Tom Rapp – Sunforest (1973/2009)

Posted by Green on January 13, 2018as


Tom Rapp’s last album for over a quarter of a century, released in 1973 just before he left pop music to become a civil rights lawyer in Philadelphia, doesn’t have the cracked acid-folk majesty of his two ESP-Disk releases or the haunting delicacy of his four Reprise albums (all released under the name Pearls Before Swine, though Sunforest’s cover painting shows Rapp sporting a Pearls Before Swine button, it was released as a solo album). Yet although Sunforest is easily the weakest of Rapp’s albums, it still has much to recommend it. Rapp is a gifted, intelligent lyricist with a streak of wry humor (check the bittersweet closer “Sunshine and Charles”: “She was 16 when she met Jesus/He was the Puerto Rican kid who lived next door/They got married and they loved each other/Up until the day they didn’t anymore”) and a storytelling talent both fanciful and sharp. The surprising calypso lilt of the joyous opener “Comin’ Back” sounds like Van Dyke Parks’ Discover America, which had come out the year before, but most of the rest of the album stays in the styles Rapp had explored on his earlier records. There are lengthy, mystical ballads like the title track; desolate and haunted tunes like “Forbidden City”; and the puckish “Love/Sex,” a forceful reply to Stephen Stills’ “dig my swingin’ ways” load of horseflop “Love the One You’re With.” Nearly all the songs are worthwhile (though Rapp justifiably dismisses the negligible “Someplace to Belong” in the CD reissue’s liner notes), and only the less interesting than usual production keeps this from being a top-drawer Rapp release.

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