Pearls Before Swine

City of Gold

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"Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you" sayeth Jesus in Matthew 7:06. Singer/songwriter Tom Rapp may have taken these words to heart on City of Gold, as the third Reprise album by Rapp and Pearls Before Swine is divided into two parts. Side one of this project, recorded in New York and Nashville in the fall of 1970, is credited to Rapp, while Pearls Before Swine is the band on side two. The music here is country-folk with sparse musicianship and vocals by Rapp, Elisabeth, and David Noyes. Leonard Cohen's soaked-in-harpsichord "Nancy" is a standout on side one, feeling longer than the close to five minutes that it is, while opener "Sonnet No. 65" goes as quickly as it comes, a collaboration between William Shakespeare and Rapp clocking in at 41 seconds. "Once Upon a Time" is true underground country with harmonica and horn battling it out under the bandleader's vocals. "Raindrops" drips with pretty sadness, Elisabeth's voice the answer to what sounds like it should be a soliloquy. The title track's poignancy is interrupted by a gunshot sound effect, country-ish folk with the songwriter's liner notes adding a bit more insight to his mindset on this deep essay. Side two surprises with a very intelligent reading of the Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen tune "Seasons in the Sun," which hit for the Kingston Trio eight years before this version, and four years later in 1974 for Terry Jacks. Elisabeth takes on Judy Collins' "My Father," the movement of the instrumentation way behind the vocals. Four Rapp originals conclude this wandering record, an up-tempo "The Man" followed by a crawling folk-pop "Casablanca," the mood shifting from side one's country to a more polished early-'70s FM approach. "Wedding" is an interesting moment not sounding anything like the other songs here, while "Did You Dream Of" saves the best for last. City of Gold may not be the definitive Pearls Before Swine album, but it is an interesting artifact worthy of a few spins.

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