A Charlie Brown Christmas
Fantasy Records, 1965
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/30/2006
As a result, the music for A Charlie Brown Christmas has become almost as well known as the animated special itself. In fact I’d wager that the music is many kids’ first exposure to jazz, I know it was for me.
Of course, this isn’t Bitches Brew jazz-fusion we’re talking about here, this album is much more accessible. These Christmas songs are well known, and some of the original numbers have become part of the Christmas canon themselves. Hell there’s even a Beethoven composition for classicists.
The one song that everybody knows from A Charlie Brown Christmas is the ubiquitous “Linus And Lucy.” This track essentially has become the Peanuts theme song over the decades, and with just cause. The happy melody and famous piano riff worm their way into your head and set up a residence at a cheap condo near your hypothalamus.
Almost as famous is “Christmas Time Is Here.” Decidedly less happy, this track is forever linked in my mind to a depressed Charlie Brown. That’s what 20 years or so of watching that movie do to you. Yet this track is the perfect example of why A Charlie Brown Christmas works.
Guaraldi really does an excellent job throughout this album of capturing the essence of the characters. There’s the unbridled enthusiasm with “Linus And Lucy,” the less than excited “Christmas Time Is Here” the childlike innocence of “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” These tracks are not randomly compiled, but performed with the intention of creating a true soundtrack for the movie. After 50 years or so, it’s obvious Guaraldi was on the money.
Cementing the status of this record is the fact that it is so well performed. I do not proclaim to be a jazz expert, but this is the kind of jazz normal people can enjoy. One of the knocks I hear against jazz time and time again is its length, and “boring” quality. It’s impossible to get bored with A Charlie Brown Christmas; the performances are tight and concise. The longest song here clocks in at six minutes, a more than reasonable length. The fact that this record was crafted for an hour long special probably helped in that regard tremendously.
Look, the cartoon is a classic, the album is a classic, there’s really nothing more to say on the matter. If you enjoy jazz/Peanuts/Christmas albums, you’ll be set.