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Pearls Before Swine - Balaklava CD (album) cover


Pearls Before Swine


Prog Folk

3.98 | 30 ratings

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3 stars Tom Rapp manages to find his own style on this, Pearls Before Swine’s second studio release and the last before the band began to crumble. It would also be their last record for the ESP-Disk label, with Rapp moving to Reprise the same year. Like some of Rapp’s other efforts though this would be a brief affair, clocking in at less than thirty minutes including the five-minute cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”.

The album carried heavy anti-war trappings, a theme Rapp would repeat at times throughout his career. From the Renaissance-era album cover painting depicting Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s macabre battle scene “The Triumph of Death” to the controversial liner note tribute to Private Eddie Slovik (the only American solder executed for desertion in modern times), to the album title itself Rapp was clearly showing his pacifist leanings. That said, few songs on the album are overtly war-themed, and for the most part the band seems to be attempting to be trying harder to perfect their art than to make any sort of obivous political statement.

The charming folk tale encased in “There Was a Man” may be the most appealing track on the album, although for the life of me I’ve yet to figure out whether there is some sort if there is some hidden allegorical meaning to it.

Rapp debuted his penchant for recorded sounds on this album as well, including a 19th century scratchy sound recording of 1854’s Charge of the Light Brigade’ (the battle that gave the album it’s name); a brief snippet supposedly of Florence Nightingale; and a faux- early recording titled "Guardian Angels" which Rapp attributed to a 1920s Mexican recording but was in fact Rapp himself engaging in a bit of studio engineering.

This is a pretty uneven album, but in the end Rapp should be applauded for stretching himself beyond his Dylanesque roots and into new modern folk territory. The next three albums would far surpass this one in terms of creativity, emotion and overall artistic merit, but this one deserves recognition for setting the stage for what would come. For that reason alone I think three stars are in order, and a recommendation for anyone who counts Cohen, Dylan, Tim Buckley and their ilk among their favorite musicians.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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