Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Joy Of Cooking - Castles (1972 us, awesome folk blues psych rock, 2005 japan remaster)

Pianist-singer Toni Brown and singer-guitarist Terry Garthwaite put together Joy of Cooking. Back then, female musicians were relegated to the back burner, but here was a duo with a bold new recipe: The women wrote the tunes, played the main instruments, and sang lead vocals. Naming their group after a cookbook gave it an unmistakably female identity.

Although Fanny was the first female-led band to sign a multi-album major label deal, Joy of Cooking (who signed with Capitol Records shortly thereafter) was the second. And they were the first major label group where women led a mixed-gender band. They paved the way for Heart and Fleetwood Mac, and eventually bands like Concrete Blonde and Hole, says Ariel Swartley, Rolling Stone magazine's first female rock writer.

"The band culture then was so male. So to have two women leading a band? I think women will tell you even now it can be hard to establish authority as a bandleader," Swartley says. "Back then a voice was a woman's instrument. We didn't accept (women) wielding an electric guitar."

That lack of acceptance may have been what kept the band from mass popularity. It sure wasn't the music. At the dawn of the 1970's, Joy of Cooking released three albums filled with the kind of folk-tinged country rock that was topping the charts – when it was sung by men, at least. The band's self-titled debut concentrated mostly on ballads and showcased lead singer Garthwaite's soulful wailing. With the second album, Closer to the Ground, the band moved into a more folk-oriented territory. But with its third album, Castles, Joy of Cooking produced an all-out classic, filled with shoulda-been-hits like "Let Love Carry You Along" and "Don't the Moon Look Fat and Lonesome." After Brown departed, a fourth album was recorded but never given a general release.

The band was popular enough to warrant coverage in Time magazine; if they were largely forgotten after their 1973 breakup, it's because Capitol let their moderately-selling albums go out of print. Their only charting single was a cover of bluesman Furry Lewis' "Brownsville" (performed as a medley with the traditional "Mockingbird), which got to #66 in 1971. But the song's bouncy rhythm and intertwining lead vocals probably sounded eccentric to more pop-oriented listeners and got the band pegged as a curio. 

Toni Brown recalls: Castles was the last Joy of Cooking record that I was on. I left the band in 1972. Capitol offered us six figures if we would go out on the road for, I don't know, it probably would have turned out to be four or five months out of the year. I had met my husband-to-be and I just said no, I could not do that road thing anymore. Subsequently Terry and the rest of the band found another keyboard player and a couple of background singers and they did an album for Capitol ("Same Old Song and Dance") which Capitol released but in a very, very limited quantity. They released it in Canada because they owed us an album, so they picked up the option. Then I left the band and so they had to honor that. But it didn't get any play, for whatever reason – Terry has her theories on that and I don't know what the politics were at the time because I was no longer involved. 
by Tony Sclafani, February 2006
1. Don't The Moon Look Fat And Lonesome - 4:10
2. Waiting For The Last Plane - 4:00
3. Lady Called Love - 3:30
4. Three-Day Loser (Terry Garthwaite) - 4:00
5. Castles - 3:50
6. Beginning Tomorrow - 4:30
7. Let Love Carry You Along - 2:45
8. Home Town Man (Terry Garthwaite) - 4:00
9. All Around The Sun And The Moon - 4:00
10.Bad Luck Blues (Blind Lemon Jefferson) - 3:30
All songs by Toni Brown except where noted

Joy Of Cooking
*Terry Garthwaite - Bottleneck Guitar, 12 String Acoustic, Rhythm Guitars, Vocals
*Toni Brown - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Fritz Kasten - Drums, Saxophone
*Jeff Neighbor - Bass, Trombone
*Jim Horn - Saxophone, Horn, String Arrangements
*Carl Dukatz - Electric Guitar (Tracks 2, 3)
*Ron Wilson - Blues Harp (Track 1)