Toni Brown - keyboards, vocals; Terry Garthwaite - guitar, vocals; Brian Atkinson - horns/vibraphone; Jeff Neighbor - bass; Bob Scott - drums; Willow Wray and Julie Nicholas - guest vocals on "Angel of Love"
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 only 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 a solo album the following year. Although these albums failed to achieve commercial success, and were only heard by relatively few, they each contained a wealth of new material that retained the integrity and variety of their previous work.
In November of 1974, Bill Graham presented a special evening at Winterland that featured the cream of the local crop of female-fronted bands, inviting Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite to headline a bill that also featured San Francisco's Anna Rizzo & the A-Train and Marin County favorites Yazoo. Brown and Garthwaite assembled a stellar ensemble for this performance which featured Joy of Cooking bassist, Jeff Neighbor, and two recruits from Dan Hicks' band, Brian Atkinson on horns and vibraphone and Bob Scott on drums. This was an extraordinary lineup that brings out the best in Brown and Garthwaite, sounding not unlike Joy of Cooking in their prime, but with more swing, courtesy of Scott and more authentically jazzy, courtesy of Atkinson's multi-instrumental abilities.
The set kicks off with an infectious cover of Doc Watson's "You Don't Know My Mind Blues" followed by the Joy of Cooking classic, "Too Late, But Not Forgotten." The former, features Garthwaite's distinctive lead vocal, with Brown providing harmony on this bluesy number. The latter, a song of love lost, features Brown's sweeter vocals in the lead position with Garthwaite's grittier vocal timbre providing distinctive harmony. These openers clearly show the stylistic differences in these two women. Brown was coming from a singer-songwriter standpoint, influenced by folk, rock and jazz, where Garthwaite was clearly a more blues-oriented musician, yet adept in a variety of other styles. It was the unique blend of these two talents that created the magic that was Joy of Cooking and it is still in abundance here.
The rest of the performance concentrates on their post-Joy of Cooking repertoire, providing an excellent overview of that material as well as several songs that have never made it to an official release. Next up is "Pass on By," a standout track from Garthwaite's solo album, written in a 1940s style that recalls The Boswell Sisters, which they humorously acknowledge. Two choice covers, Tom Rush's "No Regrets" and Willie Nelson's "It's Not Supposed to Be That Way," follow this retro exercise. Both are engaging performances that had not appeared on any of their albums, making them a particularly welcome presence here.
The remainder of the set focuses on some of the strongest original material from Brown and Garthwaite's solo albums, as well as new unrecorded material. Garthwaite's "Rock and Roller" gets an extended treatment that is more immediate and engaging than the studio recording, before they deliver a pair of excellent new songs in the form of "(I Don't Need Your) Sweet Sympathy" and a lovely new Toni Brown number, "Safe Harbor."
At this point, Brown and Garthwaite invite two of Yazoo's singers, Willow Wray and Julie Nicholas, to join them on stage. They add harmonious vocal support on "Angel Of Love," another track from Garthwaite's first album. Although they neglect to sing a verse and fumble around a bit, this is a delightful performance leading up to the highlight of the set. "Changing Colors," also from Garthwaite's album, is a truly phenomenal performance that allows the group to stretch out and jam a bit. Clocking in at nearly ten minutes, this recalls Joy of Cooking at their best, which isn't surprising, since the core band (Brown, Garthwaite, and Neighbor) are here. Bob Scott and Brian Atkinson add a wonderful new dimension to the soundscape of this composition. Scott's drumming really swings and the interplay between Brown's piano and Atkinson's vibes is a delicious experience, recalling the breezy Youngbloods masterpiece, "Ride the Wind," during their extended solo.
"Changing Colors" leaves the audience clamoring for an encore. Before the tape stock ran out, an incomplete version of Toni Brown's "I Don't Want to Live Here" is captured, one of the standout tracks from the Nashville flavored Toni & Terry album, released the previous year. Incidentally, this was the only song performed twice over the course of the evening, as Yazoo, the evening's opener and fans of Joy of Cooking, also played it for their encore.
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