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Pearls Before Swine - Balaklava CD (album) cover


Pearls Before Swine


Prog Folk

3.98 | 30 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
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.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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