Lee Michaels – Recital (1968)

frontcover1After a somewhat uneven debut album, Lee Michaels found his footing on this record. Michaels, a keen student of R&B as well as classical music, was obviously able to wrangle a bit more artistic control at A&M, and it shows. Overdubs of piano, harpsichord, and organ by Michaels created a wonderful sonic depth, and along with John Barbata’s solid drumming, the result is staggering. Michaels was not exactly a singer/songwriter, but on this record, songs such as “Blind” and “Fell in Love Today” find a real voice for his R&B leanings. The record also contains the fabulous single “If I Lose You,” which should have been a Top 40 hit. In the end, Recital is a very funky pop album that was ahead of its time. (by Matthew Greenwald)

RECITAL is Lee Michaels second album, released on vinyl as A&M SP 4152. There are still some guitar solos, but this time out Lee is in the foreground playing harpsichord, organ and piano while belting out blues vocals with uptempo percussion. “Spare Change” is an instrumental experiment which is fascinating. Other great cuts are “The War,” “Grocery Soldier” and “If I Lose You.” This one was more of a critical than commercial success, but definitely worthwhile.(by an amazon customer)

Truth be told, this isn’t my favorite Lee Michaels production. In fact, it’s not even in second or third place. I’d rank Lee’s best to be ‘Fifth’, followed by his self-titled third album, followed by ‘Live’, a two disc vinyl release. That being said, how many 1960’s lee-michaelsartists made effective, prolific use of the harpsichord? Only an odd guy named Lurch who sat behind the pearly whites once a week comes to mind. Still, it’s the presence of the harpsichord and occasional piano displacing Lee’s compelling Hammond B3 organ runs that lowers my opinion of this, Lee’s sophomore effort from 1968. When I’m in the mood for some Lee Michaels, I’m in the mood for some thick, solid, boisterous organ propping up Lee’s wailing, bluesy vocals.

On the upside, Lee probably hits deeper notes with his lyrics on this release than he typically does. In fact, the flaming anti-Vietnam War rhetoric from ‘The War’ is some of the most scathing and provoking imagery of the era. Consider “How would you like to spend five years in jail for refusing to fight the war… How would you like to watch a baby burn, could you march on and kill one more?” The second track, ‘Time Is Over’ presents an appealing chorus of “Look at your wishes, remember they’re all that remain, and you will learn to love all of your fantasies”. Lee’s soulful, overdubbed wails accompany the lyrics over light and fragile harpsichord runs. Another lyrical coup is scored, oddly enough, on the 42 second blip known as ‘What Can He Do?’, which questions how a plain clothes cop can cope when “the whole world’s out on bail”? (Don Schmittdiel)

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Lee Michaels in 1971

Personnel:
John Barbata (drums)
Frank Davis (drums)
Larry Knechtel (bass)
Drake Levin (guitar)
Lee Michaels (keyboards, vocals, bass)

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Tracklist:
01. If I Lose You (Marks/Michaels) 2.21
02. Time Is Over (Michaels) 3.34
03. No Part Of It (Michaels) 2.11
04. Fell In Love Today (Michaels) 1.54
05. Blind (Michaels) 2.53
06. Grocery Soldier (Michaels) 2.32
07. What Can He Do (Michaels) 0.42
08. Basic Knowledge (Michaels) 3.29
09. Gonna Leave (Michaels) 2.24
10. The War (Michaels) 3.15
11. Spare Change (Michaels) 7.25

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More Lee Michaels:

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