While an upcoming 3-D film is set to bring Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang back into the television and motion picture worlds, the Vince Guaraldi-penned music attached to these beloved characters is already in the midst of a renaissance. Between a vinyl reissue of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 2009, a 7″ record featuring “Linus and Lucy” and “Oh, Good Grief” released as part of Record Store Day, and even a Crosley record player featuring one of the strip’s more music-centered panels, it’s obvious that fans of the comic have been properly spoiled. And fortunately for those fans, you can add another well constructed release to the series of reissues, in Jazz Impressions of “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”.
Recorded a year before A Charlie Brown Christmas, this collection of Vince Guaraldi Trio tracks were initially set to air over a documentary of the comic strip creator and his process, but the documentary would never actually air on network television. The filmmakers would even cut the 60-minute program down to half, while again being rejected, but the soundtrack would be released in 1964 regardless and eventually re-titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Most importantly, this would be Guaraldi’s first crack at giving life to these characters, a life which nearly defines these cartoons to this day.
And while songs like “Linus and Lucy” never left the public consciousness, well known by way of advertising, its songs like the slower, more introspective version of “Oh, Good Grief” (streaming below) and “Baseball Theme” which should really stand out. The latter was to be played during the documentary’s section on Charlie Brown’s pitching adventures, while another standout, “Pebble Beach,” was rumored to play over a section of the documentary featuring Arnold Palmer.
Following a thorough clean of the 12″ record, there was still some occasional pops and some light surface noise coming through the speakers. It’s nothing too intrusive, and fortunately, we’re not dealing with incredibly dense arrangements. Guaraldi’s beautiful work on the piano is captured perfectly, both the high and low tones well represented. The light percussion utilized in tracks like “Blue Charlie Brown” and “Baseball Theme” are relegated to the background a little too much, but when listening to previous digital versions, this balance is a stylistic choice, not something altered in the transfer to vinyl. Expect a very soothing, often times clean listen when you drop the needle.
The orange 12″ record is housed inside of a gatefold jacket, highlighted by extensive and historic notes on the inner portions. The writer, producer and director of the documentary, Lee Mendelson, is the primary contributor, writing an interesting and enlightening history of the comic strip and its creator, Charles Schulz. It may not offer up any new information for diehard fans, but for a casual viewer, it should help you picture exactly how this now worldwide phenomenon came into being. The second piece hails from Ralph Gleason and quickly touches on Guaraldi’s process. On top of that, Fantasy Records and Concord also includes a series of 12, 8″x10″ prints, another nice collectors item for fans. And for all these packaging extras to come in a $25 price tag makes them all the more impressive.
A digital download is not included in the package, which is a bit of a letdown. And since a CD is also missing, you’ll have to head to Spotify (or another streaming service) to listen to the work digitally. There’s only slight changes on this version, such as an extra track at the end. They at least give us some colored vinyl, which matches up with the front “Charlie Brown” text, and I’ll even count that extra text on the inner gatefold in this category.
This 50th anniversary reissue of Jazz Impressions of “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” features above all, excellent packaging, with highly informative liner notes from those involved in the original documentary, and a series of nice quality prints featuring the famous characters. And while the sound quality of the release runs into some surface noise problems, it’s nothing that should decrease your enjoyment of the reissue. Fans, pick it up without worry and take a look into the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s first crack at scoring the legendary characters.
“Oh, Good Grief,” “Pebble Beach,” & “Baseball Theme”
You can pre-order the reissue over Amazon. It’s being released on May 13th.