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Album Review

GREEN PAJAMAS
Death By Misadventure

I want to hear All Clues Lead To Meagan's Bed if for no other reason than to be able to respond to people who read my reviews of various Green Pajamas albums only to say, yeah, it's good, but my favorite is Meagan's Bed. In my head, the latest Pajama music is the best Pajama music so I have a hard time wrapping my head around such statements, especially when I have not heard the music to which the current album is being compared. Is Meagan's Bed good? No doubt. Too many people have said so. Is it better than? I dunno. To me, comparing Pajamas albums is apples to oranges. They each have captured my ear and not let go. I know this will sound lame to many of you, but the Pajamas, I suppose, are my Beatles. That probably makes some of you laugh, but I laugh at all of you Beatles idolators out there because while you have to await deep catalog discoveries (which are few and far between) or remasters (Jesus, who started that whole thing, anyway?), I get new and fresh music each and every time the Pajamas crawl out of their cave. Okay, not each and every, maybe, because The Complete Book of Hours and Summer of Lust were raids on the archives, but I didn't have those albums and had not heard many of the tracks so I am going to call them new and fresh anyway. It's my prerogative. It's my review. Well, actually, it's The Green Pajamas' review, but that's nitpicking.

Let me start this review by stating that The Green Pajamas are, in my world, hands down the most impressive concept album band in existence today. I don't know how they do it but they have an uncanny ability to wrap themselves around an idea and bring it to life not unlike writers, producers and directors bring film to life. This time around, Jeff Kelly and crew take us inside the hive to witness a soap opera existence we probably could not even imagine. And they pull no punches.

The Fall of the Queen Bee kicks Death By Misadventure off in righteous fashion, Kelly's unique voice and vocal style an indication that things are not quite right in beedom and thus we are drawn directly into one of the oddest plots I could imagine. Yes, there is a plot here even if it is just a hive and just as much of a plot as exists in any episode of Perry Mason or CSI. The chorus of The Fall is a warning of sorts, a PG13 in voice form. “Will you pray on this rug/Conjure angels, inject the drug/Will you stay, please the rook/Kneel down for awhile/Magic circle, secret file/You can play but you can't look.” In my hippie days, I would have shuddered but it would have been a shudder of anticipation. Actually, I wouldn't have shuddered. I would have just inhaled deeply and spewed one of my phrases of choice of the time--- “heavy” or “groovy” or “far out”. I was an unimaginative bastard then (I chalk it up to various gateway drugs which, oddly enough, opened no gates for me).

Unimaginative sure isn't in The Green Pajamas' vocabulary, though. Kelly and fellow Pajama Eric Lichter work their way through a series of tunes which are, once again, worthy of the term “rock opera”. This isn't straight-on psych, like some of their earlier works. This is more interpretive rock--- a story so convoluted and layered by ideas and sound that it boggles the mind. Ever looked into a bee hive? Ever watched a documentary on bees? God knows if it would help untangle the story told here, but it isn't really necessary.

The music itself gives you a hand. The Pajamas work their way in and out with a running musical commentary, of sorts. You get sixties' pop crunch with Beat Me Sally (the organ and horns, if they are horns, are impeccable), pure Pajamas' pop with Carrie, anthemic theater rock complete with quasi-children's chorus in Ring Around the Sun, tripped-out psych/pop with Sky Blue Balloon (who needs a Jabberwocky these days?), a freakin' tango with The Queen Bee's Last Tango, for chrissakes, and a host of other intriguing if not over-the-top selections.

Keeping in mind that this is a work which steps beyond the songs, you begin to recognize a madness (or is it genius?) behind the music. These tunes have been written and arranged this way for a reason. Do I know what it is? Hell, no, but there has to be a reason, right? Anyway, I am right now happy with just the music--- with the movements, as it were. I will worry about the psychological aspects later.

You know, when concept albums are put together correctly, they can live forever. I know Who fans who to this day listen to Tommy front to back on occasion, and that's after four decades of hearing it (to my mind) all too often. As much as I never want to hear Pinball Wizard again, I have to give it to Townshend. The concept was solid, the music mostly palatable and certain tunes gave it legs. What The Green Pajamas have given us is similar, except that the music won't wear out in my head as did The Who's. I get what the band is doing here and I get what Kelly and Lichter have done. And I dig it.

Without a doubt, sequencing makes all the difference in a project like this and, per usual, Kelly nails it. I have a number of Pajamas albums and have always been impressed with the flow they give each and every one. The flow here is theatrical as well as musical and I am amazed at the supposed ease with which the album was constructed. Of course that is not true, I am sure, but that has always been a mark of a solid producer--- that ability to make the complicated seem simple. Not unlike that chef or cook who puts an amazing meal on your table. Man, cooking is hard work! So is writing and recording and all of the other jobs necessary to put together an album this good.

I have spent the last few years listening to and writing about The Green Pajamas. I had allowed them to slip through the cracks not long after their limited success with Kim The Waitress, I am sad to say, and rediscovered them through my good friend Howie Wahlen who has trumpeted this band's music from the beginning. He almost shamed me into listening again and I would be ashamed but for the fact that I now have 20+ years and many hours of music to catch up on. Misadventure? Not the way I look at it. This, my friends, is adventure, and I'm having the time of my life.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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