Terrascope Reviews Summer Of Lust / Gondal

THE GREEN PAJAMAS – SUMMER OF LUST
THE GOBLIN MARKET – BENEATH FAR GONDAL’S FOREIGN SKY
(CDs from Green Monkey )

Here it is – the release that started it all, rescued and remastered from the original cassette master. One spring evening in 1984, Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross retired to Joe’s parents’ house, set up a single mic, turned on Jeff’s 4-track reel-to-reel TEAC, and laid down the initial tracks of what would soon become their debut album (well, cassette if you’re keeping score.) Later sessions were abetted by soon-to-become-permanent drummer Karl Wilhelm and assorted friends. Additional recordings and overdubs were performed at Jeff’s house. Having rejected Felix The Cat Explodes, The Flying Nun, and The Pigeon-toed Orange Peel, Ross and Kelly settled on The Green Pajamas after one of the tracks on the album. On July 14, 25 copies of the cassette were available for purchase at local record shop, Cellophane Square, where it came to the attention of local record mogul, Tom Dyer, who reissued it on his Green Monkey imprint. The rest, as they say, is another story. Now, nearly 30 years and almost as many releases later, fans, completists, and everyone interested in seminal paisley underground psychedelia can enjoy the fruits of that spring evening.

Boasting liner notes from Ross and Dyer (from which much of the preceding was lifted), Summer of Lust has been meticulously remastered  by Dyer (“with Joe looking over my shoulder”) from the best and cleanest sources possible – in most cases the original master cassette. (Tech heads can get all the details from the liners.) Another bonus: Jeff’s lyric sheet is included so you can follow along at home on your favourite karaoke machine!

So, to the music…. Sure, it’s rough: lo-fi, 4-track, bedroom recordings (one was even recorded in a field with a friend banging on a waste basket). But you will immediately hear the trademark grasp of melody, rhythm, and exceptional guitar playing that would come to identify all future Pajamas efforts. ‘Katie Lied’ kicks off the album with crystalline, Byrdsian guitar pyrotechnics, even if Kelly’s novitiate vocalisations seem a little forced. A complete about-face awaits us on the eastern-tinged ‘Anna Maria’, whose chanting vocals have an almost religious tone. ‘My Mad Kitty’ introduces Ross’ elegant vocal stylings and Jeff’s 12-string and Mattel Synsonic drums to the mix. Ross’ deadpan delivery and Kelly’s serpentining guitar solos propel Ross’ ‘Another One of Those Nights’, one of several tracks featuring original PJ drummer (spoiler alert!) Joe Bauer.

A bleeding organ hums along on ‘Dance With The Angels,’ Jeff’s initial foray into what would become a frequently revisited theme of songs about celestial beings (his wife Susanne notwithstanding!). The keyboard flourishes to ‘In This Castle’ add a distinct psychedelic flavour to the proceedings, as does  the overtly Revolver/Sgt. Pepper-ish ‘With A Flower In Her Hair’ (containing the first of Kelly’s soon-to-be-famous, epic, mindbending solos). And that aforementioned theme song ends the album in true singalong fashion with yet another of Kelly’s indescribably delicious melodies. A fun Summer of Lustcommercial parody (featuring Kelly’s dad and the immortal critique, “It’s like Gilbert & Sullivan on drugs”) and the enthralling, unreleased ‘The Dreams Inside The Butterfly’s Mind’ are added as collectable bonus tracks. The latter predates the album sessions, but was omitted from the final release as it is a Kelly solo recording (perhaps his earliest to get an official airing). And be sure to hang on for a wonderful little baroque ditty (played on clavichord) that originally filled up the blank space at the end of side one of the cassette version!

 Overall, there’s a charming innocence to the recordings – just two guys huddled together in an attic banging out some tunes they wrote and recorded just for fun. But it’s easy to hear what Tom Dyer honed in on when he offered them a recording contract – he would go on to release over a dozen Green Pajamas and Jeff Kelly singles and albums. Now you can enjoy the first one, complete with full liner notes, bonus tracks and exclusive photos. Oh, and a collectable postcard replicating the album cover of Joe’s initial cassette release!

Next up is the third release from the Green Pajamas side project (named after a Christina Rossetti poem) featuring guitarists Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller. Their 2001 debut (Ghostland) put music to Ms. Rossetti’s poems and their 2005 follow-up (Haunted) set themes and inspirations from Joyce Carol Oates’ novels and short stories to music. After a lengthy hiatus, the duo return with a haunting collection of ethereal tunes that put music to seven Brontë sisters’ poems, add a couple originals, and revisit an old Green Pajamas favourite, ‘High Waving Heather’ from Seven Fathoms Down and Falling, originally released on Nick Saloman’s Woronzow imprint back in 1999. A forlorn piano tinkles behind Kelly and Weller’s harmonic duet on opener ‘The Night Is Darkening Round Me’, before cinematic strings and horns unveil the tortured soul who, “bound by a tyrant’s spell”, cannot escape nature’s wrath. ‘The Lock’ relates the true story of Kelly’s visit to the Brontë parsonage in Haworth where he was fascinated to discover a preserved lock of Emily’s hair, which becomes a talisman that he obsesses over and ponders stealing:

And If I could, I’d touch it
Steal it from this place
And if I could, I’d kiss it
And hide it away
So that no one was as close to you
As me.

Anyone who’s ever been fascinated with a historical figure to the point of owning some special part of them, i.e., a relic, can relate to Kelly’s frustration at having to walk away and leave his fantasy relationship behind.

Weller is in fine voice throughout – not unlike the Kate Bush of ‘Wuthering Heights’ that originally attracted Kelly to the idea of resurrecting the Goblin Market project. The tender piano ballad ‘Tell Me, Tell Me, Smiling Child’ revisits the cycle of life perhaps best captured in Joni Mitchell’s ‘Circle Game’, but the mournful string embellishments add another dimension of grief, as a parent watches her child at play and realises, from her point of view, that these days will soon fade into adulthood and the innocence of youth will inevitably yield to the responsibilities, fears, and anguish of parenthood with its tearful-yet-fleeting grasp of the nostalgic world the child will soon leave behind.

‘The Linnet In The Rocky Dells’ merges perfectly and seamlessly with a revamped ‘High Waving Heather’, which focuses on the gothic possibilities of roaming the moors in search of lost love. The synth swashes create an eerie atmosphere for Kelly’s despondent, yearning vocal. In the setting of the album’s other Gothic tales of love and lost, the song takes on a new interpretation, populated by possessed scarecrows, evil changelings and apparitions, and wild dogs. The original tore a page out of Roger McGuinn’s songbook and was perhaps the “Byrdsiest” of all PJ tunes; this reincarnation adds a Gothic dimension to their repertoire somewhat akin to Ghostland’s ‘Autumn Leaves’, reversibly, a Goblin Market track later covered by the Pajamas.

This may be the most cinematic of all Goblin Market releases – the soaring strings add an epic sweep to the tunes that cry out for visual interpretation (there is a video of ‘A Lonely Thing’ to get an idea of where this concept could go), and with the success of all those silly Twilight movies, there may be a Gothic Revival afoot – you read it here first! Still, with all the eerie images, unrequited love, ‘Moorland Ghosts’ and vivid characterisations captured within these tales and tunes, Hollywood could do worse than get a screenwriter to turn this into a film. I’d be first in line to buy a ticket.

 

Jeff Penczak