Joy Of Cooking & Terry Garthwaite

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Joy Of Cooking (1971), 7/10
Terry Garthwaite: Terry (1975), 7/10

Joy Of Cooking were formed in Berkeley (San Francisco Bay Area) during the hippie era (1967). Their fusion sound, incorporating folk, rock, jazz, gospel and blues, had little in common with acid-rock: it heralded a new era of "creativity" and of stylistic re-evalutation.

One of the first bands led by female musicians, and one of the earliest to deal with feminist issues within popular music, the Joy Of Cooking were led by pianist Toni Brown (who had graduated in creative writing) and guitarist Terry Garthwaite (a folk-singer and an aspiring sociologist). The three-unit rhythm section, on the other hand, was entirely male. Hampered by the fact of not being the typical rock band, the Joy Of Cooking gathered a lot of critical attention but never enjoyed any commercial success. In fact, they were formed in 1967 but had to wait four years before recording an album (they were all over 30 by then). Their albums Joy Of Cooking (Capitol, jan 1971), that includes Brownsville-Mockingbird, Red Wine At Noon and Did You Go Downtown, Closer to the Ground (aug 1971), highlighted by the anthemic title-track, New Colorado Blues, Humpty-Dumpty, Pilot and The War You Left, and Castles (may 1972), with another string of soulful gems (Home Town Man, Beginning Tomorrow, Three Day Loser, Bad Luck Blues, Don't The Moon Look fat and Lonesome) displayed a sophisticated sense of melody and flexible song structures. The instrumental score crafted laid-back atmospheres that Brown's fragile contralto and Terry Garthwaite's gospel passion turned into cohesive statements of real life.

The album Same Old Song And Dance (1973) was never released (Such Days Are Made For Walkin', Ain't Nobody Got the Blues Like Me and You Gotta Reap Just What You Sow would surface on American Originals) and the band quickly dissolved, but Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite released albums both as a duo and as individual artists. Despite Brown's increasing interest in country music, the two albums on which they collaborated are as good as the first Joy Of Cooking album: Cross-Country (Capitol, 1973), with As I Watch the Wind and Midnight Blues.

Toni Brown released two solo albums: Good For You Too (MCA, 1974) and Angel Of Love (Fantasy, 1980).

Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite also released a duo album, Joy (Fantasy, 1977).

Terry Garthwaite's career was more consistent. Her first three albums, released over a ten-year period, continued to offer Joy Of Cooking's folk-jazz-blues fusion. The first one, Terry (Arista, 1975), was the most adventurous: every song is a story in itself. Slender Thread is a syncopated upbeat Caribbean-tinged country-rock, evoking a reggae version of the Band, embellished with her vocal accelerations and tongue twisters. Movin' In The Night is another joyful rollicking Band-like number. Angel Of Love instead is soul-jazz for big band. She shows her vocal skills in the slow Sinatra-esque lounge ballad Changing Colors, in the swinging piano-driven Robbin's Nest and in the vaudeville-ish Pass On By. The bluesy What It'll Do harkens back to the era of Etta James, with backup vocals from the doo-wop era and eccentric sound effects. This first solo was followed by Hand In Glove (Fantasy, 1979) and Moving Day (Catero, 1984). She then converted to spiritual new-age music with Affirhythms (Joy, 1992) and Sacred Circles (Joy, 2000).

American Originals (Capitol, 1992) is an excellent career anthology of the Joy of Cooking.

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