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PEARLS BEFORE SWINE

Prog Folk • United States


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Pearls Before Swine picture
Pearls Before Swine biography
Founded in Eau Gallie, Florida, USA in 1965 - Disbanded in 1971

Thomas Dale Rapp - Born March 8, 1947 in Bottineau, North Dakota, USA - February 11, 2018

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE is the band formed by folk singer, guitar-player and songwriter Tom RAPP and some of his high school friends. Though RAPP would remain the only standing member of the band over the years, this first line-up can be attributed with the first two albums, "One Nation Underground" (1967) and "Balaklava" (1968), on which PEARLS BEFORE SWINE can be described as a psychedelic and progressive folk group. Both albums were released by ESP. After this Tom RAPP would continue to record milder folk records under the PEARLS BEFORE SWINE flag with a diversity of studio musicians until dropping the bandname in 1973. He then delivered another three albums under his own name (these are also included on this page) before becoming a civil rights lawyer. In 1999 Tom RAPP would return with another solo album.

RAPP would eventually become a cult-idol because of his mystical and political songwriting and his emotionally driven, folky and almost whimsical (in a good way) vocal performances.

I
The first line-up of PEARLS BEFORE SWINE consisted of Tom RAPP, Wayne HARLEY, Lane LEDERER and Roger CRISSINGER. Together they would record the classic "One Nation Underground" (1967), a psychedelic folk album with some heavy edges, psychedelic moods, political lyrics and mystical folk songs. The album sold a reasonable 250.000 copies, but due to lack of proper management the band would not profit very much from this. In 1968 the band would re-emerge with again RAPP, CRISSINGER and LEDERER, this time joined by Jim BOHANNON and some guest musicians in the studio. "Balaklava" (1968) would be their most progressive effort with a continuation in style, but with a more daring approach with psychedelic sound-effects, symphonic arrangements and a dark ending song based on the 'The Lord of the Rings'.

II
On the third album "These Things Too" (1969) the band's line up changed significantly. RAPP would be joined by his wife (of Dutch origin) Elisabeth, Wayne HARLEY, Jim FAIRS as well as some studio musicians. This album would be their first album on the Reprise label, but unfortunately the recording quality was rather poor. Mainly for this reason this album is perceived as the lesser PEARLS BEFORE SWINE ALBUM.

III
In 1970 RAPP and his wife, like so many other fol...
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PEARLS BEFORE SWINE discography


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PEARLS BEFORE SWINE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.41 | 25 ratings
One Nation Underground
1967
3.95 | 33 ratings
Balaklava
1968
2.86 | 19 ratings
These Things Too
1969
4.19 | 42 ratings
The Use Of Ashes
1970
3.01 | 12 ratings
City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album]
1971
3.66 | 14 ratings
... Beautiful Lies You Could Live In.
1972
3.08 | 6 ratings
Tom Rapp: Familiar Songs
1972
2.62 | 7 ratings
Tom Rapp: Stardancer
1972
3.08 | 5 ratings
Tom Rapp: Sunforest
1973
2.21 | 5 ratings
Tom Rapp: A Journal Of The Plague Year
1999

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Constructive Melancholy (30 Years of Pearls Before Swine)
1999
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Wizard of Is
2004

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Suzanne / There Was a Man
1969
4.00 | 1 ratings
Rocket Man / God Save the Child
1970

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Rocket Man / God Save the Child by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1970
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Rocket Man / God Save the Child
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars This single contains two strong songs from PBS's fourth album The Use of Ashes (1970) which is their best rated here. With my compilation-based knowledge I tend to agree on this matter, and these songs together form a very dynamic and convincing pair indeed.

