Lee Michaels - Hammond B-3 organ, vocals
Bartholomew "Frosty" Smith-Frost - drums
This recording captures the last half hour of an exciting set, when Lee Michaels headlined at Fillmore West days after the release of his forth album, Barrel. Arguably the most creative time of his stage career, Michaels belts out some of the best material from his first four albums. It's just Michaels on the B-3 and his cohort, Frosty on drums, but together they create a massive sound. Michaels wields the organ like Hendrix did the guitar; like a weapon unleashing barrages of sound, with Frosty pounding out the tempo as well as adding counterpoint to Michaels' progressions.
The recording opens with one of the finest songs ever written for showcasing the organ, T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday." Michaels' version is powerful and blazing with energy. This clearly showcases his best attributes and gives one a clear picture of where he was heading as a live performer. The next two tracks, "Hello" and "Streetcar" are the welcome surprises here, as these songs were the highlights of his debut album, Carnival Of Life. That album was recorded at the height of psychadelia and featured full band accompaniment as well as studio tricks, which makes these stripped down arrangements all the more intriguing. If anything, these takes are heavier for it and Lee's performance is captivating. These songs would rarely be performed in coming years.
Much the same can be said for "Time Is Over," a track from Michaels' sophomore LP, Recital. This song still retains the fervent cry it did in the studio take, but has even more impact with just the two musicians creating a monstrous sound between them.
"Thumbs," Michaels' musings about the Vietnam War, has an intensity level that is palpable and it's obvious why this song would remain in his live repertoire for years to come. It stands the test of time and remains poignant today. Michaels closes the set with a funky romp through an arrangement of "Tell Me How Do You Feel," the track that would later be expanded into a medley and open his self-titled third album.
Michaels would achieve greater recognition over the next few years, first with "Hieghty Hi" becoming an underground radio staple, followed by a Top Ten hit with "Do You Know What I Mean," both songs he originally considered throwaways. As the 1970s progressed, Michaels increasingly suffered from tinnitus, which would eventually prevent him from being able to play his wailing Hammond B-3 in concert and sadly lead to his retirement from touring. However, at this Fillmore West concert, he and Frosty were at the top of their game and crossing musical boundaries with great flare.