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Music Review: Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Written by General Jabbo 

In 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first of the animated Peanuts specials, aired on CBS. Though now considered a holiday classic, the special wasn't a sure thing when it first aired. The network was concerned about the lack of a laugh track or the scene with Linus reading Bible passages about the birth of Christ. There are also scenes where Schroeder is playing Beethoven and Charlie Brown is talking about Nebudchadnezzar – hardly the stuff most eight-year-olds are into.

It comes as no surprise then that this unorthodox cartoon would feature an unorthodox soundtrack. It was unusual at the time (and to this day) for a children's program to feature a jazz soundtrack, but that's exactly what A Charlie Brown Christmas had.

And what a soundtrack it was. The Vince Guaraldi Trio delivered one of the most memorable Christmas soundtracks of all time. Who doesn't think of the beloved Peanuts characters when listening to "Linus and Lucy," or think of Schroeder playing the piano for Lucy when they hear Beethoven's "Fur Elise," or see the smile on Charlie Brown's face when the other kids have saved his Christmas tree by giving it some love and decorating it when they hear "Hark the Herald Angels Sing?"

The music of A Charlie Brown Christmas has become as famous as the special itself. Guaraldi's tasty piano runs blending perfectly with Fred Marshall's nimble bass and Jerry Granell's drums. This is a timeless story set to timeless music. Over 40 years later, it remains a staple of the holiday season.

The CD is a straight reissue of the original 1965 soundtrack on Fantasy Records and, at 40:23, is actually over 15 minutes longer than the special itself. The CD features liner notes written by Ralph J. Gleason. For fans of Peanuts, good piano jazz, and Christmas music in general, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must-own CD.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • The melody of Christmas Time Is Here has haunted me since I was a child. I can first recall watching the special back around ’68. It is by far my favorite piece of music by Guaraldi and the primary reason why, after all these years I’m finally seeking out his music. I would recommend “Vince Guaraldi – Greatest Hits” for those seeking a broader array of his work.

  • The track “Skating” is an all time winter favorite in our household. When played around holiday time, either my wife or I will act as if we are skating across the room, always good for a laugh.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    You are correct,Chris..But I do think that this version of Lucy & Linus showcases much more tightness between the musicians. they really polished it up. Still, this album(either version)is phenomonal… Classic Christmas nusic at its best.

  • One thing to note – the version of “Linus and Lucy” found on this remaster is not the one on the original.

  • “For fans of Peanuts, good piano jazz, and Christmas music in general, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must-own CD.”

    ’nuff said.