Pearls Before Swine


Band members                             Related acts

  line-up 1: (1965-67)

- Roger Crissinger -- organ, harpsichord, synthesizer

- Wayne Harley -- autoharp, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, oscillator

- Lane Lederer -- bass, guitar, English horn, horn, vocals

- Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar

 

  line-up 2: (1967-68)

- Roger Crissinger -- organ, harpsichord, synthesizer

- Wayne Harley -- autoharp, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, oscillator

- Lane Lederer -- bass, guitar, English horn, horn, vocals

- Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar

 

  line-up 3: (1968-69)

NEW - John Bohannon -- organ, piano, clavinet, marimba (replaced 

  Roger Crissinger)

- Wayne Harley -- autoharp, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, oscillator

- Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar

 

  line-up 4: (1968-69)

- Wayne Harley -- autoharp, banjo, mandolin, vibraphone, oscillator

- Elisabeth Joosten  -- vocals

- Tom Rap (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar

 

  supporting musicians: (1969)

- Richard Greene - electric violin

- Bill Salter -- bass

- Grady Tate -- drums, percussion

 

  line-up 5: (1969-70)

- Elisabeth Joosten -- vocals 

- Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar 

 

  supporting musicians: (1970)

- David Briggs --  piano, harpsichord 

- Kenneth Buttrey -- drums, percussion

- Hutch Davie -- keyboards 

- John Duke -- oboe, flute  

- Mac Gayden -- guitar 

- Charles Ray McCoy --  dobro, guitar, bass, harmonica 

- Bill Pippin -- oboe, flute

- Norbert Putnam -- bass 

- Buddy Spicher --  violin, cello, viola 

 

  line-up 7: (1971)

NEW - Morris Brown -- bass

NEW - Art Ellis

NEW - Gordon Hayes -- bass

NEW- Mike Krawitz -- piano 

NEW - Robbie Merkin -- keyboards, vocals

- Elisabeth Joosten -- vocals

- Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar 

NEW - Jim Tooker (RIP 2008) -- guitar

NEW - David Wolfert -- guitar

 

  line-up 8: (1971-74)

- Art Ellis (RIP 2017) -- flute

- Tom Rapp -- vocals, guitar

NEW - Harry Orlove -- guitar, banjo

NEW - Tom Rapp (RIP 2018) -- vocals, guitar

NEW - Bill Rollins -- bass, cello

 

 

 

- The Candy Company (Gordon Hayes)

- The Cryan' Shames (Jim Fair)

- One (Roger Crissinger)

- Tom Rapp (solo efforts)

 

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  These Things Too

Company: Reprise

Catalog: RS 6364
Year:
 1979

Country/State: Eau Gallie, Florida

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut lower corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $30.00

 

1969's "These Things Too" found Pearls Before Swine signed to Reprise Records.  I'm not sure any label in the world would have been able to push Tom Rapp and companions down the throats of the listening public, but who would have ever thought Pearls for Swine would get major label exposure?  

 

Quick warning here - This is not an album to get a party going.   Co-produced by Richard Alderson and former The Cryan' Shames guitarist Jim Fairs, the collection found a slimmed down Pearls for Swine line-up recording at New York's Impact Studios.  Gone were original keyboardist Roger Crissinger and bass player Lane Lederer.  Left behind with singer/guitarist Tom Rapp were banjo player Wayne Harley and Rapp's Dutch-born wife Elisabeth Joosten.  Anyhow, anyone expecting Rapp's partnership with Reprise to blossom into top-40 pop, or FM-radio ready rock was going to be in for a major disappointment.  With two exceptions Rapp's patented eclectic sound remained largely unchanged.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Sail Away', 'Look Into Her Eyes' and the whacked-out 'Frog In the Window' (included in two versions), that meant this was a collection of dense, enigmatic lyrics over highly non-commercial pseudo-melodies. The two exceptions - a surprisingly by-the-books and commercial cover of Dylan's-via-The Byrds 'I Shall Be  Released.'   The other exception was the ballad 'When I Was a Child.'  Yeah, Rapp had a bigger recording budget and used it to recruit some big name sessions players including jazz drummer Tate.  The album also sported a more sophisticated production approach including horns on the bluesy 'I'm Going To City' and orchestration on the fragile ballad 'Wizard of Is.'  Still, this remains instantly recognizable as a Tom Rapp/Pearls Before Swine album.  That's going to limit it's audience.

