Pazz and Jop 1971 – #6

Joy of Cooking – Joy of Cooking

I had never heard of Joy of Cooking before looking at this year’s list, and that as much as anything convinced me to start this project. They were pretty much done by 1972 and only three albums, and never had a true hit single to cement a place on AM radio. (They peaked at #66 on the US chart, with “Brownsville”, maybe the least interesting song here.) There are echoes of Janis Joplin and Carole King and Joni Mitchell and Maria Muldaur, and maybe that’s kind of sexist of me, comparing female artists (it’s a mixed gender band, but dominated by the two women) to other female artists, but that’s what I hear. And that’s quite a range. Some lovely harmonies (sometimes cut by Janis-y yelps), a folky or bluesy tune followed by barroom jazz (“Down My Dream” is hypnotic) or rock, but throughout it’s a piano-forward record (with dabbles of organ, especially pleasing on “Only Time Will Tell Me”). The genre-hopping (even within songs – I have no idea how you would categorize some of these tunes, someone should’ve told John Lennon that “Did You Go Downtown” is how you do a 6-minute song, and the almost 7-minute closer “Children’s House” is a genuine epic) is invigorating, and doesn’t detract from the unity of the record. It isn’t perfect – I found the harmonies on “Red Wine at Noon” jarring – but the music deserves a wider audience. This is my small part in that effort.

(Originally posted on Facebook, March 14, 2021)