Between their first album Summer of Lust and the ambitious follow-up Book of Hours, Seattle stalwarts the Green Pajamas issued a blink-and-you-missed-it cassette of eight tunes under the title Happy Halloween in October of 1984. The set passed into legend nearly as quickly as it was written and recorded, but now sees its first CD release, a mere three decades after it was originally released. But not only does this edition give us the original eight songs – thematically linked by intent more than practice – but another baker’s dozen bonus tracks recorded in the same era and never previously released.
Though early days for what would become one of our finest psychedelic folk rock bands, there are plenty of tunes that point to the PJs’ nascent greatness. Leader Jeff Kelly veers, as always, between catchy pop like “I’ll Want to Run to You” and “Thinking Only of You (Lust Don’t Last),” acid folk like “In the Sky” and “Everything is Green” and gothic weirdness a la“Nearly Winter” and “Last Days of Autumn.” Without a long band history to weigh down expectations, Kelly is also able to branch out more than he would in later years, messing around with garage psych (“Little Red”), tape loop oddities (“One Monday”) and sarcasm that owes nothing to any particular genre (“Hate Song”). “This Winter’s Night” features a host of band friends recording backing vocals live in the studio for Kelly’s attempt at a modern carol, a theme he would return to almost 20 years later with the PJs EP The Caroler’s Song. Partner Joe Ross chimes in with a couple of tunes of his own; his wavery pitch and more straightforward emotional thrust make “Last Days of Autumn” and especially “All I Want to Do” (“is sit in my room and try and write songs for you”) particularly affecting.
A handful of these tunes would go on to greater glory elsewhere: “Stephanie Barber” found another place in subsequent reissues of Summer of Lust, “Murder of Crows” was reborn on Book of Hours, “Gothic Funk” got remade ten years later and appeared on Indian Winter and “Walking in the Rain” transformed from twinkly synth-pop to melancholy folk rock on the masterful Ghosts of Love. But those are just a few of the rough gems found in a mine that veteran PJs fans will greatly enjoy excavating. MICHAEL TOLAND