Craft Recordings releases a re-mastered double vinyl of a Christmas classic.
Vince Guaraldi – “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – Fantasy Records (1965)/Craft Recordings CR00444 (2022) deluxe edition 180-gram stereo double vinyl ****1/2:
(Vince Guaraldi – piano, organ; Fred Marshall – double bass; Monty Budwig – double bass; Jerry Granelli – drums; Colin Bailey – drums)
There are several memorable Christmas albums. From classical to popular to blues and rock and roll, holiday music enjoys a unique status. Movies, television and radio transformed this genre into an integral part pf popular culture. One of the moist beloved albums from the holidays is the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. The combination of animation and jazz made this a trend-setting phenomenon. San Francisco jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed and performed a blend of traditional songs and originals that captivated television viewers (and music fans) from the time it first aired on CBS in 1965. For more than 5 decades, the soundtrack has continued to sell in a variety of formats.
Perhaps the only thing as good or better than the original soundtrack is…more! Craft Recordings has released a deluxe edition 180-gram re-mastered double vinyl of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. In addition to the original tracks, there are many other “takes”. Side A (original album) opens with a brilliant arrangement of a traditional song, “O Tannenbaum”. Guaraldi leads with a ruminative jazzy first verse. At the 0:37 mark, he and the trio glide into cool, finger-snapping swing mode. “What Child Is This” has a sweeping 3/4 time signature and trio chemistry. In the first original (“My Little Drum”), he is joined by a children’s chorus and a Latin-infused vibe permeates the jam. Perhaps the most memorable cut is “Linus And Lucy”. The ebullient piano lead has compelling breaks and jazz-inspired tempos. It is a near perfect amalgam of jazz and pop. Two versions of the heartwarming “Christmas Time Is Here” (instrumental and vocal) make it clear why this is now considered a holiday standard. Guaraldi’s piano articulation is both wistful and joyous. “Skating”, with its sweeping countenance is festive, up tempo and features bluesy notation. With organ and the vocal chorale, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” is straightforward and faithful to the source material. Guaraldi’s original numbers are potently rhythmic and exude a jazz pedigree. Of course, Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” will invoke the image of Schroeder. The delicate translation of “The Christmas Song” is relaxed and blissful.
The second LP (consisting of unreleased session outtakes) gives the listener a front row seat to hear Guaraldi integrate the music into his unique playing style. Side C has two snippets of “O Tannenbaum”. The first is a nuanced syncopated waltz, while the second is delivered with a slower, deliberate groove. “Greensleeves (Take 6)” is a fully realized jazz performance with a decidedly South American flavor. It includes some inspired piano improvisation. “Linus And Lucy” is similar to the studio version with a muscular left hand. A trio of “Christmas Time Is Here” excerpts conclude the side. Side D kicks off with a high energy rendering of “Skating”. This is a freewheeling jam with sustained pace. A few short takes of “Jingle Bells” include piano and organ. Guaraldi delves into spontaneity on a pair of “Christmas Is Coming” performances. The former has a variation on the chorus and the latter utilizes chord modulation accompanied by pulsating left hand. The finale (“The Christmas Song/ Take 8”) feels like a live club version with an emphasis on phrasing.
This is another welcome addition to Craft Recordings’ catalogue of Vince Guaraldi “Peanuts” material. The re-mastered sound mix (from Paul Blakemore) is vibrant and the pressing (Cohearent Audio) is superior. There are new liner notes from Derrick Bang. What makes “A Charlie Brown Christmas” unique is that it can be enjoyed all of the time, not just at holidays.
Side A: O Tannenbaum; What Child Is This; My Little Drum; Linus And Lucy; Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)
Side B: Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal); Skating; Hark, The Herald Angels Sing; Christmas Is Coming; Fur Elise; The Christmas Song
Side C: O Tannenbaum (Take 2); O Tannenbaum (Take 3); Greensleeves (Take 6); Linus And Lucy (Take 1); Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental/Take 1); Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal/Rehearsal); Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal/Take 4)
Side D: Skating (Take 1); Jingle Bells (Takes 1-4); Christmas Is Coming (Take 3); Christmas Is Coming (Take 3 later date); Fur Elise (Takes 1-2); The Christmas Song (Take 8).
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