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Pearls Before Swine

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Pearls Before Swine City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album] album cover
3.04 | 12 ratings | 3 reviews | 9% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sonnet #65 (0:49)
2. Once Upon A Time (2:40)
3. Raindrops (2:06)
4. City Of Gold (3:09)
5. Nancy (4:50)
6. Seasons In The Sun (3:25)
7. My Father (2:22)
8. The Man (2:30)
9. Casablanca (2:33)
10. Wedding (1:42)
11. Did You Dream Of (2:49)

Total time 28:55

Line-up / Musicians

- Elisabeth Rapp / vocals
- Tom Rapp / vocals, guitar, producer

- David Noyes / vocals (8)
- Charles Ray McCoy / dobro, guitar, bass, harmonica
- Mac Gayden / guitar
- David Briggs / piano, harpsichord
- Hutch Davie / keyboards
- Buddy Spicher / violin, cello, viola
- Bill Pippin / oboe, flute
- John Duke / oboe, flute
- Norbert Putnam / bass
- Kenneth Buttrey / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Ed Thrasher

LP Reprise Records ‎- RS 6442 (1971, US)

CD Water ‎- WATER 113 (2003, US) Part of a box set, Jewels Were The Stars

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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PEARLS BEFORE SWINE City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album] ratings distribution

(12 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(9%)
Good, but non-essential (64%)
Collectors/fans only (18%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album] reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars ‘City of Gold’ was an odd little album for Pearls Before Swine founder Tom Rapp. It was the first to be co-credited to him and the band (eventually Rapp would drop the Pearls Before Swine moniker altogether and bill himself as a solo performer). The album’s back cover features a photo of Rapp with three sometimes-members of the band, but to the best of my knowledge none of those people actually appear on the album (none are credited at least). And even for Rapp, who would become known for brief studio albums, this is barely a blip at less than 28 minutes total recorded time. The only two songs more than three minutes long are both cover tunes; the Leonard Cohen ballad “(Seems so Long Ago) Nancy” and a unique version of the oft-covered Jacques Brel tune “Seasons in the Sun”.

But despite these little foibles this is a moderately interesting piece of musical history that isn’t entirely without its own little charms. Rapp apparently formed the basis of the album from castaways and cutouts of Pearls’ previous studio album ‘The Use of Ashes’, which featured many of the same Nashville studio musicians that appear on this one. The musical arrangements are all quite sparse, often featuring little more than a bit of quiet acoustic guitar (or sometimes dobro), piano (or harpsichord) and violin (or cello), with a couple tunes like the closing “Did You Dream of Unicorns” mixing all these.

Rapp is the featured vocalist for most of the album, although his then-wife Elisabeth appears a couple places; namely on the Judy Collins cover “My Father” and in backing roles on most of the ‘side 2’ songs including “The Man” and “Casablanca” (although strangely not where I would have expected, on the harpsichord recital Cohen tune here just titled “Nancy”).

The CD version of the album is a reissue from the original vinyl on Water Records released in 2003 and found in my case at, of all places, a Barnes & Noble bookstore I wandered into while taking a break on a long driving trip across mid-America a while back. I have to admit the only reason I bought the CD was out of curiosity for their version of “Seasons in the Sun”, the song made famous by one-hit-wonder Canadian Terry Jacks in 1974. I was one of the 6,000,000 people who bought Jacks’ song back then, and until I saw this Pearls album had no idea it was not a Jacks original (I apparently need to get out more). Turns out Brel wrote the song (in French) in 1961, and it was first recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1963. This Rapp version is much closer to the original than the Jacks song would prove to be. The protagonist is bidding goodbye to his loved ones at presumably the end of his life, although here there is an ambiguous hint of infidelity and possibly suicide; whereas Jacks made his fortune pawning off the song as the farewell lament from a young cancer patient to his lover. Maybe if Rapp had taken the sympathy angle himself he could have retired in comfort instead of becoming the rather reclusive and obscure artist he ended up being. Who knows.

Anyway, a couple other songs worth mentioning: “Once Upon a Time” opens with a tasty bleat of harmonica and Jew’s harp, along with Rapp serving up his best Dylan imitation to result in a fine example of American East Coast sixties folk. And the title track is probably the most prototypical Rapp song from this era of the band (pretty much 1969 through 1972). The end was near for Pearls Before Swine, who really never were a band to speak of after their 1968 peak and sophomore release ‘Balaklava’.

I wouldn’t go way out of the way to find this album, unless you are a Pearls fan or just a serious student of progressive folk music. By definition I suppose that would make this a two star album (‘for collectors only’); however, I can’t see it being relegated to that simply because for what it is (an early seventies mildly acid folk recording), it is better than average at least, and a little charming for those who don’t mind the occasional hint of nostalgia. So let’s go with three stars, and note that the appeal of this record is likely limited to folk fans and dreamers (which is pretty much the same thing, I suppose).


Review by friso
4 stars Pearls Before Swine - City of Gold (1971)

PBS is the band-name of the song-writers and performance of Tom Rapp. With his distinctive approach to folk/song-writing with a slightly psychedelic feel he seems to draw my full attention any time. With their debut, One Nation Underground, and follow-up Balaklava PBS experimented with some psychedelic and slight progressive song-writing (when talking about the late sixties that is) and by now Tom Rapp returned to a more conventional song-based record.

Now, it's easy to say that's a pity. But on the other hand; performing intimate songs is perhaps what Tom Rapp is meant to do. His vocal capabilities seem to be a bit limited, but give him an acoustic guitar and some lyrics and he'll fill the room for you. The warm sound of the recording, the honesty of his performance and his strange voice are just likable. Furthermore, the acoustic arrangements are all very well done. Harpsichord, piano, guitar, organ, minimalistic rhythm and of course some string-sections here and there. All are very tasty. Elisabeth Rapp (a women he had married) does a great job on the vocal lines in the two songs she is present.

Conclusion. I fully agree with ClemofNazareth here; this is a 'simple' PBS album that is a bit too short for today's standard. Still it satisfies me quite a lot. I just love Tom Rapp's performance and the sound is so nice and dreamy. Three stars. Change is big you will never listen to this album, but you'll miss it if you own it and lost it.

* Edited *

Once again I edit an review of PBS. This record has been appearing on my turntable every day of the week for two weeks now and I'm still lurking to hear more of it. Songs like the western styled Once Upon a Time, the intense emotional Nancy, the loose but well composed The Man and the psychedelic/progressive tracks The Wedding and Did You Dream Of have become some of the most important songs in my record collection. Did You Dream of is perhaps one of my favorite songs ever. The melody is very haunting. Perhaps this record isn't very progressive, but it is a masterpiece in it's own fashion and it fully deserves the four star rating.

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars Maybe the most special PBS/TR album, since each side of the album had its own dedicated face, but if you're paying attention, it's not Tom on the sleeve, but "Thos" Rapp credited. But even then, I can't be totally positive this is a dual affair, and it doesn't sound schizophrenic either. The A-side is certainly very country-esque, not too far away from what Dylan would do with Nashville Skyline (this is where half the album was recorded), but it's not the flipside would be any less, except maybe for the opening cover of Jacques Brel's Le Moribond (translated in Seasons In The Sun), but then again, it only echoes the sad Raindrops (where Thom's wife sings as well) and Cohen's Nancy. The only real saving grace for this album is the all-too-short and chilling Wedding. The abum's musicians are dominated by Charles McCoy that plays, bass, guitar, harmonica and dobro, but once again, the PBS touring line-up is nowhere to be found on this album. Best avoided if you're looking for prog folk or folk- prog or even psych-folk.

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