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30 Sep 2017

Pearls Before Swine ‎ “One Nation Underground” 1967 US Psych Folk Rock debut Lp

 Pearls Before Swine ‎ “One Nation Underground” 1967 US Psych Folk Rock debut Lp
Pearls Before Swine “Uncle John”{HQ} 1967

It can be difficult albums that use very prominent influences from single artists, and we get a very obvious one here with Playmate from Bob Dylan, which suffocates the track rather than open it up. Much better strides were made in terms of uniqueness with tracks like the succeeding “Ballaf to an Amber Melody” with the wonderful contemporary folk guitar melody and highly vibrato-laden vocals that would hint at future great works like Balaklava. But despite the rough start, after playmate this album gets pretty good. I love “Miss Morse” with the great, memorable keyboard melody and fantastic lyrics. “Drop Out!” is a great song too with that catchy, comforting chorus that exclaims “Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing!” with such confidence that one actually grows to feel that there’s nothing to worry about, no matter the situation(consider me a good example: I have a ton of shit I have to worry about). And then after it Morning Song makes an interesting appearance with eastern influence on the instrumentation and melodies that create a hazy, discomforting and enveloping atmosphere. However, I’ll say that Uncle John’s vocals were much less enjoyable, and the yelling at the end just didn’t come out the way I would’ve hoped. “I Shall Not Care” uses balladry to promote a better, more substantial sentiment and was better lyrically. I enjoyed the percussion that really drove the energy of that track. And then “The Surrealist Waltz” was as discomforting as it wanted to be, with the foreboding drums, that lead into dancy keyboard riffs and by some miracle work in juxtaposition. 

Overall, this is a great debut. It is a lot less consistent than future releases, but served as a good foundation for what was to come and proved this band was unique from the start. I’d definitely rec this to obviously psych folk fans but also Indie pop fans I think would get a kick out of this……by…HotOpinions…..

The 60’s were a unique time for albums, especially so called “psychedelic” albums. You can tell where a lot of those records came from but that in no way dampens the enjoyment value. Pearls before Swine’s debut is like that. It is a folk album that wears it’s influences like pieces of jewelry: you can easily find the Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Donovan, Kinks, or whoever else kind of song. It also has many “trippy” songs on it, as well as the generic protest song. Somehow, dispite all of these things, the album works like a charm. “Ballad to an Amber Lady” and “Miss Morse” sound EXACTLY like the titles say; “Another Time”, “Playmate”, and “Morning Song” sound like the above mentioned people and genre trips but are among the best of thier kind of song; “I Shall Not Care” and “Regions of May” sound completely unique and surely spawned many imitators. “Uncle John” is probably my favorite protest song actually, in a decade that produced many. Even with that, “UJ” tied for best song of the record with the opener “Another Time” and the multi-layerd “I Shall Not Care”. One Nation Underground is an apt title: this kind of band could easily be popular but for whatever reason they are not. Do they choose not to be or do people just think it is too strange? Whatever the case, this music has stood the test of time well, though it is most definitely a product of it’s era. One of the better folk albums I’ve ever heard……by….Doxxman……….

Pearls Before Swine with their debut album. One Nation Underground was released in the summer of love in 1967 so naturally the expectations were pretty high for a psychedelic rock fan like me. I had already listened to their album Balaklava for the first time some years ago but even if it’s a good album it still turned out to be a minor letdown overall. I still decided to give a try to their debut LP. 

Unfortunately One Nation Underground has all the negative elements which were present in Balaklava as well. But what makes these two albums different from each other is the fact that while Balaklava is a bit unbalanced totality it still has some very nice songs unlike this one. I have to say that I’m not really impressed about any of these tracks on here. It’s pretty hard to choose my favourite songs since I don’t like any of these that much. Tom Rapp’s vocals are irritating which is a big minus here. 

One Nation Underground turned out to be even bigger letdown than Balaklava was a long time ago. I’m a big fan of psychedelic music of the late 1960’s but this album doesn’t represent the best material that was released back then. Very mediocre release and not recommended….by…CooperBolan …….

Debut album released on the famous ESP label (normally an experimental jazz label) in the summer 67 from PBS, a group that focused on Tom Rapp and his taste for mystic, gothic texts. If this debut album sees the group as quartet (plus an invited drummer), including multi-instrumentalist Wayne Harley and Lane Dederer, giving a fairly wide scope for a normal folk rock group at the time. Because ONU is definitely not yet PBS at its purest, often still taking much inspiration from Dylan and The Byrds, but there was a definite will to offer more than that, just their potential had not yet bloomed to its full later self. But the mystic and profound nature of the music is already apparent and not only through the splendid Flemish artworks being represented on the sleeve and the texts. 

