Pearls Before Swine

Jewels Were the Stars

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The 2003 reissue of the four Reprise Pearls Before Swine albums follows numerous re-releases of the band's two first two ESP recordings, One Nation Underground from 1967 and Balaklava from 1968. These Things Too, The Use of Ashes, City of Gold, and ...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In are the recordings that established Tom Rapp's particular underground poetic vision that endures to this day. His later solo albums for the label, up to his 1999 release A Journal of the Plague Year, support this. What makes the box set so remarkable, appearing as it does on the venerable independent acid folk '60s label Water Records, is that these recordings are issued as they appeared, with original cover art and a deluxe, lavishly illustrated 60-page booklet that includes essays by Mitch Myers and interviews with Tom Rapp by Damon Krukowski and Japanese guitarist Masaki Batoh and with Elisabeth (Rapp) by Byron Coley. These are the particulars, but the music is what matters. For anyone who thought the story ended after the ESP recordings, this set corrects that erroneous notion in spades. Here are four records that come from a time when poetry in music was paramount and texture was created by organic means. The notion of the "song" was a means of expression not only for an artist but for the listener as well. There is a dark angel's purity in these songs and all of them are of a piece musically and philosophically linked with all of the others. They seem to drift together at first but the subtle differences become monumental ones as the music takes hold. Dreamy psychedelia, organic American folk songs, political and social utopias, personal brokenness and transformation, country-rock, and pure beatific vision are the elements that create Tom Rapp's sonic architecture here with the backing of Elisabeth's singing being the one constant from album to album. Musicians like Grady Tate and Kenny Buttrey appear on some recordings, while a host of total unknowns helms the others. But no matter, this is music for the ages, an introduction to a real-time old, weird America, one that couldn't take no for an answer because everything was within the realm of possibility. Here, it still is. Subversive, tender, moving, goofy, maddening, and profound, this box set is the record of a Blakean prophecy for the Aquarian age, and in these dark ages, rather than being a quaint bit of musical and social history, it's actually a necessity for hope.

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