Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This White Hot Stamper side one of our beloved Tarkio, Brewer and Shipley’s Folk Rock Masterpiece, is without a doubt the BEST SOUND we have ever heard on any pressing bar none. This side sets a standard that no other copy on any side could touch. True, we awarded a Triple Plus grade to an amazing side two copy, but this side one is still the better of the two. We could easily have called it Four Pluses but chose to go with the simpler A+++ and this explanation.

However you frame it, this side is OFF THE CHARTS in a big way. It’s amazingly rich, yet clear and transparent as any we played — what a combination!

This, like Dark Side and so many other White Hot Stamper records we offer to the discriminating audiophile, is ANALOG at its finest. To our knowledge there hasn’t been a single record mastered in the last thirty years with this kind of sound, and we know whereof we speak: we’ve played them by the hundreds.

A Desert Island Disc for me with wonderfully NATURAL sound. This copy had the ULTIMATE Side One (A+++) and a very competitive Side Two (A++), making it the King of our Shootout. If you love this record as much as you should, this is the copy to own. I would love to keep it for my desert island, but we know there is surely a deserving soul out there who will treasure it as much as I do, and probably play it a lot more often, so if you know the album at all this is your chance at greatness. (And I still haven’t found a desert island I’m all that partial to anyway.)

Not Really One Toke Over the Line

Please don’t assume that this album has much in the way of uptempo country rockers like One Toke Over the Line, Flying Burrito Brothers style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically every other song on the album is better, almost all of them are taken at a slower pace, with none of them having the “poppy” arrangement of that carefully calculated Top Forty hit. The rest of the music on the album, the music you probably don’t know, is much better than the music that you do know if what you know is that song.

Sonic Elements

This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has a lot in common with The Grateful Dead circa Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty (the latter recorded by the same engineer, Stephen Barncard), and like those superbly well-recorded albums, it lives or dies by the reproduction of its acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies.

Analog richness, sweetness and Tubey Magic are elements absolutely indispensable to the sound of these recordings. Without them you might as well be playing a CD. (Some of the reissue pressings actually do sound like CDs and are not part of the shootouts for this album anymore. Who wants a record that sounds like a CD? They may be pressed on vinyl but they’re no less an embarrassment to analog for it. As you can imagine we feel the same way about most of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. They’re just embarrassing.)

The best pressings, on the other hand, are everything that’s good about the analog medium — smooth, sweet, relaxed and involving. You had best have a fast cartridge and not overly rich electronics to get the most out of this one. The richness on this record is already baked-in; no need to add more.

Side One

A+++ (or A++++ if you like), every bit as good as we said! Exceptionally quiet too.

Side Two

A++, with lovely clarity and lack of distortion. It’s present, with no smear, and Tubey Magical, but you will notice that side one is somewhat richer, and for that we docked it one plus. It will seriously trounce nine out of ten copies anyway, and side one will simply be unbeatable no matter how many copies you throw at it.

Years in the Making

This shootout has been a long time coming — our last one was in 2007! — for two reasons that every record guy and gal can relate to: bad sound and bad surfaces. So many copies of this album are noisy. Even the few that have survived being played by the average pot-smoking music lover, records with no obvious visible signs of abuse from the Garrards and ARs of the day, tend to be pressed on vinyl that leaves much to be desired.

Kama Sutra/ Buddah Records, home to The Lovin’ Spoonful, was no major label. It was a small independent just trying to survive. Audiophile pressing quality was simply not in the budget. Fortunately for us analog types they put good money behind high quality session players and state-of-the-art 16 track recording technology at Wally Heider’s renowned studio in San Francisco.

Robert Ludwig — No Guarantee of Good Sound

Even though the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth on most copies. The best copies have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the “right” stampers; they often let us down and they can really let us down hard. But this stamper, when it was right, had an extension on the top that no other copy could match. (The Robert Ludwig mastered Band second albums are the same way. Most have no top but boy, when they do, the magic you hear is phenomenal.)

The sound of the better pressings can be wonderfully silky and sweet, with absolutely no trace of phoniness to be found. If you have the kind of high resolution system that can pull the information out of these grooves, you are in for a real treat.