If it is obvious that Dylan’s stature hovers all over side 1, it’s quite easy to see in Playmate and the almost jug-band Miss Moore, where PBS almost sound like Dylan’s crew on H61R, at other times (Drop Out) it’s more The Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn); but there are also more personal moments like Amber Lady (a collab with keyboardist Crissinger) with its bed of guitar arpeggios under delicates multi-layered vocals that actually is the highlight of the opening side. What might not be really apparent is that Lederer and Harvey are playing a wide array of instruments that allow the tracks to exist on their own 

The flipside is much more interesting starting on the haunting Morning.Song, with its gloomy organ, and far-out sitar and a haunting flute. Regions Of May is laying on layers of solemn English horn, and support the The more upbeat Uncle John sounds like an LA garage band track complete with the Vox Continental organ and savage yelling. Totally un-like PBS, yet so much part of them as well. I shall not care is bit in that same frame of mind after a quiet intro and before an astounding middle passage digging in the nightmarish world of Bosch’s Gardens of Delights (artwork of the sleeve), before returning to the garage sound. Closing the album is Surrealist Waltz penned (and sung) by bassist Lederer and keyboardist Crissinger.and is yet another highlight on this album. 

While its potential is not fully developed yet, PBS put out a highly influential album, PBS made a remarked debut, but it was buried in with the hippie counter-culture. A good debut , but much better is to come……by Sean Trane ….

Tom Rapp owes a deep and obvious debt to Bob Dylan on this Pearls Before Swine debut. Both his phrasing and allegoric lyrical style smack heavily of Dylan, sometimes almost uncomfortably so. “Playmate”, “Morning Song” and “I Shall Not Care” all are culled from the songbook of a long line of Dylan wannabes. 
If the entire album fell into this category it would be worth dismissing out of hand, but such is fortunately not the case. Rapp was clearly working hard to find his own voice on these songs, and appears to have relied on his deep knowledge of the Dylan catalog only partially. Elsewhere he shows an experimental side, ranging from an acoustic bard on “Ballad to an Amber Lady”, to a precocious angry young lad on “Uncle John”, to some sort of hillbilly Donovan on the closing “The Surrealist Waltz”. Sometimes the experiments work, often they just miss the mark. “(Oh Dear) Miss Morse” for example combines banjo and mandolin with weird keyboards (harpsichord I’m pretty sure, and a dated electronic analog synth known as a clavioline for an awkward and disjointed little ditty that sounds more like an outtake than something that should have made it onto the final release. “Drop Out!” must have sounded a bit dated even in 1967, and whatever sort of microphone was used for the vocals on “I Shall Not Care” doesn’t fit with the mandolin and banjo arrangements at all, nor do the faux-spacey spoken-word vocals or the minimalist mood. 

But in the end this was a promising debut for an American original, or at least someone who would become something of an original. Like the Moody Blues’ ‘Go Now!’, what would follow would be a far cry from the first efforts, and more often than not much more progressive and appealing. If you have never experienced Pearls Before Swine I would not start with this one, but if you find the solo works of Tom Rapp in the early seventies to your liking you may want to check this one out to see what he sounds like as part of a real band, and to hear the early stirrings of what would come after. Three stars (just barely), and recommended mostly to really serious progressive folk fans…… by ClemofNazareth …

Before our beloved progressive movement there once was this attractive psychedelic movement. The songwriting was strong, the innovative atmospheres were under construction and the performers gave the music an authentic (often non-commercial) sound. PBS is one of the bands of the psychedelic scene that stood the test of time. There authentic sounding mixture of Bod Dylan-like song-writing, folk and atmospheric rock remain a winner to this day. This results in still expensive vinyls that are been sought after by vinyl collectors like me. 

The main man of PFS, Tom Rapp, is a good song-writer and he has a good voice. On the next album he would sound a bit more professional, but the sixties recording of his voice sound really good. Still his voice sounds a bit strange on the debut, as if he is slissing. The acoustic arrangements on the record are good throughout, whilst the use of the organ evoke a real sixties psychedelic pop-feel. The result is a mix between the best of Leonard Cohen’s style and soft psychedelic rock. My only complaint is the big difference in volume between the softer acoustic stracks and the rock tracks. The album has a lot of short tracks and most of them are good - excellent. 

Conclusion. If you are interested in soft psychedelic folk with a warm '67 recording this will be a very interesting starting point. Even better would be the slightly progressive (and conceptual) '68 Baklava record of Pearls Before Swine. Three stars and recommended to those interested in late sixties rock/folk. One doesn’t have to fear commercial sounding pop, this is REAL music. Worth it’s reputation given by the vinyl collectors. 

* rectification * 

Once in a while I am mistaken. Though I had listened very well to side one of this album, I never really spend time on the second side (that at first seemed to be less attractive). I couldn’t have been more wrong. Though the first side has some nice folk and psychedelic pop songs, side two is one masterful string of songs with natural progression and great psychedelic atmospheres. The extremely heavy (for it’s time) uncle John with it’s heavy lyrics stands out as a brave offering. The ending track, Surrealistic Waltz, is my favorite melodic moment of the album. This track has a dark gothic atmosphere that is hard to describe. Though side one is still a three star affair, side two deserves the full five stars. Which makes up for four stars in total. Excellent proto-prog…… by friso ……

I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit lax about covering reissues lately. I think maybe we’ve hit a strange lull where so many essentials have been reissued that the releases left working their way out can often be scraping the sides of the barrel or fluffing up some of the majors’ sense of importance of their back catalog. Though that doesn’t mean there’s not reason to go back and revisit some of those essentials. Case in point, Drag City is giving vital new life to Tom Rapp’s classic debut as Pearls Before Swine. The record has, in fact, been reissued several times, and even covered here. Sadly though, it suffered the fate of many ’60s gems with inferior pressings and poor attention to detail. This version, a marking of the album’s 50th anniversary, works from the original tapes to restore the album to a mono pressing with both Rapp and producer Richard Alderson involved in the process. 

So if you had a previous version maybe ditch it, unless it’s an original, in which case count yourself damn lucky. The record was issued on the always essential, pivotal and topical ESP-disc in 1967. It’s got quite a few hallmarks of the folk boom of the time, but pushes itself out of the ranks of Dylan acolytes, sharing similarities with the irreverence of The Fugs, The dark sincerity of Nick Garrie, and the flippant psych-folk of Country Joe and The Fish. The record boasts early takes on Vietnam protest material, avant-garde connections to Fasssbinder films and status as a true underground hit that pushed ESP’s prominence at the time. 

If it were a mere folk strummer it might have marginal interest, but what makes Pearls Before Swine stand out is the dark overtones that Rapp weaves through his songs. Even the simple jangle of “Another Time” is marked by its dark subject matter of near death experience. The rest of the album is drenched in farfisa, haunting flutes and Rapp’s lonesome pining all swathed in an overtly disturbing print from Hieronymous Bosch. The album has long been the kind of cypher to nerdom that stokes conversations in both psychedelic collectors and folk freaks alike. It is, without a doubt, more than deserving of a definitive version. I’m not one for lavish anniversary issues, but this might have to be the exception to the rule. …….by Andy

Pearls Before Swine 
*Tom Rapp - Vocals, Guitar 
*Wayne Harley - Autoharp, Banjo, Mandoline, Vibraphone, Audio Oscillator, Harmony 
*Lane Lederer - Bass, Guitar, English Horn, Swinehorn, Sarangi, Celeste, Finger Cymbals, Vocals 
*Roger Crissinger - Organ, Harpsichord, Clavioline 
*Warren Smith - Drums, Percussion

A1 Another Time 3:05 
A2 Playmate 
Written-By – Saxie Dowell 
A3 Ballad To An Amber Lady 5:13 
A4 (Oh Dear) Miss Morse 1:52 
A5 Drop Out! 4:07 
B1 Morning Song 4:05 
B2 Regions Of May 3:25 
B3 Uncle John 2:52 
B4 I Shall Not Care 
Written By – Teasdale/Roman Tombs/Rapp 
B5 The Surrealist Waltz 3:27

Pearls Before Swine “Balaklava” 1968 US Psych Folk masterpiece

Pearls Before Swine “Balaklava” 1968 US Psych Folk masterpiece..!

