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The Green Pajamas - The Night Races Into Anna

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Artist: The Green Pajamas

Album: The Night Races Into Anna

Label: Hidden Agenda

Review date: Mar. 1, 2007

Seattle's Green Pajamas, founded in 1984, entered a kind of second life in the late 90s, which this album addresses in an attempt to fill in some blanks. As indicated on the cover, this is a collection of track by the paisley pop band spanning 1997-2006: out-takes, compilation tracks, or otherwise previously unreleased songs. As such, it is not a "best of" collection, but an unearthing of songs that would otherwise be lost in time or never be released in these versions.

On first glance, one might suppose that a 75-minute album of extras is bound to be of second-rate quality. Thankfully, this is very much not the case. Yes, this is perhaps inevitably a release for those already familiar with the band -- it's not where those new to the Green Pajamas should probably begin. Nonetheless, if one did, they would find a rather cohesive selection of 20 songs, filled with the evocative textures, detailed arrangements and carefully-crafted melodies for which band leader and singer Jeff Kelly is known.

About a third of these songs are previously unreleased, including the Beatles-esque "I Can't Wait Here Anymore" and the slow, gothic-tinged "Forever 13. Four originally appeared on compilations, of which "The Haunted Dollhouse" is imperfect but memorable both for its fuzz guitar and the eerie chorus, chanted by a group of young girls; but "She Turns Me On," originally from 2001's Rubric 01 compilation, is one of the album's highlights, a pop gem.

The remainder of the 20 songs are either out-takes from album sessions or alternate versions/mixes of songs previously released. As might be expected, some of these were perhaps rightly passed over originally, but while individual songs here may be occasionally undistinguished, none are truly clunkers and some are superb.

The album's opener, "Looking for Heaven [1973], starts the collection at a particularly high point, with a beautiful melody and a generally wonderful swirling atmosphere of floating keyboards and vocal harmonies. The alternate version of 1997's "Song for Tess" is another notable track, a catchy mid-tempo bit of 70s-tinged pop. And the final song, the out-take "Black Velvet Cat" (previously released on a Ptolemaic Terrascope compilation), closes the album with a good example of Kelly's talent for vocal melody.

The difficulty faced by The Night Races Into Anna is that the collection is 75 minutes long, and it's a nearly overwhelming listen. Yet if less had been included, any successive volumes would seem to be taking advantage of the fans. In a sense, then, they can't win: there's either going to be too much, or not enough. Ultimately, fans of the Green Pajamas and their style of psych-pop will certainly want this collection, but even they may find themselves creating their own edited version.

By Mason Jones

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