Ah, 'Rocket Man'. The actual reason why I found this band in the first place. In a Facebook conversation about literature-inspired music I mentioned Hungarian band Solaris and their prog album "The Martian Chronicles" inspired by Ray Bradbury's science fiction classic of the same name. I was told that this American band, ie. their front man Tom Rapp, has also been inspired by Bradbury. The day I got the compilation containing this song I picked up my Finnish copy of The illustrated Man -- one of my dearest books from my youth, together with three other Bradbury books -- and read once more the story about a family man working as an astronaut, before listening to the song. Rapp's lyrics deal with the final outcome of the emotionally moving story, the narrator's father having killed by the sun. The music is soft and delicate, featuring classical instruments such as harpsichord, oboe, cello and other strings. Rapp's voice has just the right amount of sadness and frail emotion, and female backing vocals sound nice. The chorus about "My mother and I (...) We only went out when it rained" gets several repetitions but that doesn't do harm for this lovely little song.

Some years later Elton John made his famous song of the same subject. It is great too, quite different from this one really.

'God Save the Child' is a relatively rocking song from this band, with stronger playing. I like this song almost as much, albeit for very different musical reason. The arrangement is again full of nuances. If you're new to Pearls Before Swine, you could start by listening these songs from the Internet.

 Constructive Melancholy (30 Years of Pearls Before Swine) by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1999
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Constructive Melancholy (30 Years of Pearls Before Swine)
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars If you want to have a more comprehensive compilation of this American, singer-songwriter based folk rock band, you may better get the 2-disc The Wizard of Is (2004)*. This 69-minute compilation concentrates on the so called middle period, ie. the albums These Things Too (1969), The Use of Ashes (1970), City of Gold (1971) and Beautiful Lies You Could Live In (1972) on the Reprise label, excluding the first two PBS albums and the ones released under Tom Rapp's name.

Together with Balaklava (1968) this one, for now, entirely makes up my acquaintance to this band which I happily stumbled upon a month ago, thanks to a Facebook friend recommending them. I didn't avoid some frustrated feelings of the somewhat blurry way the output, or half of it, is represented here. For example no information of the source albums or co-performers on each track, nor track lengths -- and the liner notes are printed in a very small font on page-wide columns, difficult to read for a middle-aged listener! But these things aside, this really is a charming set of acoustically oriented, atmospheric and mostly fairly calm folk rock with a fairytale-like psychedelic flavour. If you like e.g. TIM BUCKLEY, SHAWN PHILLIPS, NICK DRAKE, early LEONARD COHEN, DONOVAN, INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, LINDISFARNE, TREES, MAGNA CARTA, FOREST and RALPH McTELL, you'll probably enjoy Tom Rapp's music.

The running order of the 26 tracks is unchronological and seemingly haphazard. If only there weren't so lengthy spaces in between the songs (another feature I've never liked), the whole would feel more like a tailor-made, artistically well-thought musical journey as I bet it intends to be. I'm not going to write much of separate songs (partly because my computer refuses to play the CD properly). There are a bunch of songs I'm not fond of; they tend to have some slightly irritating feature, perhaps a bit too much of either naiivety ('Froggle') or a country flavour. Most songs however are very nice or even spellbinding at best. Tom Rapp's warm and a bit uncertain voice often carries the story-telling aspect, sometimes backed by a beautiful female voice. The instrumentation is often colourful, finishing the magical atmosphere.

For those already having a couple of the four short albums, such as The Use of Ashes which is almost entirely represented here, this compilation may not be that necessary. For a newcomer with a suitable taste for psych- flavoured folk rock this set easily brings a lot of delight and rare charm. Therefor strong four stars, despite some inadequate features in the representation.

*) Or maybe this one is the better compilation of the two, after all: I'm not familiar with The Wizard of Is, but I just noticed from my library database that it contains demos and live recordings.

 Suzanne / There Was a Man by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Suzanne / There Was a Man
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Hey, I just found an interesting band I'm willing to know deeper, thanks to a Facebook friend who mentioned them. PEARLS BEFORE SWINE were an American folk rock band active in the late 60's and early 70's, led by singer-songwriter Tom Rapp whose solo albums are also catalogued here under his band. It's the second album Balaklava (1968) that most listeners consider their best one. This single has two songs from it.

