Biography by Steve Huey
California duo Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley began their careers separately on the 1960s Los Angeles folk club circuit
before teaming up to write and perform together. Their song "Keeper of the Seven Keys" was recorded by H.P. Lovecraft
and also appeared on their 1968 debut, Down in L.A. Their second album, Weeds, featured guest appearances by Jerry Garcia,
Mike Bloomfield, and Nicky Hopkins. In 1971, the duo 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. Brewer recorded the solo album Beauty Lies in 1983.
At the request of a Kansas City radio station, Brewer & Shipley reunited for a concert in 1989 and began touring occasionally.
In 1995, the duo released their first album in almost 20 years, Shanghai. Heartland followed two years later.
years before their hit "One Toke Over the Line," Brewer and Shipley released an excellent folk album entitled Weeds,
produced by the redoubtable Nick Gravenites, who was soon to become the lead singer of Big Brother & the Holding Company,
and who had penned a couple of songs for Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ole' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama album released the same
year as this LP, 1969. With Mike Bloomfield on guitar as well, this is actually part of the Electric Flag backing up Michael Brewer
and Tom Shipley, and their almost pensive performance of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" is not only fine, but you can
actually hear and understand all the words! "Indian Summer" is sublime; it is magical with Richard Greene's fiddle working
against the sprinkling piano lines, a real gem among the many in these Weeds. A Native American on horse looking skyward
under the words "Our Thanks" is a very subtle thank you to their higher power — nice indeed. The late Nicky Hopkins is a guest
star on keyboards, as is Phil Ford on tabla, and the ten tracks are all accessible, but there is one that is as much a standout as
the duo's aforementioned "Indian Summer," that tune being the second cover on Weeds, Jim Pepper's much loved underground
classic "Witchi-tai-to." This version is more up-tempo than the original, and dwells on Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane" riff to balance the
incessant mantra and blending voices. The guitars are very Flamin' Groovies: sparkling, trebley, and pretty. This is music right out
of the Velvet Underground's Loaded or 1969 albums, and should be absorbed by that group's obsessive fans, as well as fans of
bands like Big Brother & the Holding Company and other purveyors of the West Coast sound. At close to seven minutes it is
certainly an anomaly for the label which released the spirited folk/pop of The Lovin' Spoonful. The ten striking black-and-white
photos inside the gatefold are as in tune as the pleasant "People Love Each Other," which opens side two. Given the legendary
status of the producer and fellow musicians, the choice of material, and their own eventual chart success, Weeds is an often
forgotten folk album of fine distinction.
Notable not just for the inclusion of "One Toke Over the Line" but also for the great back porch stoned ambience of the entire
recording, this 1970 effort from the band is ripe with dope references and subversive humor. Not that it ever takes away from
the excellent country-style playing that pops up all over the record. Jerry Garcia lends a hand with the pedal steel and it's a
welcomed sound. During the course of the album, you get highlights like "Song from Platte River" (where the boys lament the
loss of their freedoms and feel a kinship with folks like General Custer and Abraham Lincoln) and the spectral "Ruby on the Morning."
Add in "One Toke Over the Line" amidst freedom-friendly tracks like "Oh, Mommy" and "Don't Want to Die in Georgia," and you've
got an album that speaks out to anyone who has ever felt threatened by "the Man."