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Music Review: Vince Guaraldi — A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Over the past few years — doubly so for this year — the Christmas season has become harder and harder to bear — the former because they have been without my father and the later because this will be the first without my mother, as well. My wife and my sister (since she’s come to live with us) have been trying like hell to remind me that my parents would not have wanted me to sulk and remember them by rejecting the very holiday season that provide so many happy memories of them— and yet, I do.

I want to be the grinchy one this year. I want to rant and rave and howl at the moon until I shake the very foundations of the world. I want… I want Christmas to be Christmas, again. So, armed with that bit of back story, perhaps it might be understandable how I nearly broke down in tears while listening to the recently remastered and expanded CD of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Seriously, I wept.

Perhaps it was the immediate recognition of the fact that this music was something my entire family would enjoy annually as we would watch the animated cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, gathered together in out living room? Whatever the reason, as soon as the opening notes of “O Tannenbaum” slowly glided out of my bedroom stereo, the waterworks began.

As the album continued playing, however, the tears became fewer and fewer. I’m not saying that, at the end of it all, I was dancing and joyous like Snoopy on top of Schroeder’s piano in the cartoon. No, I was still melancholy and maudlin as all get-out, but there was this smile on my face despite it.

Other than putting on the cartoon itself, is there any better way to celebrate the true spirit of the holiday season than by listening to a copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas on your home stereo?

For over forty years the cartoon has been bringing Christmas joy and tidings to the whole world. Sure much of the credit goes to the late Charles Schulz for creating such wonderfully realized characters and situations, but Vince Guaraldi’s brilliant musical soundscape that he gave the characters in which they could sing, dance, and truly live, is just as important.

Formed from a simple Jazz ensemble, songs such as “Linus and Lucy,” “Christmas is Coming,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Greensleeves” are not just great holiday music but great music, period. On the newly released "remastered" version of this album you are also able to see some of the effort that went into recording this, as there are 4 extra tracks providing alternate takes of "Christmas is Coming," "Greensleeves," "The Christmas Song," and "Christmas Time is Here."

On the surface these songs may seem simple and easily crafted from basic musical notes, but obviously a lot of love and effort went into these songs, as well as memories of what Vince Guaraldi (and Charles Schulz) loved about Christmas.

Memories… well, memories are things that can cut through heartache like a knife.

No matter where I go in my life or what I learn or see, these songs — these wonderful songs of Vince Guaraldi and his piano — are forever tied to memories of being gathered with my family on cool December nights.

I miss my father and mother madly, and I’m not sure I’ll actually handle Christmas day itself, but I do know that I’ll have this wonderful album playing in the background. That way, no matter what happens when I remember my parents, I won’t be alone.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this wonderful CD, okay? Your childhood memories will thank you…

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About Michael Jones

  • http://cybersmusic.com Mike

    Hey Michael, great post on Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. I ended my Christmas post on the same album, and for many of the same reasons. I just never tire of listening to Linus recite the real meaning of Christmas. The music always gives me that warm fuzzy feeling of home and a loving childhood. Thanks for validating those feelings.