Joy Of Cooking – Closer To The Ground

Artist: Joy Of Cooking

Title: Closer To The Ground
Genre: Rock, Folk-Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues
Label: Capitol
Musicians: Toni Brown-Composer, Guitar, Guitar (Steel), Keyboards, Vocals,
Terry Garthwaite-Composer, Guitar, Vocals, Fritz Kasten-Drums, Sax (Alto), Saxophone, Jeff Neighbor-Bass, Trombone,Ron Wilson-Harmonica, Percussion
Producer:John Palladino
Engineer:Ken Perry &Jay Ranellucci

Joy of Cooking was an American music ensemble formed in 1967, in Berkeley, California. Identified with the hippie culture, the band’s music melded rock & roll with folk, blues, and jazz. The band released three studio albums on Capitol Records in the early 1970s as well as a minor hit single in 1971, “Brownsville”. (Capitol Records issued three albums by Joy of Cooking in the early 1970s and an anthology disc in 1993: Joy of Cooking (1971), Closer to the Ground (1971), Castles (1972), American Originals (1993). A fourth album, Same Old Song And Dance (1973), was never released, although certain songs were included on American Originals).

With bandleaders Terry Garthwaite and Toni Brown, Joy of Cooking was one of the earliest female-fronted bands in rock music history. Joy of Cooking was led by pianist Toni Brown and guitarist Terry Garthwaite. The rest of the band comprised bass guitarist David Garthwaite (Terry’s brother), drummer Fritz Kasten, and percussion player Ron Wilson. Keyboard player Stevie Roseman replaced Toni Brown for a time, and bass players Happy Smith and eventually Jeff Neighbor replaced David Garthwaite on bass guitar. The band’s music was a mix of hippie sensibilities with rock, blues, folk, and jazz, and the lyrics often reflected feminist themes.
Official website:

I was not sure what to expect when I put this record on my turntable. I thought it was going to be some boring, disassociated folky stuff, but it was nothing like that. It was totally unexpected! While the vocals were not anything to write home about per se’, they were interesting and often times familiar. What is more is that this was a very versatile group and not sloppy about it. The recording is also well done on this LP. What the description given this band says is true as to their sound.
This is a very enjoyable record.

Side One:
Closer To The Ground: The obligatory title track here. This seems like a social statement lyrically, no surprise and actually quite good. The song has a Janis Joplin and the Big Brother Holding Co flavor with some funk sprinkled in. This is a strong opening song for the LP as well because the bridge is fantastic showcasing the drums, percussion and bass with piano as it comes out. Towards the end of the song you hear a strange male voice say “down”.
Blues For A Friend: Despite the title of the song, it is in fact, not a blues song, but more of a Carol King flavored jazz/samba number.
New Colorado Blues: This is more a country flavor than blues and features a two female vocal harmony with a bit of scat towards the end.
Humpty Dumpty: This must be what happens when you run dry on song titles. This one has an upbeat soul sound to it.
A Thousand Miles: While this may have a standard 1970s sound, it is still executed well.

Side Two:
Sometimes Like A River: This is another song that has a flavor of Carole King. It is my least favorite on the LP, but even so, it is still good.
Pilot: This is an up tempo Janis Joplin flavored song featuring keyboard.
The War You Left: This has a folk sound flavored of the Indigo Girls. There is a Cello in this as well. It is one of my favorites on the LP. A fantastic sounding song!
First Time, Last Time: This is your straight country style song and not bad.
Laugh, Don’t Laugh: This song has a percussion start and an up tempo almost country sound, call it Country-Rock. It is a fun song with a jam toward the end


“Closer To The Ground”:

“The War You Left”:

“Laugh, Don’t Laugh”:

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