A wonderful package – four full albums by one of the most unique groups of their time! First up is These Things Too – the first Reprise album from Pearls Before Swine – a bit more straight ahead and folksy than their work for ESP – but in a really great way, one that lets you hear the best of Tom Rapp's amazing songs and vocals! The album follows in a tradition that includes Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, Leonard Cohen, and Fred Neil – but it's also got a really unique style that's the unique province of Tom Rapp – the main force behind the group, and the voice on all of the tunes. Rapp's vision was quite unique for the time – not nearly as revolutionary or personally preoccupied – more sad at the fading world, and granted with a unique ability to paint any subject in shades of blue. Titles include "Wizard Of Is", "Frog In The Window", "Footnote", "Look Into Her Eyes", "These Things Too", and "Mon Amour". Use Of Ashes is an incredibly beautiful album from Pearls Before Swine – one that uses light orchestrations to create a baroquely folksy sort of feel – easily elevating the album past previous efforts, into classic territory we'd rank with the best from Nick Drake or Leonard Cohen! The whole album's great – with fragile and haunting songs from Tom Rapp, all supported by sparsely arranged instrumentation that includes harpsichord, flute, oboe, cello, and dobro. Genius throughout – and a clear inspiration for music still being made 30 years later – with classic tracks that include "The Jeweler", "Rocket Man", "Song About A Rose", "The Old Man", "When The War Began", and "From The Movie Of The Same Name". Next is Beautiful Lies You Could Live In – one of the most perfectly formed albums ever recorded by Tom Rapp's enigmatic group Pearls Before Swine – a record that does an incredible job of skirting between Rapp's earthy sense of the planet's passing, and his ambitions for larger forums of expression. The core group is lightly folksy – with strong use of acoustic guitar that goes far beyond any folk rock cliches – plus some additional arrangements that feature contributions from the team of Bob Dorough and Stu Scharf, who seem to have a habit of appearing on under-discovered gems like this one, and making them sound all that more hip! The whole thing's great – filled with beautiful songs that should have been as over-recorded as the best by Tim Hardin or Leonard Cohen – with titles that are even better, too! Tracks include "Snow Queen", "A Life", "Butterflies", "Simple Things", "Freedom", "She's Gone", and "Island Lady". Last up is City Of Gold – a return to folksier forms for Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine – working here in territory that's very different than some of the baroque light arrangements used on previous records. Rapp's emerging as a more confident singer/
songwriter – recording in an almost Dylan-like setting, but with more of the irony of Leonard Cohen, and as always, working in a timeless idiom that's still beginning to be understood more than 30 years after its inception. Beautiful work throughout – as earthy as it is majestic – and with titles that include "My Father", "The Man", "Once Upon A Time", "City Of Gold", "Nancy", and "Wedding".