Pearls Before Swine – One Nation Underground


I’ll admit, I’ve been a bit lax about covering reissues lately. I think maybe we’ve hit a strange lull where so many essentials have been reissued that the releases left working their way out can often be scraping the sides of the barrel or fluffing up some of the majors’ sense of importance of their back catalog. Though that doesn’t mean there’s not reason to go back and revisit some of those essentials. Case in point, Drag City is giving vital new life to Tom Rapp’s classic debut as Pearls Before Swine. The record has, in fact, been reissued several times, and even covered here. Sadly though, it suffered the fate of many ’60s gems with inferior pressings and poor attention to detail. This version, a marking of the album’s 50th anniversary, works from the original tapes to restore the album to a mono pressing with both Rapp and producer Richard Alderson involved in the process.

So if you had a previous version maybe ditch it, unless it’s an original, in which case count yourself damn lucky. The record was issued on the always essential, pivotal and topical ESP-disc in 1967. It’s got quite a few hallmarks of the folk boom of the time, but pushes itself out of the ranks of Dylan acolytes, sharing similarities with the irreverence of The Fugs, The dark sincerity of Nick Garrie, and the flippant psych-folk of Country Joe and The Fish. The record boasts early takes on Vietnam protest material, avant-garde connections to Fasssbinder films and status as a true underground hit that pushed ESP’s prominence at the time.

If it were a mere folk strummer it might have marginal interest, but what makes Pearls Before Swine stand out is the dark overtones that Rapp weaves through his songs. Even the simple jangle of “Another Time” is marked by its dark subject matter of near death experience. The rest of the album is drenched in farfisa, haunting flutes and Rapp’s lonesome pining all swathed in an overtly disturbing print from Hieronymous Bosch. The album has long been the kind of cypher to nerdom that stokes conversations in both psychedelic collectors and folk freaks alike. It is, without a doubt, more than deserving of a definitive version. I’m not one for lavish anniversary issues, but this might have to be the exception to the rule.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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