Barncard Rocks

Stephen Barncard, the recording engineer on Tarkio, is a genius. He’s the man behind one of the ten best sounding rock recordings we have ever played, If Only I Could Remember My Name. The Tubey Magic on Deja Vu has to be all his; Halverson on the first album doesn’t get that sound remotely as well as Barncard does on the second.

AMG Review

Notable not just for the inclusion of “One Toke Over the Line” but also for the great back porch stoned ambience of the entire recording, this 1970 effort from the band is ripe with dope references and subversive humor. Not that it ever takes away from the excellent country-style playing that pops up all over the record.

Jerry Garcia lends a hand with the pedal steel and it’s a welcomed sound. During the course of the album, you get highlights like “Song from Platte River” (where the boys lament the loss of their freedoms and feel a kinship with folks like General Custer and Abraham Lincoln) and the spectral “Ruby on the Morning.”

Add in “One Toke Over the Line” amidst freedom-friendly tracks like “Oh, Mommy” and “Don’t Want to Die in Georgia,” and you’ve got an album that speaks out to anyone who has ever felt threatened by “the Man.”

Discography

BREWER & SHIPLEY DISCOGRAPHY

Down In L.A.-1968-A&M SP-4154

Vocals & Guitars: Mike Brewer-Tom Shipley
Strings & Horns: Nick DeCaro
Drums: Jim Gordon-Hal Blaine
Percussion: Milt Holland-Mike Brewer-Tom Shipley
Bass: Lyle Ritz-Jim Messina-Joe Osborn
Electric Piano: Russell Bridges
Organ: Russell Bridges-Mike Melvoin
Electric Guitar & Harp: Lance Wakely
Produced By: Allen Stanton & Jerry Riopelle

Songs

Truly Right
She Thinks She’s A Woman
Time And Changes
Small Town Girl
I Can’t See Her
Green Bamboo
An Incredible State Of Affairs
Keeper Of The Keys
Love Love
Dreamin’ In The Shade(Down In L.A.)
Mass For M’Lady


Weeds-1969-Kama Sutra KSBS-2016

Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Shakers & Vibra-slap: Michael Brewer
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, & Twelve-string: Tom Shipley
Electric Guitar: Michael Bloomfield
Piano & Organ: Mark Naftalin
Organ & Piano: Ira Kamin
Bass: John Kahn
Bass: Robert Huberman
Drums: Bob Jones
Electric Guitar: Fred Olsen
Pedal Steel Guitar: Orville “Red” Rhodes
Fiddle: Richard Greene
Harmonica: Apple Jack
Congas: Rienol Andino
Tabla: Phil Ford
Piano: Nicky Hopkins
Produced by: Nicky Gravy
Recorded at: Golden State Recorders, San francisco & Crystal Studios, Los Angeles.

Songs

1.-Lady Like You
2.-Rise Up (Easy Rider)
3.-Boomerang
4.-Indian Summer
5.-All Along The Watchtower
6.-People Love Each Other
7.-Pigs Head
8.-Oh Sweet Lady
9.-Too Soon Tomorrow
10.-Witchi-tai-to.


Tarkio-1970-Kama Sutra KSBS-2024

Guitars & Vocals: Mike Brewer-Tom Shipley
Piano & Organ: Mark Naftalin
Bass & Wah-Wah: John Kahn
Electric Guitar: Fred Burton
Drums: Bill Vitt
Drums: Bob Jones
Flute: Noel Jewkes
Pedal Steel Guitar: Jerry Garcia
Chorus: Diane Tribuno-Nick Gravenites-Danny Cox
Produced By: Nick Gravenites
Recorded At: Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco

Songs

1.-One Toke Over The Line
2.-Song From Platte River
3.-The Light
4.-Ruby On The Morning
5.-Oh Mommy
6.-Don’t Want To Die In Georgia
7.-Can’t Go Home
8.-Tarkio Road
9.-Seems Like A Long Time
10.-Fifty States Of Freedom.