 

"These Things Too" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Footnote (Tom Rapp - W.H. Auden) - 1:18 rating: *** stars

Listening to any Pearls Before Swine song, it certainly helps to be attuned to the lyrics.  Take the short, stark (Rapp accompanying himself on acoustic guitar).   In this case the brief narrative was based on W.H. Auden's short poem "Epitaph on a Tyrant."  Written in 1939 while in Berlin, the original words may have been inspired by Adolf Hitler, but my guess is Rapp was using the lyrics as commentary  on a much wider segment of the late-'60s political hierarchy.

2.) Sail Away (Tom Rapp) - 3:06 rating: *** stars

'Sail Away' is a perfect example of what's intriguing about Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine.  The first couple of years I owned this album, on those rare occasions I would play it, this was one of the songs I would skip, or ignore.  The melody didn't do much for, though there was a Jim Ford electric guitar solo. Rapp's vocals remained an acquired taste.  The lyrics were dense and enigmatic.  Anyone, one day the "Sail Away" refrain caught my ears and I started to trying to fathom the lyrics.  Here I am four decades later still trying to figure them out.

3.) Look Into Her Eyes (Tom Rapp) - 4:36 rating: **** stars

Occasional Rapp surprises me with an unexpectedly pretty melody.  Witness the acoustic ballad 'Look Into Her Eyes' ...  This was one of those mysterious tracks where Rapp's croaking voice was perfectly suited for the forlorn lyrics.  

4.) I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan) - 3:03 rating: *** stars

Geez, how many times has this Dylan track been covered?  Hundreds?  Well, with a full rock-band arrangement Rapp stuck close to The Byrds' version so I'll tell you this one wasn't bad.  

5.) Frog In The Window (Reprise) (Tom Rapp) - 2:31 rating: ** stars

Interesting that the "Reprise "showed up before the rest of the song. Built on a "circus" melody, featuring a spoken word vocal and some truly weird backing vocals, this was the stuff clown nightmares are made of.

6.) I'm Going To City (Tom Rapp) - 2:30 rating: ** stars

Rapp does the blues, complete with horns ... Okay.  Not essential, though the un-credited sax solo was really nice.

7.) Man In The Tree (Tom Rapp) - 3:30 rating: **** stars

Another acoustic, folk piece, 'Man In the Tree' featured more off those highly personnel and enigmatic lyrics. Propelled by a weird little Wayne Harley banjo figure,  Rapp's wife Elisabeth Joosten featured on backing vocals.  Who was the man in the tree?  Christ?  Some post grad out there will know.

 

(side 2)

1.) If You Don't Want To (I Don't Mind) (Tom Rapp) - 3:14 rating: * star

On his "Radio Pearls" album Rapp described this as "a country and western thing; an odds and ends song."  Two strikes against it.  Lots of violin.  Strike three.

2.) Green And Blue (Tom Rapp - Elisabeth Joosten) - 0:21 rating: * star

Nothing more than a song fragment, 'Green And Blue' featured Joosten's "little girl" voice - no instrumentation.

3.) Mon Amour  (Tom Rapp - Elisabeth Joosten) - 2:07 rating: ** stars

Wrapped in a dreamy melody, it was momentarily entertaining to hear Rapp seeing in phonetic French.  Oh gawd I'm having a flashback to Mr. Stein's high school French class.

4.) Wizard of Is (Tom Rapp) - 3:35 rating: *** stars

Heavily orchestrated, pretty, fragile ballad sporting some of Rapp's more pretentious lyrics.  

5.) Frog in the Window (Tom Rapp) - 2:42 rating: *** stars

In contrast to the "circus" arrangement, the second version featured a folk-ish arrangement.  Lyrically it was just as weird.

6.) When I Was a Child (Tom Rapp) - 4:46  rating: **** stars

Jim Ford's fuzz guitar was an unexpected surprise. Certainly not what I expected given the song title.  Another track that was almost commercial with a breezy melody and some nice horn and string instrumentation.  Yes, I'm using that term "commercial" in the broadest sense imaginable.

