Top Fifty 19: Brewer and Shipley – Shake off the Demon, 1972

[Originally posted December 2011]

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Another selection from the ‘having grown up with this album’ core of my Top Fifty. This is an essentially acoustic folk [occasional country rock] album by duo Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley. All songs are self-penned, apart from Jackson Browne’s Rock Me On The Water. The opening title track off this fourth album release is one of those country rock staples from similar artists at the time, and it has a guest electric and slide guitar contribution from John Cippollina. The west coast harmonies kick in almost immediately and that was the first appeal. The lyrics also tapped into my earnest teenage preoccupations of the time, here with There’s a man in a uniform/Says he wants to teach you how to kill and the implicitly critical, anti-war stance in this struck its vibrant chord.

Second track is the sublime Merciful Love, with acoustic guitar, piano and sweet harmonies. Third Message From The Mission [Hold On] rides further on the crest of exquisite harmonising – oh so pretty I admit – and the organ of Mark Naftalin supports these as they roll out to the end. Fourth One By One is more of the soothing same, and fifth When Everybody Comes Home, closing side two of the vinyl, is another countrified, banjo-twanged folk harmony where a simple but pretty melodic line gets repeated.

Sixth track and side two opener Working On The Well is an electric and upbeat number creating new pace. Seventh is Browne’s beautiful Rock Me On The Water, and this is a gorgeous version with Brewer and Shipley’s tight, distinctive harmonies – and strangely perhaps, made interesting too with Jose “Chepita” Areas’ congas/timbales. Eighth Natural Child features some effective acoustic guitar playing from the duo, and is augmented by the electric violin of David La Flamme from It’s A Beautiful Day – the track has a worksong repetition to it that is quite funky, includes a false end, then returns with more superb violin to provide a longish instrumental close. Penultimate Back To The Farm is is a bucolic call to pastoral arms, its hippie sensibilities set in the simplicity of Get to get ’em back down to the farm/The simple life it just might/Do a whole lot of good/And it can’t do no harm. The album ends on Sweet Love and continues the anthem with its paean to the power of love, Talk about love, sweet sweet love, sweet love, sweet sweet love. Amen.

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