For their second Reprise Records outing, Pearls Before Swine worked primarily with Nashville-based musicians, including a small orchestra who provide a stately feel to the highly intimate nature of the material. According to Tom Rapp's comments in the liner booklet accompanying the Jewels Were the Stars (2003) box , the songs were written while he and his wife were living in the Netherlands, which Rapp said contributed significantly to the air of romanticism throughout.
"Jeweller" opens the album with an exquisite tale that exemplifies Rapp's remarkable abilities to draw upon disparate metaphors such as shining coins and worshiping God, both involving the Use of Ashes -- hence the title. The rural mood created by the notable Music City USA stalwarts effortlessly fuses with David Briggs' baroque-flavored harpsichord on the delicate "From the Movie of the Same Name," featuring Rapp and spouse Elisabeth on non-verbal vocalizations as they "da-da-da" the melody.
Although "Rocket Man" predates the Elton John cut by a couple of years, Bernie Taupin cites it as his inspiration for the lyrics behind John's 1972 Top Ten hit. The words are credited as having been influenced by a Ray Bradbury novella that dealt with the universal emotion of loss. Again, Briggs' keyboard runs relate the story with subdued refinement. By contrast, "God Save the Child" is one of the more amplified inclusions, making good use of session heavies Kenneth A. Buttrey (drums) and Charlie McCoy (guitar), especially when placed against the restrained string section.
Another sonic texture in the tapestry is the jazzy "Tell Me Why," shimmering with an uncredited vibraphone lead gliding beneath Rapp's whimsical lines. These tracks are offset by the noir "When the War Began," the ethereal love song "Margery," and the mid-tempo retelling of the "Riegal," a ship whose 4,000 inhabitants perished during World War II.
Rapp's juxtaposition of stark imagery reveals that while Pearls Before Swine might not have continued the bombastic direction set about on their earlier protest works "Uncle John" or "Drop Out," they maintained social and political relevance.
by Lindsay Planer
1. The Jeweler - 2:48
2. From the Movie of the Same Name - 2:21
3. Rocket Man (based on a short story by Ray Bradbury) - 3:06
4. God Save The Child (Elisabeth helped) - 3:08
5. Song About A Rose - 2:21
6. Tell Me Why - 3:43
7. Margery - 3:03
8. The Old Man - 3:16
9. Riegal - 3:13
10.When the War Began - 5:07
All words and music by Tom Rapp
* Tom Rapp - Vocals, Guitar
* Elisabeth - Vocals
* Charlie McCoy - Dobro, Guitar, Bass, Harmonica
* Norbert Putnam - Bass
* Kenneth Buttrey - Drums
* Buddy Spicher - Violin, Cello, Viola
* Mac Gayden - Guitars
* David Briggs - Piano, Harpsichord
* John Duke - Oboe, Flute
* Hutch Davie - Keyboard
* Bill Pippin - Oboe, Flute