Friday, August 23, 2019

Vince Guaraldi – It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Album Review)

After the prior year’s astounding success of A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1966 found Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and director/animator Bill Melendez dipping into the animated holiday special well again for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Striking gold again, the duo’s beloved creation was met with immediate approval and it quickly becoming an annual television tradition during the Halloween season. While the half-hour special has contributed a variety of memorable lines and scenes to the pop culture vernacular – the mythology of The Great Pumpkin, “I got a rock,” the bonkers World War I flying ace foolishness – it’s once again Vince Guaraldi’s impossibly perfect jazz score that may be the special’s most enduring legacy. 

After releasing the complete soundtrack album on CD last year, Craft Recordings is offering Guaraldi’s score on vinyl for the very first time (in its over-50-year-history) for Halloween this year. The vinyl debut is available for pre-order now and will officially be released on August 30.     

Where Guaraldi’s iconic instrumental work for the Christmas special featured his signature piano accompanied by Jerry Granelli on drums and Fred Marshall on stand-up bass, he wrote the score for It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to unfold across a larger ensemble. Credited as The Vince Guaraldi Sextet, this time around Guaraldi’s piano work was supported by Colin Bailey on drums, Monty Budwig on bass, John Gray on Guitar, Emmanuel Klein on trumpet, and Ronald Lang on various woodwinds. The results are a more robust, yet equally pitch-perfect, musical backdrop that strikes the whimsically sophisticated tone associated with all of Guaraldi’s Peanutspieces. While Guaraldi’s instantly recognizable “Linus and Lucy” returns from the Christmas special, it’s his “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” that serves as the celebratory centerpiece of this autumnal collection.

This vinyl debut of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown from Craft Recordings is a true treat that features some special aesthetic goodies alongside the 17 musical tracks. First, because the selections are so short, the entirety of the score has been pressed to Side A, making room for an incredible etching of the show’s pumpkin logo to encompass Side B. Additionally, the inner-sleeve features a wonderful full-color still of the gang’s Halloween party scene on one side and some fantastic liner notes from executive producer Lee Mendelson and Derrick Bang (author of Vince Guaraldi at the Piano) on the other. In conjunction with the standard pressing on black vinyl, Craft Recordings has also pressed a limited edition run of 500 copies on glow-in-the-dark vinyl that can be ordered from their online store here

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Elmer Bernstein – Ghostbusters [35th Anniversary Reissue] (Album Review)

With this year marking the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters, it’s been really nice to see the film’s incredibly robust film score be included in all of the celebrations. Crafted by legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal House, Cape Fear) in the fourth decade of his mind-blowingly impressive career that spanned from Saturday’s Hero in 1951 to Far From Heaven in 2002, his work for Ghostbusters marks a creatively ambitious period in the iconic composer’s stellar catalog. While this 35th anniversary release came out on CD and made its digital debut earlier this year, the impressively crafted vinyl release from Sony is now available and features the film’s score (remastered from the original multi-track sources) stretched across two discs, as well as four additional previously unreleased tracks and a wonderful liner note essay from Bernstein’s son, Peter (who also worked on the film’s score).

Bernstein’s legendary composition work includes over 150 film scores, all of wildly varying degrees of musical sophistication and fearlessness. While he was musically fluent in classical compositions, Broadway musicals, grand westerns, suspense-inducing dramatics, orchestral suites, and more, it was the late-‘70s/early-‘80s period of his career that highlighted some of his most adventurous compositions paired to some of the most notable comedic films of the period. This surprising and prolific section of Bernstein’s career started with his composing the score to the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House, an opportunity that came about due to Peter Bernstein’s childhood friendship with the film’s director, John Landis. The success of Bernstein’s brilliant musical accompaniment matched with oddball comedic cinema carried into his scoring a variety of other comedies in quick succession, including Meatballs (1979), Airplane! (1980), The Blues Brothers (1980), Stripes (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Trading Places (1983), Spies Like Us (1985), Three Amigos! (1986), and many others.

Bernstein’s work on Ghostbusters took place during this time period as well and for the film he mixed some of his more classical and traditional leanings with more modern, tech-savvy flairs of inspiration. Most notably, Bernstein employed the theremin-like sounds of an Ondes Martenot keyboard for the instantly recognizable ghostly atmospherics, as well as three Yamaha DX7 synthesizers for the slick, electro-melodic flourishes. Bernstein’s Ghostbusters score was performed by the 72-person Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra and was orchestrated by his son, Peter, and David Spear. All of the musical credits outlining the performers and instruments are included in this vinyl releases beautiful full-color booklet that also houses Peter’s essay and a striking collection of film photos. The entire double-disc collection is housed in a sturdy gatefold packaging with an embossed cover and the vinyl is pressed on clear wax with a fantastic neon green slime blob. I love that the pressing process creates such unique designs for each blob, as one of my discs features centralized rings of ghostly ooze and the other is more of a smear that takes on a total Slimer-like shape. Major kudos to Sony for this gorgeous, attention-to-detail release and shout out to Memphis Record Pressing for the quality pressing and playful aesthetics.

The 35th Anniversary vinyl release of the original motion picture score for Ghostbusters can be purchased here: