Brewer & Shipley – Weeds – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2017

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Reviews and Commentaries for Brewer and Shipley

It took two copies on two different labels to give you BETTER than Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the two sides of this 2-pack. These sides were beyond anything we had ever heard, with weight and Tubey Magic to put other records to shame. On the best copies the midrange is amazingly relaxed and natural, yet completely clear and present. This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has much in common with classic albums like Workingman’s Dead and CSN’s first.

Why two different records on two different labels to get top sound on both sides?

Simple: in our shootout no Robert Ludwig mastered side one on the original label sounded remotely as good as it did on the best pressings with the later label.

If you want the absolute best sound, this is the only way we can get it for you in 2017.

Please note: we award the Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic for it to use in the grading scale shown above. The two sides here show up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave them a fourth plus!

Our Four Plus (A++++) grade is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take the recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

Like the two albums referenced above (Workingman’s Dead and CSN’s first), Weeds lives or dies by the reproduction of its acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies.

Analog richness, sweetness and Tubey Magic are absolutely indispensable elements in the sound of these recordings. Without them you might as well be playing a CD. (Some of the worst pressings actually did sound like CDs in our shootout and quickly got tossed in the Trade In pile. 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.)

The best pressings, on the other hand, have all the elements that make the analog medium so enjoyable, with sound that is smooth, sweet, relaxed and involving.

Both Sides

Rich and sweet as any we heard, with exceptionally big bass which stays under control (unlike some copies which had a bad case of wooly bass).

The Tubey Magic on these sides is off the charts. The rich, full-bodied vocals are these side’s strong suit.

Four More Years

Our first shootout for Weeds took place in 2012, so this current listening session has clearly been a long time coming. There are two reasons for this, reasons that every record guy and gal can relate to: bad sound and bad surfaces.

Most copies of Weeds are scratched and beat, the kind of condition that is simply a non-starter for us here at Better Records. Most other copies of the album are a bit noisy. Even the few that have survived being played by the average pot-smoking music lover of the day (which is to say the average music lover), records that betray no obvious signs of abuse, tend to be pressed on vinyl that leaves much to be desired.

Kama Sutra/ Buddah Records, home to The Lovin’ Spoonful, was never going to be mistaken for a major label. It was a tiny independent just trying to survive from year to year. Audiophile pressing quality was not ever going to be in the budget.

Fortunately for us analog types they paid good money for high quality session players and state-of-the-art 16 track recording technology at two studios with good reputations for sound.

Robert Ludwig — No Guarantee of Good Sound

Even though all the pressings that have any hope of sounding good are the ones mastered by Robert Ludwig, they still have a tendency to be a bit dull, lacking in extreme top end, thicker and more opaque than one might wish. The recording itself is natural and smooth, so most of the copies we played were found wanting in the areas of harmonics, space and clarity.

The best copies have those missing highs (or most of them) and provide the transparency and clarity to hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

The sound on those killer copies is 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 out the information in these grooves, you are in for a real treat.

Our Famous 2-packs

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork which has been aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of wildly differently quality, in our experience it happens all the time. In fact it’s much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade. That’s just the way it goes in analog, where there’s no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.

Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you’ll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We’ll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don’t want to bother with the other sides you certainly won’t have to.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lady Like You 
Rise Up (Easy Rider) 
Boomerang 
Indian Summer 
All Along the Watchtower

Side Two

People Love Each Other 
Pig’s Head 
Oh, Sweet Lady 
Too Soon Tomorrow 
Witchi-tai-to

AMG Review

Two years before their hit “One Toke Over the Line,” Brewer and Shipley released an excellent folk album entitled Weeds, produced by the redoubtable Nick Gravenites… Weeds is an often forgotten folk album of fine distinction.

Background

Weeds was the second album by Brewer & Shipley and was released in 1969. The album was recorded at Golden State Recorders in San Francisco and produced by Nick Gravenites using the pseudonym “Nicky Gravy”. Gravenites assembled a group of highly respected musicians for the album recording sessions, including guitarist Mike Bloomfield, bassist John Kahn, pedal steel guitarist Red Rhodes, violinist Richard Greene and keyboardists Mark Naftalin and Nicky Hopkins.

The album was a moderate success, with the final track, “Witchi-Tai-To”, in particular receiving a lot of FM radio play. This exposure created a loyal underground following for the duo and set the stage for the commercial breakthrough they would enjoy with their next album release.

Wikipedia


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.