Complete Book of Hours

 

Like the Northwest environs from which they hail, Green Pajamas' music conveys a magical allure that proves consistently beguiling, no matter how many times it's experienced. It conveys a joy of discovery that seduces its listeners after little more than a cursory encounter. It's unfortunate, then, that after 25 years, they've never found a wider audience in this country, even though their European fan base has burgeoned quite impressively. Fortunately, that disparity has never discouraged them; they have a stunning output that has never faltered from one record to the next.

 

Critics have been fond of typecasting Green Pajamas as a broad divide of psychedelia and cinematic suggestion, but it's a more indefinable style that accounts for their charms. That was never more evident than early on, with the release of their formal debut, Book of Hours, which, when originally issued in 1986, showed them emerging fully formed. The band's personnel mutated in the years since, but with erstwhile leader Jeff Kelly at the helm, the musical vision remained immaculately conceived. Never shy about melding cellos, oboes, sitar and even bagpipes in the mix, Kelly and company let loose their grand ambitions, even as they remained cognizant of a desire to craft an accessible sound.  In songs such as "Paula," "Men in Your Life," "The First Rains of September," and "Stand to Reason," there's a decided effort to entice the listener while refusing to let go. What's more, the retro references also abound, from the pristine pop of "My Red Balloon" (affirmed by its "la-la-la" refrain) to the overtly Beatlesque construction of "Ten Thousand Words" and "Higher Than I've Been," which recall the Fabs' "Dr. Robert" and "Taxman," respectively.  It's a seamless album throughout, from the spunky, brass-infused opener "Paula" to the hypnotic textures of its brilliant closer, "Time of Year."

 

 

Now re-released and expanded to 17 songs with the benefit of various bonus tracks heretofore only released overseas, the once rare Book of Hours gets the deluxe treatment it deserves. Two and a half decades on, it proves as enchanting as ever, a groundbreaking effort that makes for a welcome return.


 

- LEE ZIMMERMAN