AMG Reviews NOVEMBER

In 1988, Jeff Kelly of the Green Pajamas had a stack of songs -- many older, some new and fragmentary -- he wanted to commit to tape before the band moved on to their next album, and he had the idea of playing a show where the group could run through the tunes in question, record the gig, and release the results as a cassette. Tom Dyer, the group's longtime studio ally, lobbied that the Green Pajamas should do their show in an actual recording studio rather than a club, so they booked an evening at Seattle's Reciprocal Recording, rolled tape, and November was the result. In some ways, November points to the wisdom as well as the flaws of Dyer's idea -- this captures some of the scrappy fire of a live performance, and the rock & roll side of the Green Pajamas' personality is stronger here than in most of their work, with the adrenaline adding some grit to their usual psych-pop accents. But the clean, spare sheen of the audio tends to compromise the force of the performance, and it sure doesn't flatter the very dated sound of Bruce Haedt's synthesizers, which scream mid-'80s at the top of their lungs. But if Kelly's principal goal was to document a handful of songs that threatened to be lost forever, November does the job well; at this point resembling a smart pop band mildly obsessed with the Rain Parade and Big Starthe Green Pajamas sound more powerful than one might expect as they put heart, soul, and muscle behind some fine tunes like "Stephanie Barber," "This Tyme," "Mary Magdalene," "What in the World," and the playfully salacious "Down." November is a document of a very specific moment in time for the Green Pajamas; it finds them young, wiry, and enthusiastic, and if this isn't the live album some fans might have dreamed of, it captures them, warts and all, on one of the better nights of their lives together.

Mark Deming