Pearls Before Swine (Tom Rapp in vest)
Listen – Pearls Before Swine – I Saw the World – MP3
As we gather together to mark the beginning of a new week – and, as of last Tuesday evening a new era – I bring you one of my favorite unheralded (except by collector types and folks that were there the first time around) 60s tunes, and a musical marker of sorts for the changing of the guard.
Before I picked up an import CD comp (the name of which is lost to time) back in the 80s – when I was first buying CDs – I had never heard of the group Pearls Before Swine, or their first label, ESP Disk. The first time I heard today’s selection ‘I Saw the World’, it was one of those instances where I immediately hit the repeat button and gave the tune another listen, and then another, and another.
I was struck by the raw emotion in the song, as well as all of its sonic elements, the seagulls, the crashing surf, subdued guitar and above all, Tom Rapp’s odd but hypnotic vocals.
That was – as far as I knew – the last I heard of Pearls Before Swine for many years.
Oddly enough, around the same time I was spending a lot of time listening to one of that group’s songs without knowing it. The group This Mortal Coil had recorded a cover of the PBS tune ‘The Jeweler’ on their 1986 album ‘Filligree and Shadow’, and it had become something of a fave.
That said, I can’t remember what compelled me to dig further into the sounds of Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine, but when I did it was like having a curtain that had always been there pulled back to reveal something wonderful.
Though my initial exposure had been to their second ESP Disk LP ‘Balaklava’, the real revelation was their second Reprise LP ‘The Use of Ashes’. Though Rapp’s voice – a pleasantly vinegary one touched by a pronounced lisp is something of an acquired taste, once acquired, the listener soon realizes that it is the perfect vehicle for the delivery of his literate, bittersweet songs.
‘I Saw the World’ is – in his catalog – is at once among the most melancholy, and hopeful of his songs. When I used the phrase ‘raw emotion’, I wasn’t kidding. Rapp sounds as if he’s quite literally exposed his heart to the listener. It is simultaneously a love song, anti-war message and Taoist lesson in eternal reciprocity (pretty deep for a song so short), yet in the end, the lasting effect is that of having heard a very pretty song.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back later in the week with a joint Iron Leg/Funky16Corners post