A record that virtually defies categorization, Pearls Before Swine’s 1968 epic Balaklava is the near-brilliant follow-up to One Nation Underground. Intended as a defiant condemnation of the Vietnam War, it doesn’t offer anthemic, fist-pounding protest songs. Instead, Rapp vented his anger through surrealist poetry, irony, and historical reference: Balaklava was the 1854 Crimean War battle that inspired Alfred, Lord Tennyson to write his epic The Charge of the Light Brigade; in reality, the “Charge” was a senseless military action that killed scores of British soldiers. Balaklava begins with “Trumpeter Landfrey,” an 1880’s recording of the actual voice and bugle charge of the man who sounded the charge at Balaklava. It makes the transition into “Translucent Carriages,” a mix of acoustic guitars, a basic vocal, and ghostly narration (“Jesus raised the dead…but who will raise the living?”), all the more stunning. “Images of April” continues the mystical feel, combining flutes, cricket chirps, and frog croaks for a nether-worldly effect. Rapp virtually cries “I Saw the World,” backed by a powerful string arrangement that makes the song even more impassioned. Like One Nation Underground, Balaklava is somewhat unfocused: “There Was a Man” is a little too Dylan-esque, and Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” detracts from Rapp’s compositions. Unfortunately, the record closes with “Ring Thing,” a morbid piece that refers to Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, this is superb psychedelic music, successfully merging exotic instruments like marimba, clavinet, French horn, and swinehorn with Rapp’s unique lisping vocals. But Balaklava isn’t just acid-trip background music. It’s probably the best example of what Rapp calls “constructive melancholy” (also the name of a recent CD collection of Pearls songs), a combination of the real with the surreal, and it’s indispensable to any serious ‘60s rock collection… Peter Kurtz …

PBS’s second record took their psychedelic sound and protest attitude to a more universal level, one that lived on a different plane of existence than the folk-orinted One Nation Underground. It is more of the same, but the band has found their niche. The title comes from an old English war battle and the concept of the record is definitely “WAR IS WRONG”. There are eight tunes scattered throughout, each using different sound effects to transport the listener to a different world. Some effects include the dessert (“Images of April”), whispers (“Translucent Carriages”), water (“I Saw the World”), and vintage recordings (my personal favorite “Guardian Angles” and “Florence Nightingale”). When sound effects are not present, traditional folk pulls us through: “There Was A Man” and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”. This record is extremely consistent like the debut, and only the lesser “Lepers and Roses” fails to move. In all, Balaklava is a exciting and experamental folk record that knows no boundaries. eclectic is not even the word - the credits list for different instruments and people playing on the record are extravagant. The final track echoes even a make-believe war, Tolkeins’ Lord of the Rings saga. Tom Rapp and company score once more with this. Very interesting music and two striaght masterpieces in a row……Doxxman 

‘In peace sons bury their fathers, 
In war fathers bury their sons, 
Love is silent at the edge of the universe, 
Waiting to come in’ (‘Translucent Carriages’) 

‘Balaklava’ was the second album by Pearls Before Swine, and the second to be released on New York’s legendary ESP, the label responsible for ‘The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra’ and other uncompromising free jazz recordings of the mid-1960s, as well as oddball counter-cultural rock albums by the likes of The Fugs and The Godz, to whose music I was introduced through a resounding commendation in the original ‘Perfect Collection’. 

The very first time I heard the music of Pearls Before Swine I knew it was what I had been waiting for my whole life. I had a complete set of albums by The Velvet Underground, Love, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Tim Buckley et al. But something was missing. I never knew what that something was until I encountered ‘Balaklava’. 

Pearls Before Swine were different. Once fittingly described as ‘a madman saint leading the asylum band during the rainy season’, Tom Rapp, the band’s leader, songwriter and only permanent member, enjoyed little popular success despite a catalogue of wonderful psych-folk albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Perhaps his quivering voice and heavily pronounced lisp – charmingly honest to some – provided an obstacle to commercial credibility. Or his lyrics, so rich in strange Biblical and Blakean imagery, may have alienated others. Whatever the case, success eluded the band during their career. Recognition came late – too late for pop stardom – but a quietly flourishing audience of fans including a number of musicians, resulted in a tribute album, and concert invitations began to flood in during the late 1990s, by which time Rapp was working as a Civil Rights lawyer in Florida. 

Their debut offering, One Nation Underground, was initially recorded as a demo and sent to ESP, who promptly signed the band and rush released the album. On first hearing, it’s Dylanesque protest folk – along with song titles like ‘Drop Out’ and tunes as immediate as ‘Uncle John’ – may seem to have captured the zeitgeist well, but the album sleeve featuring the macabre painting ‘The Garden Of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch, hinted at something more portentous. At this stage the band had not yet ‘turned on’ – indeed Rapp identifies the strongest intoxicant favoured by the fledgling Swine to have been Winston cigarettes! Although it was the only Swine album to sell fairly well (around 200,000) the band never received a cent in royalties and this only accentuated a darker worldview which while not quite dystopian, stood in stark contrast to the vacuous euphoria of the ‘flower power’ generation. 