Shake Off The Demon-1971-Kama Sutra KSBS-2039

Acoustic & Electric Guitar, Piano, Mouth Harp, Percussion & Vocals: Mike Brewer
Acoustic & Electric Guitar, Bass, Banjo & Vocals: Tom Shipley
Bass: John Kahn
Piano, Organ & Vibes: Mark Naftalin
Electric & Slide Guitars on “Shake Off The Demon”: John Cippollina
Drums: Spencer Dryden
Drums: “Little John” Harteman III
Drums: Glen Walters
Congas, Bongos & Timbales: Jose “Chepita” Areas
Produced By: Michael Brewer & Tom Shipley
Recorded At: Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco

Songs

1.-Shake Off The Demon
2.-Merciful Love
3.-Message From The Mission(Hold On)
4.-One By One
5.-When Everybody Comes Home
6.-Working On The Well
7.-Rock Me On The Water
8.-Natural Child
9.-Back To The Farm
10.-Sweet Love


Rural Space-1972-Kama Sutra KSBS-2058

Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Vocals, Foot Tambourine, 12 String Guitar, Electric Guitar & Bells: Mike Brewer
Bass, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, 12 String Guitar & Electric Guitar: Tom Shipley
Drums & Percussion: Billy Mundi
Drums: Prarie Prince
Electric Guitars: Fred Burton
Bass: John Kahn
Drums: Bill Vitt
Piano & Accordion: Mark Naftalin
Soprano Saxophone: Phil Howe
Pedal Steel Guitar: Buddy Cage

The Turk Murphy Band
Trombone: Turk Murphy
Clarinet: Phil Howe
Coronet: Leon Oakley
Tuba: James Maihack
(Horn Arrangements By: John Kahn)
Produced By: Michael Brewer & Tom Shipley
Recorded At: Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco

Songs

1.-Yankee Lady
2.-Sleeping On The Way
3.-When The Truth Finally Comes
4.-Where Do We Go From Here
5.-Blue Highway
6.-Fly Fly Fly
7.-Crested Butte
8.-Got To Get Off The Island
9.-Black Sky
10.-Have A Good Life.


ST-11261-1974-Capitol ST-11261

Produced By: John Boylan
Vocals, Guitars, Tamborine, Shakers, Percussion, ARP Synthesizer: Michael Brewer
Vocals, Guitars: Tom Shipley
Drums: Gary Mallaber
Bass: Doug Haywood
Guitars: Jesse Ed Davis
Piano: Michael Omartian
Piano, ARP Synthesizer : John Boylan
Pedal Steel Guitar: Buddy Emmons
Tenor Sax, First Flute: Bud Shank
Baritone Sax, Second Flute: Bill Perkins
Guitar, Congas: Larry Knight
Drums: Russ Kunkel
Pedal Steel Guitar: Sneaky Pete
Organ: Al Kooper
Harmonica: Steve Cash

Songs

1.-Fairplay
2.-It Did Me In
3.-Look Up,Look Out
4.-Shine So Strong
5.-How Are You?
6.-Eco-Catastrophe Blues
7.-Keeper of the Keys
8.-Bound To Fall
9.-Oh So Long
10.-Ballad of a Country Dog.


Welcome To Riddle Bridge-1975-Capitol ST-11402

Produced By: Norbert Putnam
Recorded at: Quadraphonic Sound Studios, Nashville, Tenn.
Vocals, Guitars, Percussion: Michael Brewer
Vocals, Guitars: Tom Shipley
Keyboards: David Briggs
Guitar: Reggie Young
Slide Guitar: Chris Leuzinger
Steel Guitar: Paul franklin
Dobro: Weldon Myrick
Drums, Percussion: Kenneth Buttrey
Harmonica: Charlie McCoy
Percussion: Farrell Morris
Chimes: Norbert Putnam
Moog Synthesizer: Shane Keister
Horns: Charles Rose-Ronnie Eads-Harvey Thompson-Harrison Calloway
Background Vocals: Mary Holladay-Ginger Holladay-Lea Jane Berinati

Songs

1.-Commercial Success
2.-Indian Summer
3.-On the Road in Kansas City
4.-Brighter Days
5.-So Satisfied
6.-Brain Damage
7.-Crying in the Valley
8.-Rock & Roll Hostage
9.-Don’t It Feel Like Heaven
10.-Hearts Overflowing.