40 Years – A Charlie Brown Christmas – Monster SuperDisc

by | Dec 12, 2005 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

40 Years – A Charlie Brown Christmas (New recording of tunes from the annual TV special, with David Benoit, Gerarld Albright, Chaka Khan, Dave Koz, Venessa Williams, Rick Brian, Toni Braxton, Norman Brown, Eric Marienthal, Brian McKnight, The Ripingtons) – Monster Cable Super Disc = DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM 96K stereo, Music files encoded in WMA, AAC and Apple Lossless, all Dolby Headphone processed, extra videos & test features – MMU 44172, both discs 43:51 ****:

Now don’t confuse this release in Monster’s SuperDisc first batch with the one also titled Charlie Brown Christmas reviewed here at the same time. That one is the original TV show soundtracks of 40 years ago with Vince Guaraldi. This one is a brand new recording the Christmas classic’s tunes with a variety of pop artists of today, or perhaps I should say right now. It has all the special features of the SuperDisc series, including the several videos of Head Monster Noel Lee explaining what’s on the discs, how to access the material and how they mixed the tracks for maximum definition and surround effect. There are five different audio options for each of the dozen tracks – first, 96K PCM stereo tracks, then either Dolby 5.1 or DTS 5.1 and a choice of two different mixes on each: “Orchestral” (like sitting in the middle of the audience) and “In the Room” (spreads the sound out more around you).  What I heard on my system – which by the way has identical speakers all around and all spaced 9 ft. away from my sweet spot – was a stepping up of the side signals as though the signals to the surrounds were increase. I also have two high-mounted front/side speakers fed by a mix from the front L & R channels, so the effect wasn’t entirely phantom in nature. I found that as with the Aix mix choices, the In the Room was the most involving and interesting to listen to option (they call theirs “Stage”).

The computer audio files sections was more complete than on the Guaraldi trio SuperDisc. All the tracks were available in all the mix options for both AAC and WMA and sounded equally good in both. The AAC was at 320kbps. The Apple Lossless files were all there and sounded the best of all. Supposedly all of the audio files are encoded for Dolby Headphone surround results with any standard stereo headphones.

Musically, the quality here ranges from fine to awful, but perhaps that’s just the opinion of an old codger who is not at all into what’s “right now” musically. Smooth jazz performer Benoit does a nice arrangement of Christmas Is Coming, and saxist Dave Koz swings Linus And Lucy successfully. I also liked guitar Norman Brown’s treatment of the other original non-Christmas-tune on the disc, Skating. Saxists Gerald Albright and Eric Marienthal are the soloists respectively on O Tannenbaum and the reprise of Christmastime Is Here. On the awful side I would place Chaka Khan tearing into a soulfull The Christmas Song and Brian McKnight on the first appearance of Christmastime Is Here. As I observed with the reissue of the original soundtrack from the TV special, it would be nice to have given us a clip from the animated show that was the album’s stimulus, since this is after all a DVD.

– John Sunier

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