REVIEW: Joy Of Cooking’s “Back To Your Heart”

Joy Of Cooking may not have been as massively popular as some of their contemporaries, but back in their heyday that type of stardom really didn’t matter, as it wasn’t an issue. The band, fronted by singer/songwriters Terry Garthwaite and Toni Brown, combined folk, country, rock, and a bit of the blues that helped defined who they were as a band, which lead to them being signed to Capitol. In time the group would split, and each lady would go on with successful solo careers. As attention towards rootsy music, what some might call Americana, has increased in the last five years, both of them decided to unite and put together tracks for this double CD of unreleased material.

Back To Your Heart (njoy) will please many Joy Of Cooking fans who have wanted something extra from the band. Disc one consists of studio or home recordings. The studio recordings sound as powerful as those which did make it onto the album, and were probably left off because back then, an album had to have the industry standard of 10 songs. They could’ve pulled a Johnny Winter and released 3-sided albums but the songs are that good. The band, especially bassist David Garthwaite and drummer Fritz Kasten, are incredible to hear and it shows why they were a favorite among many bands throughout California.

Side 2 is an amazing unreleased live set recorded at Berkeley in 1972, as they perform in front of a home crowd. “Humpty Dumpty”, “If Some God”, and “Laugh, Don’t Laugh” show how they expanded their palette and went in for the kill, so to speak. Proof of this can be heard in the 11 minute “Brownsville/Mockingbird”, and you can sense that the crowd were on their feet the entire time (with the exception of those who were just vibing out on good times and good people). Terry Garthwaite is and has always been a powerhouse on the vocals, whether it’s a sensitive ballad or a borderline rocker, and Toni Brown always revealed herself to be someone deserving to be called a true artist. As they both show in “Brownsville/Mockingbird”, when perfect harmony happens between two people, or a band and the audience, it sounds so natural.

After hearing this, one can hear the influence they’ve had on countless bands today, whether it is female-oriented folk, country or rock, or even jam bands who are able to hear the fun and glory of the chemistry Joy Of Cooking had with each other. No mastering engineer is credited, but whoever did them did a great job in transferring the original master tapes to the digital realm. For some fans, any group who were appreciated by the Grateful Dead was more than enough reason to take them on as a personal favorite. Old and new fans can find out why with this double CD.

(Back To Your Heart) is available from CDBaby.)