top 20 charting album, Michaels went in a completely opposite direction with 1972’s Space & First Takes, a four-song collection of psychedelic hard rock that featured two lengthy 15-minute jams with Michaels’ downplaying the keyboards to play guitar alongside Levin.
Leaving A&M, Michaels was signed by Clive Davis and Columbia Records, which would release two subsequent albums – 1973’s Nice Day For Something and 1974’s Tailface – both of which would sink like a stone without promotion when Davis’s departure from Columbia cost Michaels the support of his biggest supporter at the label. Michaels would record just one more album, the independently-produced Absolute Lee, in 1982. Michaels largely retired from music at the time, later finding success as an entrepreneur with his popular Killer Shrimp restaurants.
There’s no listing for Michael’s The Complete A&M Album Collection on Amazon.com as of yet, and I couldn’t find album cover art for the box, but for long-suffering Lee Michaels fans, this is going to be the box set of the year!