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MAY 18, 1970
“Lee Michaels Plays Overtime”
Lee Michaels and his drummer Frosty drew a standing ovation and, due to audience demand, played encores for over an hour Friday night in a performance at the Civic Auditorium.

Michaels, billed as the greatest hippie musician in the world performed on his high pressure electrical organ and with wailing vocal sounds to the some 500 persons attending. The performance was to be concluded at midnight, but encores brought Michaels back until 1:00 a.m.

Michaels performed selections including Heidi High, War, You Should Be Happy and other rock tunes from his new album. Joining Michaels in the performance were two recording groups, Foremost Authority and World War III.

MAY 25, 1972
Lee Michaels’ sixth album,”Space & First Takes” on A&M is surprising in that he abandons the short tightly constructed songs for the extended jams AND plays guitar. Although Michaels’ has always had a large following in his Southern California stomping grounds, only with the success of two singles from his last album “5th” did he begin to sell out concert halls throughout the U.S.
The success started back in 1968 with a small hit “Heighty Hi” from his third album — a true crowd pleaser that made the youth audience feel that Lee was right on their level, much the way “If You Know What I Mean” did, The fourth record, “Barrel”, expanded a rapidly growing Lee Michaels cult, but the widespread acceptance reached a peak with the hits from “5th.”

Probably 99 percent of the albums that follow successful albums capitalize and continue the formula or at least expand the sound only slightly. What we have here is a new direction for Michaels, forgetting the AM radio standards without forsaking good music or losing that feel for the turbulent times of the young.

Michaels has been known to appear in concert with only himself on piano and a drummer. Boring as it may seem he pulls it off and can rock the combination with more gusto than many of the better than average rock groups.
On this latest effort there is much of that pounding, striding, straight chord piano playing, and although it has come to be his trademark, and is missed, there is enough left to let you know he still has it.

Last year the big story was his purchase of a $20,000 organ, and a few weeks later at a sellout concert at the Forum Michaels appeared on grand piano telling the crowd “I don’t like it any more.”

For years people have complained that he didn’t use enough guitar on his albums. “Space & First Takes” should take care of that. Drake Levin, formerly lead guitar for (don’t laugh) Paul Revere and the Raiders, adds some fine guitar work that falls right in line with the Michaels style.

Lee Michaels plays some guitar too, along with his keyboards, but it is hard to distinguish between his and Levin’s’ work. Since the album was basically recorded live in the studio and the credits state “Under Produced by Lee Michaels” perhaps the guitar heard when no piano or organ is going is Michaels.

Now to the songs. Two of the four are four to five minutes long with the single “Hold On To Freedom” displaying some of that famous barroom piano tinkling in the background. “Own Special Way” also follows his traditional power-boogie-sway style to some extent.

The real breakaways are the title cut, almost 17 minutes long, and “First Names,” over 13 minutes. The guitars chug right along behind the vocals that repeat the basic words in numbers of varying combinations. Michaels uses the guitars to give the same feeling the piano or organ formerly gave his songs. They propel the songs along using the same interaction with the drums while also constantly injecting strong breaks to fill out the textured structure.

Lee Michaels isn’t for everybody and with this release shows he isn’t trying to be. All dedicated Lee Michaels followers must pick this one up to hear his latest advancings and it is recommended for those brave souls open to new directions in music. It takes a few listenings to gain the full impact, and don’t expect a rehash of “5th.”

MAY 1, 1971
Musicians are just full of surprises. You get mentally ready to hear a big spiel on “My Current Musical Trip” and it doesn’t happen. But what does is far more interesting.

For example I met with Lee Michaels, ostensibly to hear about his new album for A&M. We ended up having a rather unsettling chat about nutritional habits and an enticing bit of talk about video tape. That was between hints on the care and feeding of the cats Lee and his wife Mary keep as pets: Mountain lions and cheetahs.
After four fairly successful albums on A&M Records (“Carnival of Life,” “Recital,” “Lee Michaels” and “Barrel”) Lee is a headliner, playing ballrooms and arenas in the major cities. He is unique in that he is not a guitar player and not a member of a large group. He has made his reputation on the keyboard, accompanied only by a drummer, and that reputation has brought him tremendous success as a performer.

Although he has never had a hit single, Michaels draws huge crowds and huge salaries for his live shows. In addition to the fact that he is known as an exciting performer to watch, his sound reproduction is touted as being just about the best available. He was one of the first acts to carry his own public address system..
HE WAS ALSO one of the first musicians to make a “one-man album.” Perhaps Paul McCartney and Emmit Rhodes may be better, known for it now, but several years ago, Michaels’ “Recital” album presented him doing all the instruments, all of the vocals, for the songs which he, of course, wrote.
So Lee came to Los Angeles from his home in Mill Valley north of San Francisco to do the final mix on his new album. Before he got down to specifics, we decided to have lunch at a vegetarian health-food restaurant.
I asked, only half-seriously, if he we’re a veggie. .

“No,” he replied, taking a breath to make an effective pause, “I’m worse.” Worse means that he not only doesn’t eat meat, but stays away from milk, cheese, eggs and a big no to the big enemy, yogurt. Also, no nuts.
Pleasantly, he is very patient with people like me, (There was cheese on my brown rice.) He says his health is excellent. “I used to weigh 195, now I weigh 155, and I never felt better.”

HIS DIET, he says, gives him the energy he needs to produce his fabled “energy exchange” during his performances. He loves performing, but, surprisingly, is one of the few entertainers I have spoken to who has had bad things to say about playing the college-concert circuit. “There’s always one kid who runs the show and he’s the one who is going to grow up to be the perfect American,” he says. “We have to specify in our contract that there be towels and heaters in the dressing rooms or else we don’t get them. Some guy pulls the contract out of his blazer pocket and says,’Where does
it say you get towels?’

Sometimes the colleges don’t pay for the shows, and sometimes the sound is so bad it’s impossible to give a good show, he says.

Michaels has been playing piano, but will soon return to the organ, the instrument most people associate with him. The new organ is being built with over a dozen amplifiers, capable of great volume without screech.

CURRENTLY competing with music for his attention is an orange truck containing color videotape equipment, with which Michaels is planning some interesting projects. The system is new to him, he had never done any filming before and isn’t intending to take any classes.

Adopting the philosophy that what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, he is experimenting and learning while doing. The results may be in cassettes, as supplements to his live shows. “It’s another expressive, creative trip! he says. “An extension of myself. I was really spending a lot of time with the videotape, so I had to discipline myself. I said I wasn’t going to touch it until the album was finished.”

The album will be out next month when Lee gets set to go out on the road again. The orange truck won’t be far behind.

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