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Pearls Before Swine - ... Beautiful Lies You Could Live In. CD (album) cover


Pearls Before Swine


Prog Folk

3.66 | 14 ratings

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4 stars Tom Rapp’s sixth studio album ‘....beautiful lies you could live in’ marked the last time he would credit the by-now notional-only band Pearls Before Swine on the cover; the subsequent sporadic releases would be issued as solo recordings. And this record was pretty much a solo release as well, with his wife Elizabeth being the one near-constant in the group’s lineup.

This is a decidedly American-sounding modern folk album, unlike the previous release ‘City of Gold’ which had a more European feel. The list of studio musicians is rather impressive: it includes guitarist Amos Garrett whose impressive credits include the guitar lead on Maria Muldaur’s massive 70s hit “Midnight at the Oasis”; former Mother of Invention Billy Mundi, who appeared on Todd Rundgren’s hit “Hello, It’s Me” of the same period; and pianist Bob Dorough who cashed in during the 70s himself with a series of compositions that ended up being recorded as episodes of the popular Saturday morning cartoon series Schoolhouse Rock. Despite the pop-folk street cred of his guests, Rapp fashioned the album as a remarkably understated electric folk offering that presented some of his more coherent poetry set to music. One of the few knocks on some of the earlier Pearls material was the abstract and occasionally banal tenor of Rapp’s lyrics; here he plays things a bit more conventional, though still manages to display his unique ability to record songs that are multilayered and lyrically complex while retaining their decidedly (and intentional) Dylanesque vibe.

There were no hits resulting from this record, and no singles even that I’m aware of. Instead Rapp seemed content to craft his personal thoughts into beautiful, unassuming vignettes without strong regard for popular acceptance. This is easily one of my personal favorites, along with the aforementioned ‘City of Gold’.

Despite his own considerable songwriting talent, Rapp never shied away from covering songs and poetry of artists he respected, and this album is no exception. His rendition of Leonard Cohen’s "Bird On A Wire" ranks only behind the original of the many versions of this song that I’ve heard over the years. And the brief but poignant acoustic rendering of A.E. Housman’s "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries" is a luxurious thing to behold, particularly since the vocals are delivered by the underused Elizabeth Rapp herself.

Its unfortunate Reprise Records never managed to provide the kind of promotion that could have given Pearls Before Swine a better chance to establish themselves in the early 70s. Rapp didn’t help by avoiding touring for much of his career, and his irregular recording tempo probably didn’t help much either. But he did manage to get out six very good records before sliding permanently into obscurity, and this is one of the two or three best of those. Four stars are quite appropriate, especially if you are a fan of modern folk in the vein of Dylan, Van Morrison or even Randy Newman. Well recommended if that’s the sort of stuff you’re interested in.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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