Rolling Stone Magazine
June 6, 1974
After two disappointing self-produced albums for Kama Sutra, Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley’s Capitol debut marks their strongest outing since Tarkio, more than three ago. While it attenuates the rural flavor of its predecessors, the new album, smoothly produced by John Boylan, sustains the duo’s style: an acoustically based synthesis of California and Heartland influences. Like Loggins and Messina and Seals and Crofts, Brewer
and Shipley are super instrumental technicians, and their easy going music and uplifting lyrics aim for a grassroots, post-hippie audience.
While Brewer and Shipley never strain to formulate or express new values, they adroitly affirm familiar ones in an open manner that never preaches or patronizes. “Look Up, Look Out” and “EcoCatastrophe Blues” might suggest doomsday predictions with their images of the Four Horsemen and of “skin and bones linin’ up and payin’ dues.” Yet the vision of the Four Horsemen is one of salvation not threat. And they preface the second song with the disclaimer: “It’s far too much to take it all in / The things that I’m fearin’ are not sinking in.” Against the darker implications of these songs, Brewer and Shipley counterpose a jubilance that assumes “there’ll be happier days over yon horizon” (It Did Me In) and celebrate love as the natural outgrowth of personal freedom. The country-gospel hymn, “Fair Play,” proclaims: “Hallelujah I just caught my breath today.” And the shimmering “Keeper Of The Keys” voices belief that positive political change is imminent.
In the most compelling cut “How Are You,” Brewer and Shipley address us with this challenge: “Are you on the run? / Do you think it’s fun / Living out the lead in your passion play?” Their music helps make it fun – one of the good things good music can do.
~ Stephen Holden
Keeper Of The Keys
spite it's impersonal name,
contains some classic Brewer & Shipley material that have never received enough credit, starting with the acoustic masterpiece "Bound To Fall." Written by Michael Brewer and his first partner Tom Mastin in 1966, it never made it past a demo for the short-lived Mastin & Brewer. I am surprised that Brewer & Shipley passed on this song for their
Down In L.A.
debut album, as it would have fit perfectly. I rank it in my top ten favorite Brewer & Shipley songs. "It Did Me In" is a hauntingly beautiful song sent to the duo by a previously unknown Missouri songwriter named Mark Baysinger. "Shine So Strong" and "Oh So Long" again demonstrate Brewer & Shipley's wonderful ballad craftsmanship. The catchy "Eco-Catastrophe Blues" is a satirical look at a world "trapped by pollution, afraid of our food" and unfortunately is even more topical today.
"Fair Play", by the late Steve Canady of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils is a wonderful upbeat lead-in song to this album. "Keeper of The Keys" originally on their
Down In L.A.
album is given a nice update here, and "Ballad of A Country Dog" which closes the album is a really fun romp. Don't overlook this album of great songs.