Flawed, fascinating psych-folk curio
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Tom Rapp’s band, Pearls Before Swine, perfected a kind of literate, ethereal psych-folk that was as frail as it was entrancing. Elements of that sorcery can be detected on Rapp’s solo debut from 1972. Familiar Songs, though, is more notable as a souvenir of muddled record company politicking, being haphazard re-recordings of Pearls Before Swine songs released by Rapp’s old label (Reprise) after he had departed for a new one (Blue Thumb). The music’s fine enough, if a little sturdier and more countryish than before. The problems come with Rapp, who experiments unsteadily with tone and phrasing. “I hope I was really stoned when I did that,” he writes in the rueful new sleevenotes, with some justification. Newcomers, as a result, are better directed to Water’s Pearls Before Swine box set, Jewels Were The Stars, and the lovely, unadulterated originals.