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The Use of Ashes
Pearls Before Swine
The Use of Ashes
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock, Classical, Classic Rock
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1

Their fourth album (second for Warner/Reprise) and released in 1970 features songs written by Tom Rapp while living in Holland. Subversive, tender, moving, goofy, maddening, and profound! 10 tracks including the song 'Ro...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Pearls Before Swine
Title: The Use of Ashes
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Water
Original Release Date: 1/1/2000
Re-Release Date: 1/20/2004
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock, Classical, Classic Rock
Styles: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 646315711226


Album Description
Their fourth album (second for Warner/Reprise) and released in 1970 features songs written by Tom Rapp while living in Holland. Subversive, tender, moving, goofy, maddening, and profound! 10 tracks including the song 'Rocket Man' which is based on a short story by Ray Bradbury. Water. 2003.

CD Reviews

Larry L. Looney | Austin, Texas USA | 01/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"...not these songs. They are, each and every one of them, jewels of the art - and they will endure. Tom Rapp refers to jewels in the lyrics of three of them - `The jeweler', `Rocket man' and `The old man' - and his compositions are indeed jewel-like, both lyrically and melodically so far ahead of their time that it's no surprise that he never achieved commercial success. His work was always critically acclaimed - but the albums released originally by Warner subsidiary Reprise (of which this was the second) were allowed, shamefully, to languish out-of-print for too many years. Released as a four-cd boxed set in 2003, they are available individually, as of today - to which I for one am most grateful to the San Francisco-based Water label. This album was one of my favorite recordings of the 70s - I remember wearing out more than one copy of the LP. It's been too many years since I've heard it - I've listened to it all the way through 3-4 times today, and it hasn't lost one iota of the charm with which it held me rapt (or should that be `Rapp'ed'...? [sorry...]) through so many listenings all those years ago.The first track, `The jeweler', is one of the most beautifully poetic, moving lyrics I've ever heard. Rapp's portrait of the old man who, after closing his shop, sits up late in the dark, lovingly polishing old coins with `...spit and cloth and ashes' is a poignant one. His imagery is absolutely perfect and beautiful - `...he makes them shine with ashes, he knows the use of ashes, he worships God with ashes.' The booklet notes (by Edwin Pouncey) lean toward the interpretation that the implication is that the jeweler `...must suffer for the adoration of money' - the song seems to speak to me more of the old man's love for beautiful things, of his attempts to restore them to their former beauty. He can shine the coins, removing `the thumbprints from so many ages' - he cannot remove the scratches. Most of the time, he is conscious of this limitation - but all the same, he works on them into the night: `...both his hands will blister badly, they will open painfully, and the blood flows from his hands...he wishes he could cure the scars...when he forgets, he sometimes cries.'Jewels are mentioned again in the third track, `Rocket man' (NOT the same as the song by the same title written by Elton John) - in this case, as a double image: the jewels of a mother's tears, the jewels of the father's imagination being the stars themselves. The song (inspired by a story by sci-fi great Ray Bradbury) is sung from the perspective of the son of a `rocket man', an astronaut. The boy and his mother are all too aware of the dangers inherent in the father's work - it seems that they do not speak of it, but rather acknowledge it silently: `...and on my mother's face, as lonely as the world in space, I could read the silent cry: that if my father fell into a star, we must not look upon that star again.' Thus, when the father's ship is swallowed by a solar flare, the mother and son go out when `...the sky was cloudy or the sun was blotted out, or to escape the pain we only went out when it rained.'The quality of the songwriting is repeated in every track - even the short instrumental `From the movie of the same name' is quite lovely. Rapp addresses issues of the day: man's inhumanity to man (`Tell my why'), the horrors of war (`Margery', `Riegel', and `When the war began'), as well as love and loneliness (`God save the child', `Song about a rose') - and songs that are simply (an appropriate/inappropriate word here) about the human condition, and life (the two mentioned above, plus `The old man'). His songs, while dealing with issues and feelings that are modern, have a medieval mood to them - and this can be attributed to both his lyrics and his music. The use of orchestral instruments in the arrangements here (and in his other albums as well) enhances the mood of the pieces nicely, elevating them above the level of `pop music' - which is one reason, perhaps, that the Pearls Before Swine albums never realized a wider audience. It's a pity - but it's too often the case.This album is a treasure - a shining moment from the 1970s that's every bit as beautiful and vital today. It's aged extremely gracefully - pass it up at your peril."
A Lost Classic
Rob O | AR United States | 06/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The other comment on this album says most of what I could ever want to say about this album, but I'd like to add a few points.

First off, David Bowie's constantly referenced Pearls Before Swine as an influence on him, and his sound on the "Space Oddity" album is very much derived from the Pearls Before Swine sound. Obviously, big-time Bowie fans will have an interest in this--as my dad pointed out, Rapp's "Rocket Man" was one of a few wierd rock/pop takes on space travel (Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Elton John's "Rocket Man") that were out at essentially the same time.
Also, be sure to check out the stunning cover of "The Jeweller" on This Mortal Coil's second album, "Filigree and Shadow." It's a stunning re-work of the original that is a sincere tribute to Rapp's composition and lyricism."