It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will never be the cherished audiophile recording that A Charlie Brown Christmas is. It probably won’t be remastered by one of those audiophile labels since the sound quality is a bit canned, as if it was recorded right off the TV during its annual broadcast. What this Vince Guaraldi LP will do, however, is take you back to that time in your childhood when you first watched Linus Van Pelt and his quixotic pursuit of yet another holiday folk figure, this one manufactured in the service of satire that wisely becomes a meditation on the comfort of belief systems. It’s a celebration of celebrations.
Craft Recordings knows this. This is the first time It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is available on LP, which sounds fairly odd, so Craft decided to give it the full reissue treatment with new liner notes from Peanuts historian Derrick Bang, an introduction from executive producer Lee Mendelson and a “pumpkin etching” on the vinyl for side B. Craft Recordings is one of those labels that has excellent taste in music–their reissue of Soul Explosion simply floored me, since there was so much great music captured on two beautifully pressed LPs.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is, in retrospect, a novelty. As I mentioned, it’s nostalgia in its purest form. That said, Vince Guaraldi was a stunning composer and arranger and his work for the Peanuts TV specials has earned its classic status. Here we have two well-known Peanuts themes, “Linus and Lucy” and the somewhat melancholy but memorable “The Great Pumpkin Waltz.” You might not know these compositions by name, but once you hear them you’ll think “Oh yeah, I remember this.” You also get all the reprises of these two themes, some only a few seconds long–that’s why there are 17 tracks on this single LP. These are musical snippets, the kind you hear at the start of a new scene or to get you back into the mood after the commercial break.
The reissue of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was timed to coincide with National Music Council‘s presentation of its American Eagle Award to Guaraldi. The music was recorded in 1966 at Desilu’s Gower Street Studio with Guaraldi’s usual piano trio–bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey–and a few “friends.” This Craft Recordings reissue is available on both LP and digital download from their music store, and if you’re quick you can get one of the limited edition LPs pressed on glow-in-the-dark vinyl. Halloween’s just around the corner, and I know what I’ll be playing for the trick-or-treaters–this, and maybe Art Zoyd‘s Nosferatu. (Inside joke.)