7.) These Things Too (Tom Rapp) - 3:25

I'm surprised by how pretty many of Rapp's melodies are. I find him most enjoyable when surrounded by a full rock arrangement, as is the case on the title track.  The lyrics referring to "Persian kings" reminded me a little of Al Stewart through the historical markers weren't as clear. Reprise clearly had no idea what to do with Rapp, releasing this one as a promo single:

 

 

 

 

- 1969's 'These Things Too' b/w 'If You Don't Want To (I Don't Mind)' (Reprise catalog number 0873)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's a weird factoid - The German release featured an alternate cover as authorities were uncomfortable with the fact Giovanni Bellin's painting of Jesus reflected one of his nipples.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Use of Ashes

Company: Reprise

Catalog: RS 6405
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Eau Gallie, Florida

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $30.00

 

Under the banner Pearls Before Swine, by my count the late singer/guitarist Tom Rapp and company managed to record five studio albums over the 1967-1971 timeframe.  I'd be amazed if they sold a total of 50,000 copies across the entire catalog.  That's not a criticism since we all know that commercial success is not an indication of originality, or quality.  Anyhow, Pearls Before Swine exemplifies my definition of a cult band.  Lots of critics swoon over Tom Rapp's eccentricities and hyper-literacy.  No moon-in-June couplets here.  

 

Following the release of 1969's "These Things Too" Pearls Before Swine effectively collapsed.  Rapp and his Dutch-born wife Elisabeth packed their bags moving to Holland where they spent the next six months relaxing and working on material for his next album.  In fact the album carried a dedication to Rapp's homeland - "This album is dedicated to the Netherlands where most of the songs were written." Though it was billed as a Pearls Before Swine release, 1970's "The Use of Ashes" was essentially a Tom Rapp solo endeavor.   Co-produced by Peter Edmiston and Charles Rothschild, the album was recorded over a three day period in Nashville's Woodland Studios with support from a host of Nashville studio musicians (most members of the band Area Code 615.  

 

Musicians seem to head to Nashville in an effort to incorporate the city's country sound into their catalogs.  Think Dylan and "Nashville Skyline."   Judging by these ten tracks, that wasn't the case for this set.  Sure, David Briggs harpsichord was prominently displayed on tracks like the instrumental 'From the Movie of the Same Name' and Bill Pippin's flute and Buddy Spicher's violin peppered several tracks.  That said, this wasn't Rapp's country album.  It was almost as if Rapp was influencing the studio musicians he'd brought in for support.  Showcasing Rapp's fragile voice and eccentric catalog of obscure subject matter, tracks like 'The Jeweler,' 'Song About A Rose' and 'When the War Began' fell into this weird niche between folk and progressive moves.  Progressive-folk?  Folk-progressive?  Do musical categories matter?  Other than Al Stewart, who would have written a song inspired by a doomed Norwegian freighter ('Riegal')?   Exemplified by 'When the War Began' music is cluttered with anti-war songs, but how many have the makings of a PBS Masterpiece series?  How many artists would have pushed to package their album with a cover showing "[a] French or Flemish late XV century tapestry, The Hunt of the Unicorn VI, the unicorn is brought to the castle."  I'll be the first to admit this wasn't one of those albums to get the party started.  It's deep, dark and challenging material.  Exactly the kind of album I would have expected to run away from.  For whatever reason, that's not the case here.  Maybe it's the challenge. Like going back in my 60s and trying to understand Algebra, trying to figure out the meaning behind a song like 'The Old Man' ...  99% of the audience will just ignore this one, but for that 1% it's certainly worth checking out.

 

"The Use of Ashes" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Jeweler (Tom Rapp) - 2:48 rating: **** stars

I'm sure there are Peals Before Swine scholars out there who will know the story behind the sweet, but enigmatic opening ballad 'The Jeweler.'  Perhaps urban legend, but Rapp was supposedly inspired as he watched his wife Elisabeth polish some jewelry with a paste that included ashes.   I've seen all sorts of explanations - a reflection on Christ's crucifixion; a love letter to composer Ira Gershwin.  Beats me.  Musically the song started out as a fragile ballad that showcased Tom Rapp's unique voice.  It was certainly an "acquired taste."  To my ears it was the  kind of deep, thought-provoking tune that must have sent English major into a frenzy.  Admittedly the song picked up some energy as it went along with some lovely orchestration and an "ear candy" refrain.  Releasing any Pearls Before Swine song as a single was a daring marketing effort, so kudos to Reprise for going with this track - even if it was only a promo 45.  If someone could give me a clear, believable explanation of the tune, I might even give it a fourth star.

