Pearls Before Swine – City Of Gold / …Beautiful Lies You Could Live In

2 on 1 CD – £9.99
Catalog No. BGOCD1285
City Of Gold / …Beautiful Lies You Could Live In by Pearls Before Swine
  • Eclectic psychedelic folk band’s Reprise albums from 1971
  • The band, formed and fronted by Tom Rapp, finally called it a day in 1976, leaving behind a critically acclaimed body of work
  • Digitally remastered and slipcased
  • Extensive new notes

Review from Hi-fi World magazine August 2017:

US-based music magazine, Billboard chatted to Bernie Taupin a while back about his song, made into a hit by Elton John, called ‘Rocket Man’. Had he and John stolen it from David Bowie, it asked? “Certainly not!” was the indignant reply and then, ”We stole it from Tom Rapp and a band called Pearls Before Swine”.  

You could stage an argument that calling your band Pearls Before Swine is to confront the potential audience. That is to say, “This music is pure genius, huh, not that you would know what that is”. The band itself was principally studio bound and, although it featured a rotating line-up, generally consisted of one man, Tom Rapp. He wrote and sang the songs as well as arranged them. He was known to produce acid folk back in the late sixties – but with an edge: whether that be anti-war or pro-drug or some other large and contentious social subject. He’s still at it now, as a matter of fact: he works as a civil rights lawyer in the USA.  

“I was born in Bottineau, N. Dakota, about 10 miles from Canada, near the Turtle Mountains”, said Rapp to website, Psychedelic Baby. “We lived in Pine Island, Minnesota and Northfield Minn. where Jesse James robbed the bank. My grandparents lived near Hibbing. It is a true story that I was in a talent contest with Bob Dylan. I remember nothing of it – just news clippings my parents kept (‘Another contestant was Bobby Zimmerman...’). We both lost to a seven year old baton twirler in a red-sequined costume. Why I didn’t think of the costume first, I’ll never know.”  

Rapp’s work was stooped in culture. His lyrics borrowed from the likes of A.E. Housman, W.H. Auden, Sara Teasdale and Herodotus, while his cover art took from the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and other confrontational individuals. Even his choice of instruments was of an individual nature, utilising everything from celeste to cello and sarangi, to oboe and wind chimes. He even turned down a chance to appear at Woodstock. He was in love with a woman, at the time, and they were happily writing songs in Holland. So he was occupied.  

Rapp’s career really wasn’t, to be honest. The man was ripped off by label managers, his albums sold less and less with each succeeding LP release and, at one time, he almost starved to death through lack of funds.  

This album, ...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In’ was the final album produced under the Pearls Before Swine monicker before Rapp then continued under his own name. Recorded in New York, the album has a distinctly modern yet low-key American electric folkish edge to it, unlike the European flavours of past work. Sharing the load was Amos Garrett who played lead guitar on Maria Muldaur’s massive 70s hit ‘Midnight at the Oasis’, plus former Mother of Invention Billy Mundi, who guested on Todd Rundgren’s hit ‘Hello, It’s Me’ and pianist Bob Dorough who recorded with Blossom Dearie and Charlie Parker and wrote ‘Comin Home Baby’ for Mel Torme.  

Here, Rapp’s poetry remains layered and quite complex but it is not quite as incomprehensible or as opaque as some of his earlier works.  

Not all of the tracks on this album are original either. Notable is the Leonard Cohen cover, Bird On A Wire, which is the best cover of the song bar none and is – arguably – better than the Cohen original! A.E. Housman’s ‘Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries’ is a thing of wonderment, meanwhile, with lyrics delivered by Rapp’s wife, Elisabeth (she was that lady in Holland, I mentioned, above).  

For fans of Van Morrison, Dylan and the like, this album is a dead cert grab and listen. Even within the scattered and rather irregular Rapp discography, this one album is a rarity within rarities. BGO (www.bgo-records.com) who’s reissued this LP alongside ‘City of Gold’ (1971) as a value for money, 2-on-1 release should be congratulated in pushing it out of the door. 

Tracklist

City Of Gold:

  1. Sonnet #65
  2. Once Upon A Time
  3. Raindrops
  4. City Of Gold
  5. Nancy
  6. Seasons In The Sun
  7. My Father
  8. The Man
  9. Casablanca
  10. Wedding
  11. Did You Dream Of

 …Beautiful Lies You Could Live In:

  1. Snow Queen
  2. A Life
  3. Butterflies
  4. Simple Things
  5. Everybody’s Got Pain
  6. Bird On A Wire
  7. Island Lady
  8. Come To Me
  9. Freedom
  10. She’s Gone
  11. Epitaph