Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Pearls Before Swine - Balaklava CD (album) cover


Pearls Before Swine

Prog Folk

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars almost tempted into another halfstar!!

Second album from this influential but much forgotten-about PBS, where only the keyboardist spot has changed towards Jim Bohannon (which will push Rapp to become the sole songwriter in the group), but the casts of guest is greatly increased, most notably including Joe Farrell (later in the first line-up of Return To Forever) on flute and sax. Based on n army charge in Balaklava, and illustrated again by a famous Flemish painter (this time Breughel) on its sleeve, this album follows path of the debut, but it now has gained its full-blown personality.

Past the strange voluntarily botched up intro, Translucent Carriages is an amazing track that probably inspired much Tim Buckley in albums like Happy Sad or Lorca, but it's underlined by whispers and heavy breathing from Tom Rapp: uncanny and yet siolemn. The following Images Of April makes for a very impressionist song filled with birds singing and weird haunting noise over Farrell's delightful flute. Stunning start, but soon the more straight-forward There Was A Man, a straight folk piece with the traditional guitar strumming interrupts the nightmare. But the dream returns with the percussion/bells filled I Saw The World where the quartet evolves over layers of waves and rather voluptuous but not discreet string arrangements. Closing up the side A is the answer to the intro, Guardian Angels, which serves its purpose, but is a bit detrimental to the album.

The flipside opens on Cohen's Suzanne (at the time this was still relatively fresh, but some 40 yearts later) we're sick of Suzanne, even if the cover's arrangements are rather excellent, including a superb Farrell intervention on English horn. But it's one for the birds in an album that's already way too short. The stunning Lepers And Rose is the fourth highlight, an enchanting tune starting on Lederer's flute, an haunting song that takes you to the realm of PBS. Another piece of wasted space (although it's only 17 seconds) is the Florence Nightingale tidbit that's cringing because of the noise, but the closing stunning Ring Thing, where Rapp plays to Tolkien's world is an absolute gothic must, almost predating Dead Can Dance by a quarter century. What an ending to this critically lauded album.

Although much too short (especially on the flipside where the regular expected minimum quarter hour is not reached), Balaklava is a fantastic piece of progressive folk, just as advanced as The Pentangle's debut or ISB's Hangman's Daughter. Only with this album and the later The Use Of Ashes will Tom Rapp approach the "raconteur troubadour" status that has been wasted with so many other non-deserving artistes.

Report this review (#174284)
Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
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.


Report this review (#280314)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Not really my cup of tea, but.........

Pearls Before Swine was a hippie folk rock band and Tom Rapp, the driving force in Pearls Before Swine and it's vocalist was often compared to Bob Dylan. Tom's vocals are miles better than Bob's too often annoying vocals. The same also goes for the music here. Nice and pretty melodic and well crafted simplified folk rock. A man and his guitar + violin and other discreet instrumentations. Everything is based on Tom Rapp's vocals though.

The music here is not really interesting, but still have some good qualities. This music is certainly not my cup of tea and well outside my comfort zone, but I still recognize it's qualities. The lyrics are good and the music have a warm feeling. And that's all I can say about this album, really.

3 stars

Report this review (#351686)
Posted Monday, December 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Pearls Before Swine - Balaklava (1968)

PBS has recently become one of my favorite bands. Led by song-writer Tom Rapp this band had it's psychedelic folk debut in '67. Inspired by Leonard Cohen's sincere song-writing, the psychedelic vibes of the time and probably by Rapp's own majestic voice the group managed to make psychedelic, slightly progressive folk-rock that is unique in sound and performance. The thought of PBS covering songs didn't quite impress me at first, but I must say that the way they rearranged - perhaps recreated - the song Suzanne isn't anything to be ashamed for. I can highly recommend to listen to it on youtube.

The debut had it's experimental tracks on which PBS freely evolved their own music (such as Morning Song, Uncle John and Surrealistic Waltz). Balaklava has even more to offer in this particular early stage of development of the progressive genre. With Tom Rapp's song- writing and a cover (Suzanne from Cohen) as a basis, the band manages to make all songs a unique experience. A wide array of sound-effects was used (shores, 'old recording sound', psychedelic breathing, birds, etc) to make the songs as organic as can be. In combination with already utterly brilliant, majestic performance the group already had, the result is just wonderful. Furthermore, there are lot's of great arrangements like the string- section on 'I Saw the World'. Balaklava is easily the most psychedelic and innovative record by Pearls Before Swine and the record is atmospheric throughout, with the dark Lord of the Rings influenced 'Ring Thing' as a good ending track. The opening and closing section with an historic recording of war trumpeter Landfrey is a great way to point out the madness of this historic war blunder, Balaklava is said to have been a pointless field battle.

Conclusion. This record shows Pears Before Swine at their absolute zenith, combining majestic folk with very psychedelic atmospheres/sound-scapes. The voice of Rapp is always convincing, but in this setting his voice is more part of a great group-effort, which I can't always say about later efforts of the band. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite records and it's quality and early appearance on the time-scale of development of the progressive genre is to be noticed by every-one. Five stars for this unique psychedelic folk record. Should be in our PA top 100 IMHO.

Report this review (#438442)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars "This is trumpeteer Landfrey. One of the surviving trumpeteers of (...) Balaklava"

Pearls Before Swine made their music under the ESP label which gave them total freedom of their artistic ideas. This gave them the opportunity to write this obscure sounding Balaklava. Terms like psych-folk and acid folk are often used to describe this record, but the term Tom Rapp - the mastermind of the band - gave is far more accurate. He calls his music "constructive melancholy". Balaklava is filled with heavy and complex emotional value, which is created by the unusual way of singing of Tom Rapp and the abstract folk accompany which enhances the atmosphere. The album cover is a painting of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which is a flamish painter from the 16th century.

"One Nation Underground", the debut record of PBS fitted more in the singer/songwriting scene then Balaklava. The stronger melancholic context - created by breathing sounds, singing birds, pipehorn in the background, old recording sounds and tape manipulation - makes this record more obscure and less good comparable with other artists. My favourite song on this record is the "Ringthing", which sounds doomy because of the English horns and the gongs. The sinister sounding guitarnotes and the dark vocals makes this one a real thrill! Another great song is "Lepers and Roses" with great flute melodies and the best vocals of Rapp on the record.

This music is great and obscure and has unique atmospheres. This is PBS at their peak and their most interesting/experimental record. The later "Use of Ashes" is also well-rated, but is far less experimental and falls more in the symphonic folk category. This record is advised for psych collectors and fans of folk.

Report this review (#906027)
Posted Monday, February 4, 2013 | Review Permalink

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Balaklava ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Balaklava

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.