Thursday, 15 June 2017

"City Of Gold/...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In." by TOM RAPP/PEARLS BEFORE SWINE (April 2017 Beat Goes On Reissue - 2LPs onto 1CD - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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With his weedy sub Bob Dylan "Nashville Skyline" voice, Leonard Cohen narratives about dumb raindrops (what would they know), butterflies flying too close to the flame and the skinned-our-knees growing-up weeping of "Seasons In The Sun" (the Jacque Brel/Rod McKuen tune made famous by Terry Jacks) - all served up with a dash of Country Dobro - New York's Tom Rapp and his band Pearls Before Swine have always divided listeners.

His songs are part Mickey Newbury, part Paul Siebel, part Steve Young, part Tim Rose and of course part Bob Dylan. That’s the good news. But on top of that name-check list of songwriting cool - Rapp's songs can also be part schlock and at times genuinely cloying and fay.

However - no matter what way you describe Tom Rapp's music and especially if you're a fan - England's Beat Goes On Records have come to your reissue rescue with this superb-sounding CD Remaster of two rare Folk-Rock albums both released on Reprise Records USA in 1971 - "City Of Gold" in April and "...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In." which came in late December. Let's get to the details...

UK released 7 April 2017 (14 April 2017 in the USA) - "City Of Gold/...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In." by TOM RAPP/PEARLS BEFORE SWINE on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1285 (Barcode 5017261212856) offers two LPs from 1971 Remastered onto 1CD and plays out as follows (61:04 minutes):

1. Sonnet No. 65 [Side 1]
2. Once Upon A Time
3. Raindrops
4. City of Gold
5. Nancy
6. Seasons In The Sun [Side 2]
7. My Father
8. The Man
9. Casablanca
10. Wedding
11. Did You Dream Of
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album "City Of Gold" - released April 1971 in the USA on Reprise RS 6442 (no UK release). PRODUCED by TOM RAPP - it didn't chart. All songs by Tom Rapp except "Nancy" by Leonard Cohen, "Seasons In The Sun" by Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen and "My Father" by Judy Collins. "Sonnet No. 65" is Shakespeare's words put to TR music. Lead Vocals by Rapp except on "The Man" by David Noyes and "My Father" by Elisabeth Rapp.

12. Snow Queen [Side 1]
13. A Life
14. Butterflies
15. Simple Things
16. Everybody's Got Pain
17. Bird On A Wire [Side 2]
18. Island Lady
19. Come To Me
20. Freedom
21. She's Gone
22. Epitaph
Tracks 12 to 22 are the album "...Beautiful Lies You Could Live In." - released December 1971 in the USA on Reprise RS 6467.

As ever the outer card slipcase adds a touch of class to this BGO CD reissue and a 12-page booklet with new JOHN O’REGAN liner notes gives all the details you’ll need on Rapp's stay with New York folkies Pearls Before Swine. But the real deal here is a gorgeous remaster from licensed tapes by BGO's resident engineer - ANDREW THOMPSON. This CD has lovely sound reflecting the quality of the original Reprise Records recordings. Very sweet...

After four albums with the band Pearls Before Swine - "One Nation Underground" and "Balaklava" on ESP Disks in 1967 and 1968 and then two more on Reprises Records in 1969 and 1970 - "These Things Too" and "The Use Of Ashes" - their fifth platter "City Of Gold" became the first to feature the moniker Tom Rapp/Pearls Before Swine. The album drew on New York and Nashville sessions done in the autumn of 1970 that included guitarist Mac Gayden, Bassist Norbert Putnam and Drummer Kenny Buttery of the Polydor Records Country-Rock band Area Code 615.

Most of the short acoustic-based songs on "City Of Gold" are Rapp originals done in a very soft US Folk style with Rapp's Dutch wife Elisabeth taking lead vocals on the Judy Collins cover "My Father" and band member David Noyes fronting the rather oddly upbeat "The Man" – a jaunty holy-roller that feels weirdly out of place actually. Highlights include "City Of Gold" - a Fiddle and Dobro hoedown - and the 'Lay Lady Lay' melody of "Did You Dream Of". Others include a cover version of Leonard Cohen's "Nancy" - Rapp's voice uncannily close to his hero and obvious songwriting inspiration LC (the full title for "Nancy" is "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" and is from Cohen's second album – April 1969's "Song From A Room"). But the less said about the awful cringe-cack that is "Seasons In The Sun" – the better.

For me the second platter on offer here "...Beautiful Lies You Live In." is a big leap forward over its strictly three-star predecessor. With that gushingly Raphaelite-romantic "Ophelia" artwork (a John Everett Millais painting) – the album is more James Taylor meets early Ronnie Lane than the Psych-Folk that Pearls Before Swine had been associated with in the late Sixties. Unlike the coy "Seasons Of The Sun" on the first LP – "A Life" opens platter number two with a genuine homely feel – his band and wife tight as the melody soothes like a good Ryan Adams ballad. In fact the album "...Beautiful..." effectively feels like a Tom Rapp solo album in all but name as he's joined by sessioned players like guitarist Amos Garrett and keyboard player Bob Dorough. Rapp does his best Dylan impression on "Everybody's Got Pain" where he and his wife are suggesting the fog will eventually lift one day. But my poison here is an extraordinarily Soulful take on that old Cohen chestnut "Bird On A Wire" where Rapp finally sounds passionate and committed – like a young Johnny Cash tearing into a song and a set of words that have reached deep into his psyche.

Tom Rapp will not be for everyone for sure and his need to be Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan's lovechild is obvious. But there are tunes to be loved here and if you're a fan – you will need that superb new audio.

"...Simple things will do..." he sang back in 1971. And you have to say that this superbly presented Beat Goes On CD reissue gets that mantra right...

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