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Pearls Before Swine - The Complete ESP-Disk' Recordings
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Both classic ESP albums (One Nation Underground and Balaklava) on one disc for the first time, with an extensive booklet and new liner notes, including complete lyrics.

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine...." (Matthew 7:6, King James Version)

Pearls Before Swine was the inspiration of Thomas Dale Rapp, a precocious guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who, while a teenager in Minnesota, legendarily finished ahead of Bob Dylan in a talent contest. After he moved to Florida and put together his psychedelic folk band with high school friends Wayne Harley (banjo, mandolin), Lane Lederer (bass, guitar), and Roger Crissinger (piano, organ), Rapp sent a demo tape to ESP-Disk’ -- picked because it was the label that had issued the Fugs -- and was invited to come up to New York and record. The band members spontaneously incorporated into their songs a vast array of exotic instruments that happened to be in the studio, giving it a touch of world-music flavor and antiquarian breadth that nicely complemented Rapp’s lyrics that ranged across history -- for instance, his song "I Shall Not Care"; includes the credit “Roman Tombs” because the chorus incorporates a millennia-old anonymous inscription found in a Roman tomb.

The Complete ESP-Disk’ Recordings is a reissue of that 2005 compilation, now returning to the original catalog number of 1054 assigned to One Nation Underground, Pearls Before Swine’s first LP. The Complete ESP-Disk’ Recordings combines One Nation Underground and Pearls Before Swine’s second LP, Balaklava, on a single CD (complete with a beautiful booklet including all of Rapp’s lyrics for both albums). This is especially convenient because Pearls Before Swine’s first two albums are their only albums with the band’s original lineup. They’re also Pearls Before Swine’s best two albums. Of course, you’d expect us to say that, since they’re the two on ESP-Disk’, but there’s a fair amount of consensus on this. You can check Allmusic.com, Mojo, even Wikipedia (well, we consider calling subsequent work “generally more conventional in sound” a coded endorsement of the first two LPs.)

One Nation Underground came out in 1967, around the same time as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Amusingly enough, there were rumors (abetted by the lack of band photos on the packaging of One Nation Underground and the band’s complete lack of notoriety -- they did not tour until years later) that it was a pseudonymous collaboration between the Beatles and Dylan. Hey, how could something this weird and wonderful come from a bunch of unknowns? Well, it did. And although it would be foolhardy to claim that it was better than Sgt. Pepper, it did have some things the Beatles’ LP lacked. The Beatles didn’t have a song on their album the chorus of which consisted of F-U-C-K in Morse code (“(Oh Dear) Miss Morse,” which got radio DJ (and “Fifth Beatle”) Murray the K in trouble when he played it and Boy Scout troop leaders decoded it. Nor did the Beatles quote the poet Sara Teasdale, another incorporation in “I Shall Not Care,” one of the greatest rock songs about death. And One Nation Underground‘s cover, using a section of Hieronymus Bosch’s surrealistic 15th century painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” proved nearly as iconic in the Summer of Love as Sgt. Pepper’s collage, and even more suitable for detailed observation by chemically enhanced listeners. One Nation Underground proved to be ESP-Disk’s top-selling album in its history.

Pearls before Swine’s second LP, released in 1968 as opposition to the Vietnam War ramped up, was an anti-war album, but not in the vociferous manner of Bob Dylan or Edwin Starr. Its title was the location of the ill-fated Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854, one of the most spectacular wastes of human life in the history of warfare; the album kicks off with a recording of a trumpet charge blown by a survivor of that battle. Once again the cover art is spectacular and historic. Once again the musical arrangements are full of variety and unusual instruments. Once again Rapp lays on us some true lyrical pearls, including "Jesus raised the dead/But who/Will raise the living?” from the funereal “Translucent Carriages,” which also quotes ancient Greek historian Herodotus.

Musicians as varied as freak-folk icon Devendra Banhart, Japanese psych-rockers Ghost, and British eccentric the Bevis Frond have been influenced by the guiding example of Pearls Before Swine, but nobody has ever surpassed the imaginative eclecticism and surreally ironic lyrics of Rapp and his cohorts.


Personnel


Tom Rapp: vocals, guitar
Lane Lederer: guitar, bass guitar
Wayne Harley: banjo, background vocals
Jim Bohannon: piano, clavinet, organ, marimba

additional personnel:
Al Shackman: guitar
Joe Farrell: flute, English horn
Lee Crabtree: flute, piano, organ
Bill Salter: double bass




Track Listing


1. Another Time
3:05
2. Playmate
2:21
3. Ballad To An Amber Lady
5:15
4. (Oh Dear) Miss Morse
1:56
5. Drop Out!
4:06
6. Morning Song
4:08
7. Regions Of May
3:29
8. Uncle John
2:56
9. I Shall Not Care
5:22
10. The Surrealist Waltz
3:31
11. Trumpeter Landfrey
0:36
12. Translucent Carriages
4:03
13. Images Of April
2:43
14. There Was A Man
2:58
15. I Saw The World
3:26
16. Guardian Angels
3:04
17. Suzanne
4:59
18. Lepers And Roses
5:22
19. Florence Nightingale
0:18
20. Ring Thing
3:31

All tracks (Syndicore Music BMI) except track 2 (Anne-Rachel Music ASCAP), track 17 (Suzanne, C Project Seven Music) and tracks 11 and 19 (ESP Disk' Ltd. BMI).

Credits


Tracks 1-10 One Nation Underground (ESP 1054): recorded at IMPACT Sound Studios in NYC, May 6-9, 1967.
Tracks 11-20 Balaklava (ESP 1075): Recorded at IMPACT Sound Studios in NYC, 1968.
Producer, Director, Engineer: Richard L. Alderson. Reissue production, engineering, editing, and mastering: Joe Phillips, WildCat Recording USA, Massena, NY.


Press Quotes


"Psychedelic-folk debut from one of the most erudite, literate minds in rock ("One Nation Underground" Review)", Peter Kurtz, All Music Guide

"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, All Music Guide

 


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