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Pearls Before Swine - One Nation Underground CD (album) cover


Pearls Before Swine


Prog Folk

3.43 | 23 ratings

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3 stars Tom Rapp owes a deep and obvious debt to Bob Dylan on this Pearls Before Swine debut. Both his phrasing and allegoric lyrical style smack heavily of Dylan, sometimes almost uncomfortably so. “Playmate”, “Morning Song” and “I Shall Not Care” all are culled from the songbook of a long line of Dylan wannabes.

If the entire album fell into this category it would be worth dismissing out of hand, but such is fortunately not the case. Rapp was clearly working hard to find his own voice on these songs, and appears to have relied on his deep knowledge of the Dylan catalog only partially. Elsewhere he shows an experimental side, ranging from an acoustic bard on “Ballad to an Amber Lady”, to a precocious angry young lad on “Uncle John”, to some sort of hillbilly Donovan on the closing “The Surrealist Waltz”. Sometimes the experiments work, often they just miss the mark. “(Oh Dear) Miss Morse” for example combines banjo and mandolin with weird keyboards (harpsichord I’m pretty sure, and a dated electronic analog synth known as a clavioline for an awkward and disjointed little ditty that sounds more like an outtake than something that should have made it onto the final release. “Drop Out!” must have sounded a bit dated even in 1967, and whatever sort of microphone was used for the vocals on “I Shall Not Care” doesn’t fit with the mandolin and banjo arrangements at all, nor do the faux-spacey spoken-word vocals or the minimalist mood.

But in the end this was a promising debut for an American original, or at least someone who would become something of an original. Like the Moody Blues’ ‘Go Now!’, what would follow would be a far cry from the first efforts, and more often than not much more progressive and appealing. If you have never experienced Pearls Before Swine I would not start with this one, but if you find the solo works of Tom Rapp in the early seventies to your liking you may want to check this one out to see what he sounds like as part of a real band, and to hear the early stirrings of what would come after. Three stars (just barely), and recommended mostly to really serious progressive folk fans.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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