Google "hippie" and "Brewer & Shipley" and you will find a lot of references to this act as a "hippie duo".
When I was young and when I first got this record (at the great University of Queensland Student Union Record Club sell-off of 1988) I assumed they were, indeed, a hippie act. It doesn't help that their big hit "One Toke over the Line" about smoking pot is something instantly identifiable with the hippie movement of the late 60s and early 70s.
Like wise, Hippie music by it's nature has to be rustic or at least pastoral. The "proper" San Francisco hippies are urban but pastoral in their outlook but then there were a lot of hippies that were rural and commune based and their music reflects that. This type of hippie music is usually rustic country rock or folk rock but with lyrics that are invested with the hippie escapist, retreatist (?) or perhaps non-confrontationalist "peace and love" themes.
"I never considered myself a hippie," commented Michael. "I was a young, married man paying taxes, working, pursuing a career. I wore the clothes of the time and had long hair — back when I had hair — but I never lived in a commune. I actually bathed and shaved."
Tom, however, had no problem with the label. "Back in the days when we were officially card-carrying hippies travelling cross-country and living out of our Volkswagen," he says, "I spent some time on a Hopi reservation out in the middle of Arizona. But I did not take acid and go running naked through any of their pueblos. And I bathed."
Well, maybe they were and maybe they weren't.
Worse still allmusic has tagged them as "Contemporary Christian / Folk-Pop / Jesus Rock / AM Pop / Contemporary Pop/Rock". Someone there must have been taking one toke over the line. Sure, Jesus makes an appearance in a song here and there, as do wells, cleansing water, messages on high, angels, demons and crucifixion references but this is (despite all that!) hardly "Christian music". Some of the back to the earth, get away from the city themes do overlap with the simple life and a faith in God songs so perhaps that's why they occasionally earn the "Christian rock" tag. Well, that and the fact they mention "sweet Jesus" in "One Toke over the Line". Likewise, there certainly are pop elements to the music but it is still no where as slick as The Eagles. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/brewer-shipley-mn0000935990
This is folk rock with country influences of country rock with folk influences. They are in the same camp as Crosby Stills Nash and Young, or at least Crosby Stills and Nash but with a dash of Arlo Guthire. On some of their other records they do, as their contemporaries did, experiment with sounds and grooves but generally on what I have heard thus far, including this album, they stick to the folk country rock.
Brewer and Shipley were products of the folk boom and then the same folk-rock scene that nurtured bands such as The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. What they had that some of their contemporaries did not have were the country influences of their Midwest upbringings.
Michael Brewer (born 1944, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and Tom Shipley (born 1941, Mineral Ridge, Ohio)were two Midwestern folkies who met Blind Owl Coffee House in Kent, Ohio in 1964. They were friendly and crossed paths over the next few years on the folk circuit until Shipley drifted in to LA in 1967 and bumped into Brewer (who had just been in folk rock act "Mastin & Brewer) and ended living around the corner from him. They teamed up as songwriters and wrote songs that were recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, H.P. Lovecraft, Noel Harrison, Glenn Yarbrough, The Poor, and Bobby Rydell. Their demo tapes sounded so good that they eventually hooked up a s a duo releasing their first album in 1968. They left California during 1969, returning to Kansas City, Missouri, where they made a living playing college towns.
allmusic: "In 1971, they scored a surprise Top Ten hit with "One Toke Over the Line," in spite of radio bans owing to the song's marijuana-oriented lyrics. Following this success, Brewer and Shipley moved to rural Missouri, but their appeal dwindled, and the partnership was dissolved in 1979". (actually 1980)
All songs Brewer & Shipley except where marked
Tracks (best in italics)
- Shake Off The Demon - a good start. There is quite a groove going here in a song about turning your back on war and violence. John Cipollina (of Quicksilver Messenger Service) provides electric and slide electric guitars.
- Merciful Love - quasi spiritual love song which is sounds like Tim Hardin if he was a
- Message From The Mission (Hold On) – now this is positive stuff and can be called hippy music though it can also be called country rock. Today this could sit well with any of the alt country groups.
- One By One - "we pick up the pieces and carry on".
- When Everybody Comes Home – a familiar theme
- Working On The Well – a country blues of sort. So so.
- Rock Me On The Water – (Jackson Browne) – A cover of the Jackson Browne song though Browne had not yet released it. It was on his 1972 debut album and a single also (#48, 1972). Apparently Browne was performing the song as early as autumn 1970 but it didn’t receive a single or album release until 1972. It was also covered by Johnny Rivers (1971), Linda Ronstadt (1972 – her single release predated Jackson Browne's single release by five months – her version reached #85).
- Natural Child - a song with some no psychedelic cajun thrown in.
- Back To The Farm - an ode to a return to the country and the simple life away from "heroin heroes" and "cocaine disciples"
- Sweet Love – "everybody should share the power of love". And the love I suspect isn't visceral.
This is a solid album. The best tunes are well crafted and catchy in the best of the country rock vocal harmony groups and the others are nothing short of listenable …. I'm keeping it.
1972 Shake Off The Demon #98
Shake Off The Demon
When Everybody Comes Home
Rock Me On The Water
- Wikipedia: "One Toke Over The Line" was performed on The Lawrence Welk Show, a television program known for its conservative, family-oriented format, by a duo known as "Gail and Dale." At the conclusion of the performance of the song, Welk remarked, without any hint of irony, "There you've heard a modern spiritual by Gail and Dale." This caused Michael Brewer to comment: "The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing and introduced it as a gospel song. That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brewer_%26_Shipley