'Suzanne', the extremely well known Leonard Cohen song, was first recorded by Judy Collins, understandably best remembered as Cohen's own version from 1967, and covered by hundreds of artists all around the world ever since. This serene version is among the early ones and totally new to me. Not very far in spirit to Cohen's own interpretation, I believe this is easy to like by any friend of Cohen's music. Tom Rapp's voice is pleasant and emotionally deep without being too expressive. The arrangement is elegant and nuanced. I can't name with certainty all the instruments used on this particular song, but the English horn of the guest musician Joe Farrell fits in very beautifully.

'There Was a Man' is a calm, acoustic guitar centred song actually pretty much in the Leonard Cohen vein. Story telling by singing is essential on it, but also musically it's pleasant if you like this kind of folk music. Four solid stars within the genre, not much of prog or psych flavours to be heard though.

 Tom Rapp: Stardancer by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.62 | 7 ratings

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Tom Rapp: Stardancer
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The first two Pearls Before Swine albums ('One Nation Underground' and 'Balaklava') are highly recommended psychedelic rock / prog folk albums. Among my favorite sixties records. I can also enjoy listening to later contemporary folk PBS albums like 'City of Gold' and 'Beautiful Lies'. The next go to album was said to be 'Stardancer (1972)', released under Tom Rapp's own name. The band's line-up had been in constant flux since Rapp started recording in Nashville for 'The Use of Ashes' in 1970. Tom Rapp is one of my favorite vocalists; he has a truly original voice and his emotional - almost whimsical - singing always grasps me. Even when he sings a country song (which is about the biggest compliment a singer could get from me).

On this album there's a slight return to the psychedelic rock leanings of the debut, though contemporary folk remains the main genre here. The recording quality and mixing varies a lot, excluding the possibility for these songs to really hit the jackpot. Buried under the lo-fi sound there are some pretty cool songs; like the dark and gloomy opener 'Fourth Day of July' with its phasing effects. Somehow this song also showcases how bitter and long-overdue the lingering hippy scene had become - and how its political message became a burden. 'Stardance' than really is a song that would have fitted on that magical Balaklava album that many love so much. The other songs all have psychedelic elements but they don't always mix well with the Dylan-esque country feel. Some of the lighter songs are a bit annoying, like the silly 'Why Should I Care'. The final song 'Les Ans' with its baroque feel leaves the listener with that emotive 'what if' feeling. Simple and beautiful song.

In the end, the promise of Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine was to fade slowly and rather grimly with a string of albums that just aren't that well made. From these same recordings the 1973 equally plagued 'Sunflower' would be released and after that Rapp would focus on his work as a civil rights lawyer. Fans are left to image what could have been achieved by this amazing performer in the seventies. In hindsight Rapp's main problem must have been living in the USA in stead of England at that time, where folk and prog remained lively for many years to come.

 Tom Rapp: Sunforest by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.08 | 5 ratings

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Tom Rapp: Sunforest
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Recorded at the same time in Nashville and with roughly the same personnel (whoever in that scene was present in the studios, apparently) as his previous album, Stardancer, Sinforest is a bit different, partly due to the Aphex audio processing system. Personally, I'd be hard pressed to explain the difference, but apparently the professional spotted it immediately. This album was to be Rapp's last one for three decades, but unlike its predecessor, he made sure that the Pearls Before Swine name was appearing on the front artwork (the pink badge on the hat)

If sonically different (let's admit it), in these ears, it's mostly in terms of the track list. SD was had a few covers, SF is all original songs, but some are reminiscent of the other release, like the album-opening track Coming Back and its Caribbean percussions. The short following Prayer Of Action is apparently an inspiring track for many people, and it comes with string arrangements. Things get a little deeper with the sombre Forbidden City, with hypnotizing climates reminiscent of Balaklava or Use Of Ashes. Rapp answers a Stephen Stills preoccupation in the following Love/Sex song, and Harding Street seems to be inspired from Leonard Cohen.

