Thursday, February 8, 2018

Joy Of Cooking - Rarities (1971-73)

Titles can be deceiving. Despite its name, the 2006 CD set The Complete Joy Of Cooking doesn't contain all the recordings released by this innovative, female-fronted '70s folk-rock group. The collection features the group's three albums, but leaves off the odds and ends that came out after its split in 1973.

These rarities also didn't show up on double CD Back To Your Heart, which was self-released by bandleaders Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite around ten years ago. So I decided to make a collection of all of the rare tracks, which come from several sources. Back in the early '70s, Joy Of Cooking didn't really get its due, so consider this a small way to pay tribute to this excellent group.

The first rarity is actually the 45 version of the group's most popular song: Their jaunty cover of bluesman Furry Lewis' "Brownsville Blues." Under the title "Brownsville," it became the group's only chart hit, hitting #68 in the spring of 1971. When the group put this on its self-titled first album, it was the first part of a six-minute medley that also included their original musical version of the old "Mockingbird" nursery rhyme. As such, it was titled "Brownsville/Mockingbird" on the LP.

But the single version chops the song down to two-and-a-half minutes by removing the "Mockingbird" segment and because of that the title was abridged too (see label at left). It's a shame that this song ended up becoming Joy Of Cooking's calling card, because they better original songs put out as 45s that should have been more successful. But the pop charts can be a crapshoot, and the big winner for Joy Of Cooking turned out to be a cover song that wasn't really indicative of the group's style. That's life.

After that first LP, the group came out two more, Closer To The Ground in 1971 and Castles in 1972. Both had songs mostly written by keyboardist Toni Brown mostly sung by guitarist Terry Garthwaite. The tension between the sweetness of Brown's melodies and the grittiness of Garthwaite's singing gave the band a unique edge. When the duo harmonized (like on "Let Love Carry You Along") the results could be blissful.

Around 1973 Brown left the group because she was tired of touring. Garthwaite carried on and recorded a fourth Joy Of Cooking album titled Same Old Song And Dance that went unreleased. Sort of. In interviews, she said the album was released to airline companies and flyers got to hear it. Brown said in an interview it came out in Canada. I can't find evidence of it ever being released anywhere, but I could be wrong.

Whatever the case, three tracks finally came out in 1992 on a compilation CD called American Originals (right). They make up tracks 2-4 here. First and foremost among these songs is an excellent introspective Brown composition called "Such Days Are Made For Walkin.'" This somewhat melancholy song has jazzy overtones and speaks obliquely about family life, so it presages her second solo album from 1979, where several of the tunes had those same characteristics.

The second tune was penned by San Francisco-based traditional Dixieland banjo player Dick Oxtot, who led a group called the Golden Age Jazz Band that Garthwaite, with whom Garthwaite later performed. Oxtot's "Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me" is an old-timey number that -- ironically -- signaled a new direction for Joy Of Cooking.

The third track is a cover of jazz singer-songwriter Alberta Hunter's "You Gotta Reap Just What You Sow," that adds a rocking edge to the tune. Hunter must have been an influence on Garthwaite since some of her songs for Joy Of Cooking are in the same vein as this one.

There's another rare song that mysteriously got released and it might or might not be from that elusive fourth Joy LP. It's a cover of Ma Rainey's "Walking Blues" that made it onto a 1990 cassette-only release called The Best Of Joy Of Cooking (below). The cassette was part of a series called "Retro Rock," which I know little about, except there was another one by the group Goose Creek Symphony. Anyway, I bought this cassette when it came out and it was the first I'd ever heard of Joy Of Cooking. It was an inexpensive and convenient way to be exposed to new music and it definitely made me a fan.

However, the question remains as to why an unreleased track made it onto a "best of" cassette. Maybe the record company was trying to entice would-be buyers who already had the group's three albums? If that was the case, they should have also put the collection out on CD or vinyl, so everyone could hear the track in better quality. The version you hear here is dubbed from my old cassette and it's the best I could do with that iffy format.

By the way, "Walking Blues" (which was spelled out as "Walkin' Blues on the cassette), is not same song as Robert Johnson's "Walkin' Blues" from the 1930s, which was covered by Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and many others. Rainey's song came out on a 78 disc in 1923 and has a touch of jazz in its arrangement. For the Joy version, Garthwaite included some jazz instrumentation, but gave the song a solid rock beat and included some of her signature slide guitar playing. It's a nice blend of genres and it's a shame this track got lost along the way. (Which is also a good justification for writing three paragraphs about it here.)

All of the above tunes made for only five cuts, which is pretty paltry. So I also included two tracks from Terry Garthwaite's self-titled 1975 debut solo album that were penned by Toni Brown. Had Brown stayed with Joy Of Cooking, these songs would probably have been on the group's fourth album. And it's a shame she didn't because the first one, "Angel Of Love" is one of the best things she ever wrote: A soulful rocker about a woman's alienation in navigating the urban singles scene.

"Angel Of Love"  also has to be one of the first rock songs to directly deal with the issue of sexual harassment. Brown's second verse about having to change seats in a movie theater because of "strange hands" on her thighs was way, way ahead of its time and I wonder if her or Garthwaite have flashed back on this verse as the #MeToo Movement has made sexual harassment a nightly news topic over the past few months.

Brown herself does a version of "Angel Of Love" on her second solo album, which has never come out on CD (and which I blogged about previously). But Garthwaite's rip-roaring rendition brings an added dimension to Brown's thoughtful observations -- and also exemplifies the yin-yang between the two women that made Joy Of Cooking so compelling. Garthwaite also performs a second Brown tune on her debut solo album, "Changing Colors," which is a swirling jazz number that creeps up on you.

For more about his group, check out this article from the online music mag Perfect Sound Forever, which contains the quotes I referenced above. There are also links below to posts I wrote about other Joy-related albums that are out-of-print.

Related posts:
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974) 
The Joy - Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (1977)
Toni Brown - Toni Brown (1979)

Track list:
1. Brownsville [Single Edit]
2. Such Days Are Made For Walkin'
3. Ain't Nobody Got The Blues Like Me
4. You Gotta Reap Just What You Sow
5. Walkin' Blues
Bonus tracks:
6. Terry Garthwaite - Angel Of Love
7. Terry Garthwaite - Changing Colors



  2. Thanks for all your work on this. One of my favorite groups!!

  3. Thanks for letting us hear this great group.

  4. Thanks for letting us hear this great group.

  5. Thanks for this one; it's a group that's been on my "I need to get to know better" list for a while.

  6. Thank You, Thank You! Loved the group and have been fortunate enough to see Terri Garthwaite in small settings even though I missed the group.

  7. Thanks! I've got the LP down in the basement and this explains why the album version of "Brownsville" didn't sound the way I remember it from KFRC back in 1971.