Lee Michaels – Heighty Hi / the Best of (review)

Lee Michaels – Heighty Hi – The Best of Lee Michaels (Manifesto) review

This set proves that Michaels was a lot more than an “one-hit-wonder”

There are dozens of artists from the 1960’s & 70’s who released many high-charting albums, yet are only remembered for a single song, thus earning the title of “one-hit-wonder.” One such artist is Lee Michaels, and a new collection from Manifesto Records proves that there was a lot more to the organist/vocalist than his lone hit, “Do You Know What I Mean,” from 1971.
Sure, Michaels cracked the Top Ten Singles chart exactly once, but he also managed to place four albums in the Billboard Top 100 Albums – so, there was definitely more to the story than one song.

The biggest surprise here is the diversity: “If I Lose You” is pure pop psychedelia – and should’ve been a hit, while “Carnival of Life” sounds like early prog-rock with muscle – kinda like a combination of Yes and Led Zeppelin. “Who Could Want More” has an earthy, funk groove that recalls early Joe Cocker, while “Goodbye, Goodbye” is a great rocker, yet was only available previously as a b-side.

There are a few cuts which date this material, especially “The War” – with its sound effects at the end, but “What Now America” is better, with Michaels giving it a soulful delivery. Then, there’s “Heighty Hi,” which features numerous references to overt drug use.

“Do You Know What I Mean” has never sounded better in this remastered form. Michaels reportedly hated this track, the story of love gone wrong. It’s lost none of its power over the years. The only song that really sounds like a he’s repeating himself is his cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness,” which is similar in arrangement to “Do You Know What I Mean.

Lee Michaels emerged from the same San Francisco music scene that birthed bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Heighty Hi gives us an opportunity to give a second look to an under appreciated artist. —Tony Peters