Opening the flipside, Blind River is a quiet but mesmerizing ambiance, where flutes and bowed bass make up the background of the intro, before the song slowly picks up momentum via percussions and string arrangements. The following Some Place To Belong is an up-tempo affair where an organ hold the centre stage with fast percussion and Tom's guitar. The title track is again looking backwards to the PBS's earlier albums' ambiances, but with a Cohen vocal delivery. The closing Sunshine & Charles is the least interesting track of the album.

Both SD and SF have received Cherrty Red records reissues with some interesting liner notes, but none are essential in Rapp's PBS discography, though there are three worthy songs on each. In the present case, Forbidden City, Blind River and Sunforest are the better ones, and compared to SD, thankfully, there are no obvious Nashville influences, and that tilts the balance in SF's favour.

 Tom Rapp: A Journal Of The Plague Year by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1999
2.21 | 5 ratings

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Tom Rapp: A Journal Of The Plague Year
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars As Tom Rapp more or less retired from the music scene during the second half of the 70's to become a Civil Rights lawyer, he became more or less forgotten for the mainstream. So I guess it must've been a solid surprise for those who remembered fondly the early albums of Pearls Before Swine to hear from Tom Rapp returning with an album after the millennium., even though he chose his name rather than his old group's name. A good decision given that this is more of a solo effort than a group one. I'm not sure why the man chose to come back to music, whether pushed by the nostalgia or envy of music, but I believe I'm not the only one to find his return very disappointing.

Behind this very conceptual album title and artwork, one could expect a series of songs that are at least related in lyrics and contents. I personally detected nothing of the sort (not even a title track), and to be honest, the very diminutive package is hardly any help, not even giving the line-up playing on the album. And the proghead won't find much more interest in the songs selected on the disc. The album opens on an old timer (and incredibly boring) a capela track (Silver Apples) that chills the enthusiasm? Following tracks don't really fare much better, but at least there are instruments, but nothing of much interest, except for the odd orchestral arrangements. BTW, while the album is more folk than country, the usual Dylan influences are not always as immediately obvious as in his mid-70's albums, but they're still around.

Would you believe that the more interesting track is the closing live monologue, worthy of the best stand-up comedians, where Tom Rapp reminisces on the 60's drug and recording days. Indeed, in front of a very accepting public, he tells us of a few hilarious anecdotes about the ESP/Elektra studio days that sound like personal experiences, not second-hand. While really funny (the man is a gifted raconteur), it's simply not enough to warrant investing in this kind of album.

 City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album] by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.01 | 12 ratings

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City Of Gold [Aka: The Nashville Album]
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

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.

 Tom Rapp: Stardancer by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.62 | 7 ratings

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Tom Rapp: Stardancer
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Although released under his own name, Stardancer deserves the PBS moniker (it was his new Blue Thumb label that decided against it), if only for the logical musical continuity of what came before. Of course it had been a while since the bnd had stopped having a stable studio line-up, even if its touring version had a semblance of stability. Sure, by this time, the superb psych/prog folk of the first two albums and Use Of Ashes was long-gone, but we can still find a few trace in the course of Stardancer, well hidden under the fairly wide-ranging songs that grace this album. Strangely enough, it appears that the Cherry Red CD reissue reverses the side playing order as opposed to the original vinyl, so I will tell you I reviewed the album in its CD form

Among the better prog-folk songs is the opening title track, which grows out of chimes into a soft guitar and a very personal complaint. Sweet flutes, hypnotizing cellos, windy cymbals and haunting melodies are what make this song magic. However the spell is broken with the awkward Marshall ditty filled with Caribbean percussions. The following Why Should I Care sounds like a goofy 40's Music Hall thing with an insufferable twangy/country/jazz feel. Touch Tripping and the French-sung Las Ans (sounding like n Eleanor Rigby version) closes the A/B side. The flipside opens on the poignant (and album- proggiest) Fourth Day Of July with plenty or eeriness and dramatics to boot. The Dylan-esque For The Dead In Space is present a semi-folk ambiance in its first part and a semi-country feel in its second half. The country-esque Baptist is definitely not up my alley, but I can understand why this song might gather a lot of support, but it overstays its welcome to my ears. Summer Of 55 features some rapid- fire percussions and some sax and other horns, while the closing goofy Tiny Song goes nuts.

