Buffalo Springfield, took root and found their success in the L.A. music
scene but Mike and Tom disliked Los Angeles and continued to wander; this
time back to the Midwest, to a farm-like hideaway outside Kansas City.
It was an area steeped in history from Jesse James to Charlie Parker and
seemed to suit them well. Here they would find the time and space to
compose music that was honest and reflected a lifestyle of their own.
The wide-open spaces allowed the music to grow.
The business reins were
taken up by Kansas City-based Good Karma Productions. After some
initial rejections, the pair would sign with Buddah's Kama Sutra Records,
becoming labelmates of The Lovin' Spoonful, Sha Na Na, Melanie and others.
They also began to tour midwestern colleges and that select list of folk
clubs that nurtured so many of their contemporaries. The Bitter End in
New York, The Cellar Door in Washington D.C., The Main Point in Philly, The
Troubadour in L.A.. The first Kama Sutra release Weeds spouted the FM
radio classic "Witchi Tai To", which, with its hypnotic Indian chant, became
a crowd favorite and their permanent show closer.
Their traveling spirit
continued to permeate the music they wrote. They toured often over a
particular stretch of highway through northwestern Missouri that connected
numerous small college towns, including an early date at The Mule Barn in
Tarkio, Missouri. That route became known as their "Tarkio Road".
It was a mother! Along with its share of hair-raising tales of redneck
encounters and nosy police, slapstick mishaps and bad sound systems, the two
long-haired troubadours also found acceptance for their songwriting talents
and took advantage of the otherwise friendly midwestern climes to hone their
music. Their biggest single success, the marijuana spiritual, "One
Toke Over The Line" was whimsically written after a club show one night in
Kansas City; thanks, in part to some inspiration from opening act Chet
Nichols, who is also heard here jamming on the harp during the encore.
"Fifty States of Freedom" (with its many Holiday Inns) "Oh Mommie, I Ain't
No Commie" (with its wry social comments) "I Don't Wannna Die In Georgia
("About our basic fear of the Deep South," explains Tom.) and "Crested
Butte" (about their favorite Colorado retreat) all reflected their times and
"One Toke Over The Line"
became not only a huge radio hit single, but the subject of a major national
controversy over song lyrics on the radio. It is a subject that
persists today. The FCC, inflamed by the rhetoric of Vice President
Spiro Agnew and others, made veiled threats to radio stations that playing
songs like "One Toke" might endanger the renewal of their license to
broadcast. The song was peaking at number one in some markets while
being pulled off the air in others. As a result, it froze at number
seven on the Billboard charts before descending in the April of 1971.
Some band supporters suggested the group sue the FCC for restraint of trade.
In spite of the threats, the song became a irresistible sing-a-long and
earned a permanent place in American pop culture, faring better than Agnew,
who resigned in disgrace.
The duo's star rose with
that hit and the top-40 follow up "Tarkio Road". The next album,
Shake Off The Demon had only a brief chart run. But the duo were
now also recognized for their smooth ballad sounds and their gift for
interpretation. Their cover of Jesse Winchester's "Yankee Lady"
charted in 1973, about the time these live recordings were made. That
gift is further illustrated by these takes on "All Along The Watchtower",
which in spite of its oft-quoted status sounds as fresh and powerful as
ever. The Band-like reading of "The Mighty Quinn" and their
traditional show opener for many years, Blind Lemon Jefferson's stark "One
Kind Favor". This track features the mournful bass of John Kahn, a
part made all the more poignant by his passing in 1996. Kahn and
pianist Mark Naftalin were the players of choice on all the groups Kama
Sutra albums. But they were not prone to leave the studio to tour, so
after the first two tracks, with ex-Zappa drummer Billy Mundi on "Mighty
Quinn", it is Brewer & Shipley's Missouri-based band lead by the sparkling
electric guitar work of Larry Knight that is being heard on these
Today, Mike and Tom still
make rare live appearances, usually as an acoustic duo, continuing to offer
up their patented vocal sound. However, when not working, they can be
more often found at their favorite fishing holes in southern Missouri's
placid Ozark Mountains.
This combination of their
best original songs and classic interpretations is truly a complete
collection of what every Brewer & Shipley fan wants. It defines their
career and proves that their live show was, in fact, the best way to hear
them. Most of these recordings come from shows in Kansas City's
legendary Cowtown Ballroom. Within it's intimate confines, two
thousand ardent fans could commune almost personally with their favorite
groups. There are also two cuts each from shows at the Cellar Door in
Washington D.C. and the venerable Keil Opera House in St. Louis.
All the tracks were
recorded on the Record Plant's first mobile unit. The tapes were
originally part of a series of radio concerts, recorded at Cowtown Ballroom
from late January to April of 1973, and broadcast to the top-40 U.S. markets
and London that summer. Other groups in the series included Paul
Butterfield, The Byrds, B.B. King, Foghat, Loudon Wainright III and the
duo's management stablemates, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Fortunately, the tapes were not only well-recorded, but stored carefully,
then lovingly mixed at A&M's studios by Steve Barncard, who engineered the
original studio versions of many of these songs under producer Nick
Gravenitas. This was Barncard's chance to revisit these chestnuts with
modern tools. Mastered by Grateful Dead Hour producer David Gans, the
album boasts a sound quality that could have been recorded last week.
After nearly 25 years, this is the first and only live album from one of
America's consummate vocal and acoustic duos and is arguably the best album