Brewer & Shipley

Weeds

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Two 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. Nice insert with lyrics accompanies the vinyl disc.

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