Although SD is hardly as good as an early PBS album, there are a few outstanding tracks (three actually) that make it investigable and certainly worth considering investing in it. But I would consider not doing so either, because the album lacks a clear musical direction, because of its all-too-wide spectrum and therefore the hole lacks cohesion.

 The Use Of Ashes by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.19 | 42 ratings

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The Use Of Ashes
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars I've been reading a book by a sassy fashionista who cues his entry into full reminiscence mode with the expression "Let's dial back". When approaching long past nascent progressive folk that one never had the privilege to hear in its initial run, one would do well to dial back for two reasons. First, cliches may be exploited that were not cliches in their day, so one should step softly into such critiques even while acknowledging the unfashionable traits. Second, one cannot always expect to be wowed by defiant prog just because exhibit A hails from that era. Lots else was going on at the time, and audacious fervour could take many forms, especially where folk influenced music was concerned. In so dialing back, one is left as open to an album's authenticity as if one was truly present on the original release date.

By all accounts, TOM RAPP's PEARLS BEFOR SWINE released several generally unnoticed works, the best of these being "The Use of Ashes". Listen a few times, and delicacy of voice and poetic muse will be manifest, as well as a world weariness that one can't manufacture in a studio. A less depressive NICK DRAKE might be an apt reference point. The largely acoustic guitar and string accompaniment is elegantly assuaged by keyboard arrangements and woodwinds, especially whiffs of harpsichord, and the melodies take a number in one's memory queue. "Rocket Man" is especially poignant in its recounting, a timeless melody and vulnerable lyrics that can reach anyone who has worried for a loved one and felt helpless at some of their life decisions. "The Old Man" incorporates English folk influences as successfully as the late JACK HARDY ever did, while "The Riegel" pairs SIMON AND GARFUNKEL's harmonies with a historical insight and profound respect a la KINGSTON TRIO. In contrast, "When the War Began" shuffles along without drawing in the listener, and, "God Save the Child" insists upon itself in its post-Dylanesque entreaties, although to my ears it sounds even more like a lost post-prime GUESS WHO hit.

"The Use of Ashes" is a simply lovely album of worldly American folk rock with psychedelic and progressive hues and among the most elegantly economical arrangements I have yet heard. If not for a few mediocre cuts, it would merit 5 stars. Highly recommended for the hearth.

 These Things Too by PEARLS BEFORE SWINE album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.86 | 19 ratings

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These Things Too
Pearls Before Swine Prog Folk

Review by the philosopher

3 stars "These Things too" is a transitional record between the psychedelic/obscure folk period of Pearls Before Swine and the symphonic folk period. The cover is less impressive then on the earlier recordings and the album title suggests that we have to deal with recordings that didn't fit on the earlier recordings or are 2nd rate material. This album may not be Pearls Before Swine's most appreciated record; there are still some gems on it however and should not be skipped by fans of the surrounding works.

There is a great change in sound in comparison with the previous obscure Balaklava record. The addition of a piano and some more traditional singer/song writer material makes this record less interesting, but I must admit I'm still very impressed by about the halve of the songs which do remind me of the great Balaklava. Tom Rapp enters different new territory with a French chanson (Mon Amour), woman backin' vocals (Man in the Tree) and country music (If you don't want to (...)). Like on Balaklava there is one cover song on the record. This time its a Bob Dylan track (I shall be released), which I find one of the weaker tracks of the record. There are two versions of "Frog on the window" on the record: the first one is a psychedelic one and the other an more Spanish/ Greek influcenced one.

Both sides of the record contain some great songs and some mediocre songs. Maybe it is because Tom Rapp devoted this record to his wife Elisabeth (who takes care of the woman vocals) that this record is a bit more "dreamy" in sound and less obscure/ psychedelic then the previous recordings. The recordings themselves are more "difficult" and this record took me longer to appreciate then the earlier recordings. This record is still growing on me however and therefor I'll credit three stars for it. First try out the far more brilliant Balaklava!

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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