- Record Label
- Drag City
About this item
Released in late 1968, the second Pearls Before Swine record continued to deliver music with a preternatural sense of what the youth of America wanted to hear. ‘One Nation Underground’ had been a surprise hit when released in 1967 by the hipster free jazz indie label ESP, receiving an incredible organic response, with continuous underground radio play and sales. Coming from obscurity in Florida into a position of speaking to people everywhere, Tom Rapp and his bandmates felt emboldened to embark upon an evolved piece of record making.
The music of ‘Balaklava’ strips away the manic, post-garage band diversity of the first album, instead grounding the production around Tom Rapp’s guitar and singing, with the touches of instrumental colour all the more dramatic and striking. Producer Richard Alderson utilized breathy sweeps of reverb, sound effects, tape manipulation and spoken word recordings along with an array of instrumental overdubs including banjo, marimba, organ, clavinet, flute, English horn and strings (played by the band along with New York jazz session players Bill Salter and Al Schackman, plus The Fugs’ Lee Crabree and legendary saxophonist Joe Farrell, with Selwart Clarke and Warren Smith contributing string arrangements) to reach for the universal space sought in Tom Rapp’s meditative, existential songs.
The message writ between the leaves of ‘Balaklava’ - War No More - is elegantly written. From the implication of the title (Balaklava was the site of the battle at which Britain’s notorious Charge of the Light Brigade resulted in heavy casualties for no visible gain), the epigraph from Santayana, the dedication to Pvt Edward D Slovik, (the only US soldier to have been tried and executed for desertion since the Civil War) and the use of Breughel the Elder’s ‘The Triumph Of Death’ on the cover, the message is plain, without ever being directly stated - the world is a beautiful place but for the scourge of man at war. Musically, the message is conveyed with one or two passing lyrical references, letting Tom Rapp’s use of literary reference and allegory dwell on the transcendence of love and pastoral beauty in life, achieving a stinging impact, as much by what isn’t said as what is. This sets ‘Balaklava’ apart from much of other protest music from the Vietnam era - and it has allowed it to age gracefully into the 21st Century.
Like ‘One Nation Underground’ before it, ‘Balaklava’ celebrates 50 years of life in stunning fashion. Original producer Richard Alderson has remastered the album, restoring the precision of the original mix - and, in the process, revealing fantastically dynamic performances and dispersing the haze of the years that had gathered over latter-day editions of ‘Balaklava’. The music and message it intended to deliver to the world are still needed, the peace still sought. The fight to understand and to change is still ongoing. And so, ‘Balaklava’ has fresh purpose after all this time.
Tom Rapp passed away while this album was being readied for re-release. While he spent the majority of his life working as a lawyer who practiced humanist, equalrights law - “60s law,” as he put it - for the benefit of many underrepresented people, his name will best be remembered and will forever be synonymous with the music of Pearls Before Swine. We are grateful to help in pushing this music forward toward the eternity it deserves. It goes without saying that this anniversary restoration of Balaklava is dedicated to Tom’s memory. May he rest in peacefulness and live in the positivity that Pearls Before Swine bring to all who hear their music.
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There Was A Man
I Saw The World
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