Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits

Vince Guaraldi Trio

Fantasy Records, 1998

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REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/22/1999

Thanks to a steady diet of Christmas cartoon specials when I was growing up, one of the things I associate most with Christmas is Charlie Brown. Every year, I make it a point to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and I've often entertained the notion of buying a copy for my daughter (though my wife reminds me we could always tape it from TV).

Seeing we reviewed the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" some time ago, and seeing that I needed a CD copy of the song "Linus And Lucy" for my buddy's wedding last month, I discovered the latest disc from the late Vince Guaraldi that encompasses the music from countless specials I grew up with: Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits. It's a sad choice this time of year, with Charles Schulz's recent announcement that he will be retiring. (I don't know if anyone associated with Mr. Schulz reads this - but if someone is, please pass along this message for me: Thank you.)

Now, I'll admit this isn't a Christmas album per se; only two of the songs have anything to do with Christmas, and three of them come from the album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 A Charlie Brown Christmas. But not everything on A Charlie Brown Christmas was strictly Yuletide music, so I'm willing to bend the rules a little bit. Besides, I recognize one song on this disc that was on the special and not on the album - "Surfin' Snoopy". (Oh, wait... maybe that song was on the "book and record" set I used to have as a kid.)

The nicest thing about Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits is that this disc is sure to bring back some great memories if you grew up glued to the TV awaiting every Peanuts special. Remember "Thanksgiving Theme," where Snoopy and Woodstock enjoy a meal together? It has been at least a decade since I saw that special, but as soon as I heard that song, almost the whole show started playing in my mind again.

And the two definite selections for the holiday season are always pleasures to listen to. Both the vocal and the instrumental versions of "Christmas Time Is Here" show just how talented a musician that Guaraldi was. (Side note: The liner notes of this disc say that Guaraldi actually sat in with The Grateful Dead for a few Bay Area shows after Tom Constanten left the band. I never knew that - and it gives me, a nouveau Deadhead, a new reason to love Guaraldi's work.)

All of this said, there are a few disappointments. First is the vocal track "Oh, Good Grief," which is done a capella by a children's chorus. What Guaraldi had to do with this I don't know, but I honestly don't think it belongs in this collection. Likewise, "Joe Cool" is not the version I remember from my childhood, though it does grow on you a bit after about twelve listens.

The other disappointment is hearing how some themes are recycled; one would have thought that Guaraldi would have wanted to create different pieces for different moods. Okay, I can understand the piece "Schroeder" and how its musical line is the same as "Oh, Good Grief" (and possibly answers the question I raised above), but "Track Meet" is the same musical motif as the song "Christmas Is Coming" from A Charlie Brown Christmas... disappointing, to say the least.

Still, there are some gems on Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits, and if you're looking at reclaiming a piece of your childhood (short of renting all the specials from Blockbuster), this disc is a nice way to be a kid again for just under 40 minutes. If you're looking for a decent Christmas album, though, I'd still suggest grabbing A Charlie Brown Christmas instead.

Rating: B-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Fantasy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.