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, 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.
"The 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 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
Amid all the weird and wonderful music to appear in 1967, Pearls Before Swine still managed to stand out when their startling first album, One Nation Underground, appeared on New York’s underground ESP-Disk label. The following year’s Balaklava refined the other-worldly mystery surrounding the band, led by singer-songwriter Tom Rapp, who (thanks to his manager, who also looked after the Fugs) next appeared on Reprise.
With original band gone, Rapp used session musicians along with wife Elizabeth on his next two albums, gathered here on a twofer which curiously swaps their order of release. 1969’s These Things Too takes a subtler, soft focus approach, veering between the hallucinogenic shimmers of the title track and Man In The Tree, to stoned weirdness of Frog In The Window, plus a heartfelt take on Dylan’s I Shall Be Released.
Though backed by the Area Code 615 musicians, The Use Of Ashes reflected Rapp’s time in Holland, an archaic European feel shrouding The Jeweller, The Old Man and wartime shipwreck tragedy Riegal. When The War Began is chillingly beautiful, with heavenly doo wop strings, while Rocket Man, written on the day of the moon landing, provided Bernie Taupin with a handy title for Elton. Over 40 years on, the atmosphere of these albums still sounds like nothing on this planet.
by Kris Needs
1. The Jeweler - 2:45
2. From The Movie Of The Same Name - 2:18
3. Rocket Man - 3:01
4. God Save The Child - 3:04
5. Song About A Rose - 2:18
6. Tell Me Why - 3:42
7. Margery - 2:59
8. The Old Man - 3:13
9. Riegal - 3:09
10.When The War Began - 5:05
11.Footnote - 1:18
12.Sail Away - 3:07
13.Look Into Her Eyes - 4:36
14.I Shall Be Released - 3:04
15.The Frog In The Window (Reprise) - 2:32
16.I'm Going To The City - 2:30
17.Man In The Tree - 3:26
18.If You Don't Want To (I Don't Mind) - 3:14
19.Green And Blue - 0:21
20.Mon Amour - 2:06
21.Wizard Of Is - 3:36
22.The Frog In The Window - :41
23.When I Was A Child - 4:45
24.These Things Too - 3:23
All compositions 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
*Wayne Harley - Banjo, Harmony
*Jim Fairs - Guitar, Harmony, Celeste
*Bill Salter - Bass
*Grady Tate - Drums
*Richard Greene - Electric Violin
Pearls Before Swine
1967 One Nation Underground (Japan remaster)
1968 Balaklava (Japan remaster)