Pearls Before Swine – Balaklava (1968)

Pearls Before Swine – Balaklava (1968)

Balaklava is one of the most extraordinary, sublime and sophisticated protest albums of 1968. To many, this album represents Tom Rapp’s surrealist song-craft in perfection. Not a foot-stamping anti-Vietnam war album but a complex and psychedelic masterwork that touches on Tennyson and Tolkien in a sublime metaphorical fashion. Tom Rapp is among the most erudite, intellectual songwriters of the American ’60s era.

The psychedelic folk band Pearls Before Swine was the brainchild of singer, composer and cult icon Tom Rapp, born in Bottineau, ND in 1947; after writing his first song at age six, he later began performing at local talent shows, and as a teen bested a young Bob Dylan at one such event. Upon relocating to Melbourne, FL, Rapp formed Pearls Before Swine in 1965, recruiting high school friends Wayne Harley, Lane Lederer and Roger Crissinger to record a demo which he then sent to the ESP-Disk label; the company quickly signed the group, and they soon travelled to New York to record their superb 1967 debut One Nation Underground, which went on to sell some 250,000 copies. The explicitly anti-war Balaklava, widely regarded as Pearls Before Swine’s finest work, followed in 1968; the group — by this time essentially comprising Rapp and whoever else was in the studio at the moment — moved to Reprise for 1969’s These Things Too, mounting their first-ever tour in the wake of releasing The Use of Ashes a year later. Two more albums, City of Gold and Beautiful Lies You Could Live In, followed in 1971; moving to Blue Thumb, Rapp resurfaced as a solo artist with 1972’s Stardancer, but upon the release of Sunforest a year later he then retired from music, subsequently becoming a civil rights attorney. Frequently cited as a key influence by the likes of Damon & Naomi, the Bevis Frond and the Japanese psych band Ghost, Rapp made an unexpected return to live performance in mid-1998 when he appeared at the Terrastock festival in Providence, RI, joining son Dave and his indie-pop band Shy Camp; he soon began work on 1999’s A Journal of the Plague Year, his first new LP in over two decades. Constructive Melancholy, a retrospective of Pearls Before Swine’s tenure on Reprise, also appeared that same year. This sparked renewed interest in the band, with Water music releasing a box set of the Reprise material in 2003 (Jewels Were the Stars) as well as a set of unreleased demo and live recordings entitled The Wizard of Is. ESP also remastered and combined their first two albums as The Complete ESP-Disk Recordings in 2005.

Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide


1. Trumpeter Landfrey
2. Translucent Carriages
3. Images Of April
4. There Was A Man
5. I Saw The World
6. Guardian Angels
7. Suzanne
8. Lepers & Roses
9. Florence Nightingale
10. Ring Thing

Pearls Before Swine – Balaklava (1968)

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24 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    great stuff. used to have a vinyl copy of this once upon a time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Come on people,get that album, what you waiting for? You dont have this MASTERPIECE!?!?!
    I have it in vinyl, and it still move my soul after 25 years…

  3. Gilgamo says:

    Big Thanks Lady! strongly recommend this album…

  4. me says:

    my favorite folk rock record

  5. Muse says:

    i might have a 2 lp you might be interested in…..

  6. Anonymous says:

    PBS is one of my favorites! I’ve got the first 3 on vinyl. The first two albums are my favorites, and These Things Too is pretty good also (too!). Do you have “A Use of Ashes”? That one is very hard to find.

    Did you know that every album PBS put out sold less than the previous one?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks,your choice is very good..Doctor

  8. Anonymous says:

    thanks m’lady

  9. Anonymous says:

    Love the site

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great great stuff. Tom Rapp I think is finally getting his due. My request to the hostess with the mostest – another folk/psych klassic to drop on the masses: Roy Harper “Folkjokeopus”


  11. Jack says:

    best blog ever

  12. Anonymous says:

    Truly a pearl.

  13. jeffreye says:

    cette chose est une merveille

  14. McOrbit says:

    Very good, this one… I like it more and more with every listening. Somehow Nick Drake comes to mind when listening to this. If Nick Drake had a band and would not sound so depressing, this might have been close…

  15. Hazy Dave says:

    I’ve listened to this record hundreds of times, and I’m still amazed by it. If it’s not on my “Top Ten” list at any given time, it’s usually because I don’t want to have two albums by the same group on there, and it’s either The Use Of Ashes or Stardancer‘s turn!

  16. syd_barrett75 says:


  17. Anonymous says:

    Very cool blog!

  18. This record has aged so well.

  19. I really like your blog. Very pure & very focused! Rare folk is nice to find! I’m sure you believe in fairies. I do!

  20. Koosie says:

    great info about a great work. Thank you very much

  21. aramat139 says:

    The music will entrance you

  22. Anonymous says:

    Tom Rapp is now a public interest attorney in Philadelphia PA, he never made a cent from his music. Brilliant washington post article about his career from 1998, he still plays Martin D-18 S, a classic wide-neck, slot-head acoustic.

  23. I want to tell the reader that this record is one of my prized possesions and i have played it as if it were brand new and edgy since 1968.

    I think that gaurdian angel is my favorite but I get a chill to hear Translucient carages of images of april. Also a early take on L.Cohen’s Suzzanne is the i-sing on this cake kiddos ( THE BASSOON SOLO AT THE END ECHOS OFF OF THOSE DEEP CAVES AND CREASES MADE LONG AGO IN THIS POOR OLD HEAD…..”lOVE IS THE WEAPON LEFT AFTER THE FALL IT MAY NOT SEEM LIKE MUCH , BUT GIRL THAT’S ALL THAT THERE IS…..THAT i OFFER YOU….THAT i OFFER YOU”
    listen to the Rough Draft Freeform Radio Program each Monday Night from 9:30 untill midnight on http://www.HGRNJ.ORG

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