"One Hit Wonder" is an epithet usually pinned on artists whose entire catalog is one song deep. But the term is also applied to those whose lifelong artistry finds but momentary alignment with popular taste - the flashbulb of acclaim illuminating only the surface of a deep reservoir of music. Such was the case for Brewer & Shipley. Their breakthrough hit, "One Toke Over the Line," catapulted them to fame, yet their music careers neither began nor ended with this success.
Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley had been kicking around the Los Angeles folk scene for several years when their third album produced their only top-ten hit, "One Toke Over the Line." The controversy stirred by the song's lyrics prompted tremendous media exposure (a pre-resignation Spiro Agnew called the duo "subversive to American youth," while Lawrence Welk performed the song as neo-gospel), but it didn't translate into further chart success. When the spotlight faded, the duo continued to record superb albums throughout the 70s, blending country, rock, blues and folk with their perfectly matched harmonies. Four of their LPs were cherry-picked for this set, featuring guests like Michael Bloomfield, Jerry Garcia, Nicky Hopkins, Red Rhodes, John Cippollina, and Nick Gravenites.
Highlights on this fourteen-song collection include several tracks from the "Tarkio Road" album that spawned the hit, including the stellar folk-blues of the title track, the inner-travelogue, "Fifty States of Freedom," and the country-folk "Oh Mommy." Their country-folk sound is also heard on the opener, "People Love Each Other," taken from their second LP, "Weeds." Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" gains a unique edge from the duo's harmony singing, and Jesse Winchester's "Yankee Lady" fits perfectly with the overall feel of their original compositions.
Brewer & Shipley's music was clearly deeper than the one hit that penetrated the confines of Top 40 radio. This collection is a great introduction to the rest of their (mostly out-of-print) catalog.
4-1/2 stars, if Amazon allowed fractional ratings.