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The Wizard of Is

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Album Review

San Francisco's Water Records has certainly done right by Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine. Not only has the label reissued its Warner Bros. recordings in their entirety individually and as a box set, it has now come up with this 44-track, two-disc collection of rarities and live recordings from 1967-1976. This is a mighty artifact indeed. The first disc contains all sorts of demos and strange little live recordings. Some were made at home by the first edition of the band with Elisabeth Rapp and Wayne Harley, some are solo (including a stunningly beautiful original recording of "Butterflies"), some are with later incarnations, some are with notable musicians like David Bromberg ("City of Gold" and "Mary, Mary"), and some are Nashville session demos. There is also a slew of cover version demos, including highly original readings of Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister," Randy Newman's "Sail Away," Joni Mitchell's "Real Good for Free," the Spector and Bates classic "There's No Other (Like My Baby)," Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," and even Jacques Brel's "Love, You're Not Alone," along with poems by Shakespeare, W.H. Auden, and Sara Teasdale that Rapp set to music. Disc two features live recordings from a Goddard College show featured in its entirety as well as a Netherlands Radio performance and a performance from the Choate School in 1972. There is also a cut — "Lesson of the 60s" — recorded at Terrastock in 1999. Fans will no doubt find a treasure trove of material here; some exists on bootlegs, but it's awesome to have the cleaned-up quality of the material available officially. The sound, given the wildly varying nature of the tapes, is surprisingly good and the music is truly inspired. Rapp gave listeners no dregs here; this is a fascinating and compelling collection of tapes from the catalog of a genuine musical enigma.


Formed: 1965 in Eau Gallie, FL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s

The psychedelic folk band Pearls Before Swine was the brainchild of singer, composer, and cult icon Tom Rapp, born in Bottineau, North Dakota in 1947; after writing his first song at age six, he later began performing at local talent shows, and as a teen, he bested a young Bob Dylan at one such event. Upon relocating to Eau Gallie (now part of Melbourne), Florida, Rapp formed Pearls Before Swine in 1965, recruiting high-school friends Wayne Harley, Lane Lederer, and Roger Crissinger to record a demo...
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The Wizard of Is, Pearls Before Swine
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