Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley
The two tunes I bring you today can be filed as ‘familiar sounds from an unfamiliar source’.
Both of these songs are better known via their recording by other groups, but here they are presented by their authors, Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley.
Brewer and Shipley are themselves better known by their later recordings, like their 1971 hit ‘One Toke Over the Line’.
The two musicians had been bouncing around the LA scene in the mid-60s, writing and recording prior to their better known partnership.
They had composed (by themselves or as a pair) songs for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Byrds, Noel Harrison, the Poor, Glenn Yarbrough, HP Lovecraft and the Garden Club (basically a duet between Shipley and Ruthann Friedman).
I first heard ‘Truly Right’ on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1967 ‘Ricochet’ LP which also featured a couple of very early songs written by Jackson Browne. It quickly became a favorite (the group’s first two LPs are lost classics of mid-60s LA) but it was a while before I figured out that the composers of the song were THE Brewer & Shipley.
That same year, the Poor, featuring a young Randy Meisner, would record Shipley’s song ‘She’s Got the Time (She’s Got the Changes)’, one of the finest bits of Sunset Strip popsike ever made.
Flash forward a few years and I find out that Brewer and Shipley recorded their own LP in 1968 entitled’Down In LA’ and that it included their versions of the two songs mentioned above.
The approach is much more relaxed/Laurel Canyon hippy than the harder edged pop of the NGDB and the Poor.
‘Truly Right’, which opens with acoustic guitar gains speed gradually, with the bass and drums coming in a bit at a time, until the whole band is moving along (with some groovy electric piano – courtesy of Leon Russell – running underneath). Brewer and Shipley lay down some very nice harmonies.
‘Time and Changes’ (truncated title, same song) is taken at a mellower, less popsike pace than the Poor’s version, but the overall effect is excellent. As much as I love the Poor 45, the Brewer and Shipley version has that late-60s, LA harmony vibe that reminds me of some of the cooler CSNY tracks.
If you can get your hands on the ‘Down In LA’ album, grab it because it expands on the vibe, working in a little bit of country rock, all the songs presented by B&S’s great harmonies.
Oddly, by the time ‘Down In LA’ was released, Brewer and Shipley had departed from the coast and relocated to Kansas City, MO.
They went on to have a hit with ‘One Toke Over the Line’ and its LP ‘Tarkio’ in 1971.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all next week.