CD Review: Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Boy Named Charlie Brown

This classic soundtrack album gets the remastered treatment for its 50th anniversary.
  |   Comments

The 1960s Peanuts animated specials are among the most iconic television shows ever. Beloved specials such as It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas have become holiday staples, viewed year after year by new generations of fans. While Peanuts characters such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy have become legendary, equally legendary is the music accompanying their onscreen exploits. The late jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi's, compositions have become synonymous with the series. There is one exception, however, where this wasn't the case.

In 1963, a documentary about Willie Mays titled A Man Named Mays was released. The documentary proved to be successful and, taking a cue from the film, producer/director Lee Mendelson came up with A Boy Named Charlie Brown, a 60-minute documentary about Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts characters. The documentary never aired, but Guaraldi's soundtrack, originally titled Jazz Impressions Of A Boy Named Charlie Brown was still released, making for an unusual situation of a soundtrack album to a nonexistent film. 50 years later, the documentary hasn't aired on TV, but the soundtrack has been remastered with bonus tracks and has been rereleased as A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

The album leads off with "Oh, Good Grief, a playful romp with a bouncy bass line from Monty Budwig. Guaraldi plays for the song, showcasing just enough of his considerable chops to make this namesake of one of Charlie Brown's most famous catch phrases work. "Pebble Beach" was reportedly to be the background for golfer Arnold Palmer's segment in the documentary. A fun bossa nova piece, it is a breezy track showcasing the trio's prowess as musicians.

"Happiness Is" finds the band offering a joyous ballad. One can close his or her eyes and imagine a feeling of bliss as Guaraldi serves up intricate piano runs. "Schroeder" is, appropriately enough, classically influenced. Not surprising when one considers the young pianist's hero is Beethoven!

Of course, the most famous Peanuts song will always be "Linus And Lucy." While A Charlie Brown Christmas introduced the song to a mass TV audience, it actually made its debut here. More than any other song, "Linus And Lucy" IS Peanuts, and it immediately conjures up images of these legendary characters.

The CD includes two bonus tracks. The first is a gorgeous rendition of the standard, "Fly Me To The Moon," while the other is an alternate take on "Baseball Theme," which is different enough from the album version to be interesting. Both showcase Guaraldi's fine piano playing. The CD's remastering, done by Joe Tarantino, is fine throughout, letting all the instruments shine in the mix.

50 years later, people still love the Peanuts characters and Guaraldi's soundtrack recordings and for good reason -- they are classics. While A Boy Named Charlie Brown never aired on TV, its soundtrack is a must own for fans of jazz piano and fans of the series.