Toni Brown - piano, vocals; Terry Garthwaite - guitar, vocals; Matt Cridland - bass; Steve Mitchell - drums
The Berkeley-based band, Joy Of Cooking, were quite the anomaly in the late 1960s; a band fronted by two women, who wrote and arranged the songs, sang lead vocals, and played the frontline instruments, with three men providing the backup. Led by two talented songwriters, pianist Toni Brown and guitarist, Terry Garthwaite, their music blended elements of folk, rock, country, jazz, and blues into a sound uniquely their own. One of the first bands to deal with feminist and environmental topics, they were ahead of their time and deserve credit for laying the groundwork for more commercially successful bands like Heart and latter-day Fleetwood Mac.
Following three compelling but modestly successful Joy Of Cooking albums, Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite headed to Nashville. There they recorded the long out of print Cross Country album, released in 1973 under the name Toni & Terry, before pursuing separate paths, each recording solo projects over the next several years. Although these albums failed to achieve commercial success, and were heard by relatively few, they each contained a wealth of new material that retained the integrity and variety of their previous work. In 1977, Brown and Garthwaite teamed up again for an album released on Fantasy Records titled The Joy. The chemistry between the two had not diminished and the album contained new originals, several choice covers (including a take on Van Morrison's "Come Running"), as well as a revamped version of Brown's "Beginning Tomorrow." The album also featured the talent of legendary bass man Reggie McBride and contributions from Taj Mahal and Elvin Bishop to the recording sessions. Despite this, the album received minimal promotion and soon hit the cut out bins, fading into obscurity.
A very brief tour occurred in support of the album, including four performances at New York City's Bottom Line. Performing under the shortened moniker, the Joy, which they humorously acknowledged at the time as "less cooking, more joy," the pair were now accompanied by the tight rhythm section of Matt Cridland on bass and Steve Mitchell on drums, performing engaging live sets that featured material spanning their careers together and individually. Other than the first 20 minutes of the opening show, all four performances were professionally recorded in their entirety by the King Biscuit Flower Hour, but were unfortunately never edited for broadcast. Here we present the recordings from the first of their four Bottom Line performances, taped on a cold December night in 1977.
The recording begins with a new Toni Brown song, "I Get Crazy," which wouldn't turn up until three years later on her 1980 solo album Angel Of Love. This bluesy number is brimming with Brown's sense of humor as she ruminates on a self-obsessed lover searching to find himself at the expense of the relationship. Most of the new-agey self-searching pursuits of the 1970s are name checked here and it's a delight to hear Toni and Terry performing this song together years before it saw the light of day on an album. Next up is "Pass On By," a standout track from Garthwaite's first solo album. On this old-timey 1940's style number, Garthwaite's grittier vocal timbre and Brown's sweeter vocal timbre blend perfectly to create a swinging sound reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters.
The next two numbers focus on material from The Joy album, beginning with Garthwaite's "Steal Away." A lullaby written for her son, this number features a nice relaxed groove and displays a rarely heard side of Garthwaite's voice; considerably smoother and essentially free of the grittiness that defines much of her vocal work. This is followed by another new Brown original, "Snow," which harkens back to the sound of Joy Of Cooking in their prime and serves as the perfect bridge between new and older material, which will conclude the set.
The most energetic performance of the set is saved for last and will be appreciated by all Joy Of Cooking fans as they venture back to their first album for an extended romp through "Brownsville" into "Mockingbird." With a similar chemistry that propelled the original recording, this strident performance showcases the instrumental talent of these two women as well as their engaging intertwining vocals. The entire ensemble cooks here, much to the delight of the audience, which howls with approval following this nearly nine-minute jam. The audience encourages an encore and Brown and Garthwaite oblige by returning to the stage for a lovely take on "Too Late, But Not Forgotten." Much like the classic Joy Of Cooking recording, this performance highlights the unique vocal blend and thoroughly complimentary guitar and piano chemistry between these two women. A fine conclusion to the first of their four Bottom Line performances supporting the release of the all too obscure The Joy album.