 

 

 

 

- 1970's 'The Jeweler' b/ 'Rocket Man' (Reprise catalog number 0949)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) From the Movie of the Same Name (instrumental) (Tom Rapp) - 2:21 rating: *** stars

Opening up David Briggs on harpsichord and a pastoral melody, the acoustic instrumental 'From the Movie of the Same Name' has always struck me as sounding like something the Rapps simply ran out of time to complete.  The fact Tom and wife Elisabeth hummed their way through the tune just underscored that feeling.  It was a pretty composition  though ...

3.) Rocket Man (Tom Rapp) - 3:06 rating: *** stars

Rapp apparently had a difficult relationship with his father ...  Bernie Taupin's gone on record as saying this tune was the inspiration for Elton John's hit song.  Not David Bowie's 'Space Oddity.'  The album liner notes say the song was "based on a short story by Ray Bradbury."  If so, note thatt Bradbury wasn't given a co-writing credit.  If that was the case, Rapp's inspiration was a Bradbury story entitled "The Rocket Man" found in the book "The Illustrated Man."  Rapp reportedly wrote the song while living near Cape Canaveral, in the wake of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Regardless of the inspiration, the plotline seems  pretty gory - astronaut father is lost in space, leaving son to grieve.  Reprise tapped it as the album's lead-off single:

 

 

 

 

- 1970's 'Rocket Man' b/w 'God Save the Child' (Reprise catalog number 0916)

 

 

 

 

 

4.) God Save The Child (Tom Rapp)  - 3:08) rating: **** stars

Complete with tasty Mac Gayden electric guitar, horn charts and a memorable melody, 'God Save The Child' found Rapp and company approaching rock territory.  Hum, I had to re-read that sentence.  How often can you claim to find yourself humming a Pearls Before Swine tune?  Easily the album's most commercial and mainstream tune, I've always wondered why Reprise didn't tap this one as the single.

5.) Song About A Rose  (Tom Rapp) - 2:21 rating: *** stars

I guess Rapp was serious with 'Song About A Rose' and while the plotline was completely lost on me,  the goofy, pretentious lyrics have always made me smile.  Another pretty melody.

 

(side 2)

1.) Tell Me Why (Tom Rapp) - 3:43 rating: ** stars

Opening up with a vibraphone segment and featuring John Duke on flute, the ballad 'Tell Me Why' found Rapp offering up a slice of smooth, laidback cocktail jazz. It's calming; you can feel your blood pressure rapidly dropping, but it wasn't a particularly interesting number.  

2.) Margery (Tom Rapp) - 3:03 rating: *** stars

Acoustic guitar and Briggs' harpsichord ...  not a bad way to start a song.  From an audio perspective Rapp sounded like he was singing from a bathroom stall down the street.  Thematically this was another mystery to me.  Doomed soldier's letter to a girlfriend, or wife?

3.) The Old Man (Tom Rapp) - 3:16 rating: *** stars

As an old man myself, I was intrigued to hear Rapp's view of the subject.  Can't say I got much practical information out of his fantasy lyrics.  

4.) Riegal (Tom Rapp) - 3:13 rating: **** stars

A haunting duet featuring Tom  Rapp and his wife, 'Riegal' pulled a page out the Al Stewart school of songwriting,  Rapp apparently wrote the song after reading a newspaper story about  the tragic Allied sinking of the Norwegian freighter MS Rigel.  The ship had been appropriated by the German Navy and in November, 1944 was being used as a prisoner transport carrying a mixture of Norwegian convicts, German deserters, and thousands of Eastern European prisoners of war.  Spotted by English planes flying off the HMS Implacable, the ship was attacked by fighter aircraft and dive bombers.  Heavily damaged, the German Captain managed to ground the ship, but not before the majority of the 2,500 passengers had drown. For some reason Rapp's lyrics referred to 4,000 prisoners.  Extra star for the interesting history lesson and Rapp's even-handed, if somewhat inaccurate narrative.

5.) When the War Began (Tom Rapp) - 5:07  rating: *** stars

Again recalling an Al Stewart-styled mini-history, 'When the War Began' sounded like it could have been the basis for a PBS Masterpiece Theater series.

 

 

 

 

 

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