Pearls Before Swine

Beautiful Lies You Could Live In

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Released in 1971, Beautiful Lies You Could Live In was the final release of Tom Rapp (guitar/vocals) and Pearls Before Swine. This discounts the 1972 LP Familiar Songs, which was compiled from scraps by Reprise Records and put out as a solo Rapp effort despite protests from Rapp, who has all but disowned it. Unlike the previous pair of PBS Nashville outings, the band -- whose core had been condensed to only Rapp and wife Elisabeth (vocals) -- had returned to New York and a new set of backing musicians, notably former Mothers of Invention member Billy Mundi (drums), Stu Scharf (guitar), Bob Dorough (piano), Grady Tate (drums), and Amos Garrett (guitar), among others. Rapp's originals continue to reflect his distinctively personal and poignant folk-rock style, apparent on the starkly introverted and haunting "She's Gone" and the Baroque-tinged opener, "Snow Queen." This is contrasted by the laid-back rural "A Life," highlighting Rapp and Elisabeth's tight harmonies, as well as the midtempo narrative "Simple Things." However, it is the cover of Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" that may garner the most spins. The plaintive lyrics are swaddled in a homey waltz arrangement, capturing the spirit of the piece like few readings have done. The succinct "Epitaph" concludes the album, and is marked by a rare lead vocal from Elisabeth, who set A.E. Housman's "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries" to a beautifully mysterious melody that lingers long after the tune has stopped. It is likewise a fitting way to have ended Pearls Before Swine, as Rapp retired the moniker prior to recording Stardancer for Blue Thumb the following year. In 2003, Beautiful Lies You Could Live In was included as part of the four-volume Jewels Were the Stars compendium, anthologizing their final era and output.

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