Aug 3, 2009
JOY OF COOKING - CASTLES (CAPITOL 1972) Jap mastering cardboard sleeve
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.
Joy of Cooking was the first rock band to have at its heart two great women as lead singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. The subject matter is still mostly love and loss, but the emotions are adult, and not caught in the hysterics of melodrama. This is a fine album all around, from the rocking "Don't the Moon Look Fat and Lonesome" through the deeply heartfelt blues at the end. "Let Love Carry You Along" is a great anthem from that era, just as positive and uplifting now as it was then. But these are not "message" songs that are long on intellectual substance and short on musicality and rock. They are balanced, with catchy tunes, excellent arrangements, and a subtle, folk/jazz/rock ensemble executing everything very nicely. If you want songs that speak to our lives with clarity and maturity, and that you can still hum along with and stamp your feet to, and get carried away in the emotion, this is your kind of album. Joy of Cooking put out only 3 albums and didn't last long (Brown and Garthwaite split and pursued solo careers), but the legacy they left us is a fine one.