|Studio album by Pearls Before Swine|
|Genre||Psychedelic folk, folk rock|
|Label||ESP-Disk ESSP 1075|
|Producer||Richard L. Alderson|
|Pearls Before Swine chronology|
For the album, original group members Tom Rapp, Wayne Harley and Lane Lederer were joined by Jim Bohannon, who replaced Roger Crissinger. Like the group’s previous LP recorded on ESP-Disk, entitled One Nation Underground, it was recorded at Impact Sound in New York City. Recordings took place sometime in early 1968, but no records exist of the sessions. Some CD reissues have stated that it was recorded in 1965, but this is an error. Lederer left the group during or shortly after the recordings, and the basic group was augmented by studio musicians.
Rapp has stated that he wanted to produce a themed anti-war album, and chose the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava in 1854 as an example of the futility of war. The album was dedicated to Private Edward Slovik, the only United States soldier executed for desertion during the Second World War.
The album cover
The front cover is a detail of The Triumph of Death by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, showing a grotesque allegorical depiction of the horrors of war, while the back cover showed a photograph of a young girl at an anti-war protest taken by Mel Zimmer. The cover also included the quote "Only the dead have seen the end of war" by George Santayana, together with surreal and horrific drawings by avant-garde artist Jean Cocteau. The cover contributed to the mystique surrounding the group: few if any photographs of its members were published, and Pearls Before Swine did not perform in concert until 1971.
The album starts with the track "Trumpeter Landfrey", taken from an archived 1890 cylinder recording that had been reissued on 78rpm records in the 1930s. His real name was Martin Lanfried; he was one of the original buglers from the 1854 Battle of Balaclava. The recording segues into "Translucent Carriages", one of the band's most enduring songs (which Rapp has since performed, both with the band and as a soloist, as recently at the Terrastock 6 Festival in 2006). Simply performed with acoustic guitar, it contains breathing noises and whispered lines of commentary, including a quote from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus: "In peace, sons bury their fathers/ in war, fathers bury their sons."
"Images of April", in contrast, is an evocation of nature, featuring dubbed bird songs throughout. After "There Was A Man", a simpler story-based folk song, "I Saw The World" has become another highlight in the band's career. Its heartfelt lyrics were written by a 21-year-old Rapp, with such examples such as "I saw the world spinning like a toy, hate seems so small compared to it all, so why don’t you do joy?" The sound is supplemented by overdubs of natural sound recordings, including waves as well as wind chimes, and by a lush string arrangement. "Guardian Angels" is a ballad that was recorded with the intention to sound as if it was a scratchy 1920s 78rpm record, and the illusion was taken further by a date attached to the title ("recorded in Guadelope, Mexico, in 1929…") on the sleeve.
The second side of the LP starts with a version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne", followed by "Lepers and Roses", a complex ballad full of allegorical classical references. After an archived recording of Florence Nightingale's voice, the final track, entitled "Ring Thing", is a dramatic musical evocation of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, complete with crashing gongs and bagpipe drones. At the end, the sound of a tape spooling backwards through the album takes the listener back to "Trumpeter Landfrey", perhaps trying to convey a message that the cycle of war and confusion is destined to continue. Some of the reissues of Balaklava on CD have that section edited out.
The album repeated the band's critical success in the underground college scene of the late 1960s, and has subsequently been regularly rated the highest of all albums by either Rapp or the band. Following the album's release, Rapp backed out of his ESP contract and signed with Reprise Records. After seven further albums he retired from music in the mid-1970s, went back to school and became a successful civil rights lawyer for over three decades. He returned to perform and occasionally record in the mid-1990s.
Reissues and cover versions
- "Trumpeter Landfrey" – 0:35
- "Translucent Carriages" – 4:00 (Herodotus/Harley/Rapp)
- "Images of April" – 2:44 (Rapp)
- "There Was a Man" – 2:59 (Rapp)
- "I Saw the World" – 3:28 (Rapp)
- "Guardian Angels" – 3:02 (Rapp)
- "Suzanne" – 5:01 (Cohen)
- "Lepers And Roses" – 5:23 (Rapp)
- "Florence Nightingale" – 0:17
- "Ring Thing" – 2:20 [3:31 for the version including the tape effects at the end] (Tolkien/Rapp)
- Tom Rapp – guitar, vocals, breathing
- Jim Bohannon – organ, piano, clavinette, marimba
- Wayne Harley – banjo, harmony
- Lane Lederer – bass, guitar, swinehorn
- Guest artists :-
- Joe Farrell – flute, English horn (tracks 3, 7)
- Lee Crabtree – piano, organ, flute (tracks 5, 8)
- Bill Salter – bass (tracks 5, 7, 8, 10)
- Al Shackman – guitar (track 8)
- Warren Smith – string arrangements (track 5)
- Selwart Clarke – string arrangements (track 6)
- Arielvaced out of Onlyville by Richard L. Alderson, Impact Sound, N.Y.C.
- We wish to dedicate this album to Pvt. Edward D. Slovik, U.S. Army, deceased