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

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