Balaklava which appeared a year later, received Rolling Stone magazine’s dreaded [], it’s lowest possible rating. But in the 1960s Rolling Stone frequently got it badly wrong. Once again the album featured some apocalyptic artwork, this time Pieter Bruegel’s ‘The Triumph of Death’, and presented a uniquely harrowing vision of the horrors of war, delineated by Rapp’s (Winston inspired!) hallucinatory and surrealistic poetry. 

The album is bookended by two historical recordings: the first, by Trumpeter Landfrey, who sounded the bugle at the beginning of the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ at the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War; after the second, a barely audible recording of the voice of Florence Nightingale, we hear a tape loop of the whole album rewind to the beginning, surely a commentary on the perennially rapacious nature of the human species, forever embroiled in military conflict, captured at the precise moment when the ugly truth about America’s involvement Vietnam was gradually emerging. 

‘Transluscent Carriages’ the most explicitly anti-war song, is shrouded in mystery, Rapp’s ghostly utterances over a plaintive acoustic guitar line, tastefully embellished by atmospheric clavinette. The lyrics to the opening verse are indicative of the album’s sombre mood: 

‘The translucent carriages 
Drawing morning in 
Dawn inside their pockets 
Like a whisper on the wind’ 

‘Images of April’ has a simple swooning bass line but replete with birdsong, flutes, echoed voice, and introducing the intriguing ‘swinehorn’ of Lane Lederer, is the archetype for the album’s peculiar sound. 

Even better is ‘I Saw The World’. Warren Smith’s string arrangements provide a panoramic sweep somehow reminiscent of the theme tune to the classic 1960s French children’s TV series The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (or is that just the augmentation of tBalaklavahe sound of sea spray?), while the ghostly atmosphere evoked by the distinctive percussive arrangements sound like they come from the depths of The Black Ark. A strange marriage indeed, but listen and you may hear what I hear… 
‘Lepers and Roses’, Rapp’s take on the Orpheus myth, is equally gorgeous . The lyrics may be inscrutable: 

‘In fields where Susan sings 
The leopard brings 
In upon a string 

And all your dead rainbows 
Begin to stain 
The lace on your raincoat 

So leave the blind 
Roses behind 

..but the music is drunk on its own beauty. A dreamer’s dream…the songs on the album are less conventional narrative or story and more mood pieces. Rapp once clarified his approach to songwriting in an interview with Goldmine: 

“My sense of writing a song was that you started with a mood or a feeling and you just chipped away everything that wasn’t that feeling and in the end you’d have something that had crystallized it somehow’ 

Despite this concentration on mood and atmosphere, the album has its flaws. Although there is a delicately judged cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’, there are a few mis-steps along the way, the most obvious of which is the plodding sub-Donovan (sub-sub-Dylan) folk of ‘There Was A Man’. And the Tolkien-inspired ‘Ring Thing’, the album’s closer is arguably overbearing and pretentious. But, the old gramophone production of ‘Guardian Angels, is exquisite. Here Rapp once again resurrects the voice of the ancient prophets: 

‘All of the pain in the world is outside your bed 
In the shapes of phantom men tapping your window with rhythms of dread 
And all of the silver rosaries hung on the door 
Will not drive them away they are going to stay.’ 

Rapp and a new set of Pearls went onto release four albums for Reprise, two of which at least (‘These Things Too’ and ‘The Use of Ashes’) are the equal of Balaklava. His influence is slight and could be detected in the likes of Bill Fay (another much under-appreciated songwriter) but it has been left to long-time devotees such as Damon & Naomi (of Galaxie 500 fame) and Flying Saucer Attack to rekindle a flame which never so much burnt out as was ever adequately ignited in the first place. But, still that flame flickers for the chosen few – those seduced by the sounds and visions of an authentic lost prophet….by….johnnietarkovsky …

To some, The second Pearls before Swine release ‘Balaklava’, was an inferior follow up to their Acid drenched Folk Psych debut ’ One Nation Underground’, which seemed to be a success to the small clique of American outcasts who were devout to the ESP label for its Avant Guard and left field roster. 
Those from the time might recall this as a little bit of a mistep in direction that the band would never correct. 
However it is remembered, ‘Balaklava’ is the album that best highlights Tom Rapp’s fantastic song craft and his delicate and watery voice. I also think, for the overall Pearls before Swine sound, while their debut was a fantatsic band effort of Lysergic tinged Folk Rock, they are much better suited to these Chamber style Folk arrangements. I know it’s only personal taste, but this one I think is the more cohesive package. 

‘Balaklava’ is a concept album of sorts that was inspired by The 1854 British effort in the Crimean war known as ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. A war that decimated the aggressors before it had begun. 
Rapp has said…”The strongly anti-war themed Balaklava (1968) followed, inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade. Rapp has said “The first two albums are probably considered the druggiest, and I had never done any drugs at that point. I smoked Winston cigarettes at that time, so these are all Winston-induced hallucinations.”. 

I love the production on this album. It is laden with old field recordings from historical archives including the real voice of Florence Nightingale herself. But the whole thing is saturated with an old world feel about it. Even the cover version of Leonard Cohens masterpiece ‘Suzanne’, sounds as though it predates the original version, and the replication of a 1920’s gramophone on the track ‘Guardian Angels’ is sublime. 

It’s a beautiful album, filled with playfully odd lyrics, melancholy arrangements and a beautifully crafted production that to me, is the highlight of Tom Rapp’s career. 

Fans of Chamber Folk songwriters music will enjoy this….by…..siren05…

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….. by Sean Trane 

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… ClemofNazareth 

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…….by friso …

If the market for what has now been deemed ‘indie rock’ existed in the late '60s, Thomas D. Rapp and Pearls Before Swine would have surely been at the top of the heap. Had he become a more affixed part of the rock canon, Rapp could perhaps be credited with inventing many of the conventions that indie culture currently holds dear. Rapp had a clever reference-based band name for his solo project, was unwittingly experimental, and, had he been heard more at the time, would have likely been adored by critics while the mainstream cast him off as “weird arty shit.” 

At his core, though, Rapp is perhaps one of the most engaging songwriters this great pop medium has seen, and his 1968 offering Balaklava is the proof. As the story goes, Rapp, a North Dakota native, would frequently enter into regional song-writing competitions where he would encounter – and consistently top - another young troubadour by the name of Robert Zimmerman. With songs like “Translucent Carriages,” “There Was a Man,” and “Guardian Angels,” Rapp’s talent is readily evident in the slowly building melodies embellished by winds, strings, piano, and Rapp’s creaking voice (reminiscent of a more subdued David Byrne). 

Rapp had far more at work in his music than mere tunes. He was simultaneously infatuated with both history and surrealism, and he employed both in his music for a product he called ‘constructive melancholy.’ Here, Rapp is exploring the Vietnam War in ways that were never touched upon in the more mainstream folk movement. The historical aspect of the album even seems surreal, like an actual recording of Trumpeter Landfrey, who sounded the battle cry at the battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War, resulting in the senseless killing of many British soldiers. From there, it only becomes more abstract, combining the aforementioned instruments with recordings of waves crashing and chirping birds. The progression completes with a reference to Lord of the Rings, which may have been clever at the time, but admittedly losses meaning given the homogenization of the series today. 

Still, the songs don’t work as a cohesive unit. Rather, they may be thought of as different takes on Rapp’s many ideas. The psychedelic label, often applied far too liberally, makes sense on Balaklava, as the experimentation meets classic song-writing for a trip of an affair. Rapp moved on to become a civil rights lawyer in Philadelphia in the 70s, but like many artifacts of the Vietnam era, this album stands the test of time in a way that has not been bested since. Sadly, it may never get the chance because of the weight of its obscurity. Put in my bid for a full reissue… GUEST WRITER …

Line-up / Musicians 
- Tom Rapp / guitar, vocals, breathing 
- Jim Bohannon / organ, piano, clavinette, marimba 
- Wayne Harley / banjo, harmony 
- Lane Lederer / bass, guitar, swinehorn 

Guest artists: 
- Joe Farrell / flute, English horn (3, 7) 
- Lee Crabtree / piano, organ, flute (5, 8) 
- Bill Salter / bass (5, 7, 8, 10) 
- Al Shackman / guitar (8) 
- Warren Smith / string arrangements (5) 
- Selwart Clarke / string arrangements (6)

Trumpeter Landfrey… 0:33 
Translucent Carriages 4:00 
Images Of April 2:38 
There Was A Man 2:52 
I Saw The World 3:24 
Guardian Angels 3:00 
Suzanne 4:54 
Lepers And Roses 5:19 
Florence Nightingale 0:15 
Ring Thing 2:20 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..







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