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Charlie Brown, Vince Guaraldi, Santa Claus & Martians On Holiday Vinyl

I should have known better,” sang The Beatles at one point… 

I really know better than to have bought this, but the photo looked like so much fun and when I realized I no longer owned this album on vinyl – I have a lovely SACD – and when review samples of this version were not available, I decided to throw caution (and my limited budget) to the wind and order the exclusive deluxe edition from the Craft Recordings’ website.  

The photo of A Charlie Brown Christmas (“Snowball Edition”) was not quite accurate as it looks more like a “snowflake” —- but the vinyl looks super pretty… unfortunately, it is resigned to sitting atop my annual holiday record tree this year… 

What went wrong? Well, its not something unique to this record label, really. When you get into heavily patterned colored vinyl, they can get noisy. I’ve been told this by an engineer at a vinyl pressing plant when I was researching it for my own band’s possible vinyl release.  

So how bad does this new version of A Charlie Brown Christmas sound? Its not horrible but the problem is the noises are very apparent in the quiet parts (of which there are many on this album, especially at the beginning). 

So, I heard significant surface noise, pops and clicks than I might have from a standard black vinyl or even a single-color disc.  I tried it on several different turntables I own and the noise came through an all of them. I even washed it!  It’s a bummer ’cause it looks cool! But, for the $30-plus I spent, I had hopes that maybe it might have been pressed on heavier vinyl (like some of the recent picture discs I’ve heard that don’t sound totally horrible) or maybe there was some new manufacturing process I’d missed reading about. But… no.

The funny thing is this album is so popular there are many many colored vinyl versions of A Charlie Brown Christmas out there at present at different retailers.  A quick search of the web and I found that you can get it in green (click here), yellow (click here) or as a “snowflake picture disc” (click here). The 70th Anniversary reissue comes in a spiffy lenticular (motion imagery) cover design (click here).  There was a special split green and red edition sold via a restaurant chain (click here)! The picture disc version looks fun too (click here)

The snowball edition is sold out so you’ll have to find it somewhere at your favorite used store or perhaps on Discogs (click here)

But if I want to hear the music in its best light, I’m going to stick with my trusty old SACD.  Maybe someday they’ll put it out on a Blu-ray Pure Audio disc…

If a whole album of “Peanuts music” (sorry Vince) is too much for you but you want to hear “that song” from A Charlie Brown Christmas on colored vinyl (and sounding good!), on Record Store Day Fantasy Records put out a 45 RPM version of the Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time Is Here.”  

It sounds really quite nice and makes me wonder why A Charlie Brown Christmas hasn’t been put out as a 45 RPM half speed master?   Actually, it has but it was a limited edition from Analogue Productions that is now commanding hefty coin on the collector’s market (click here and here).  Seems it might be high time for a nice reasonably priced Craft Recordings edition like that at a reasonable price… 

Ah well…

If all this Charlie Brown stuff has your head spinning and you just want some high camp fun to spice up your holidays, look no further than the good folks at Modern Harmonic and their Record Store Day reissue of the wonderful holiday pop nugget “Hooray For Santa Claus.” 

It is the theme song from the ultra-low-budget, ultra-high-camp holiday science fiction wonder Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. On the single you get the original film version and a terrific power pop version by The Fleshtones! The original was released in 1964 so this is a good sounding studio recording. 

The cover art reproduces the original promotional sleeve from the period, but presented in a high quality gatefold cardboard format with liner notes and photos!  

But wait… there’s more: in the other pocket of the sleeve you get a DVD with the actual movie on it so you can get the full low budget holiday movie experience! If you put yourself into Mystery Science Theater mindset, watching a film like this can be great fun as bad acting and cheesy costumes collide with inept scripting and a few surprisingly nice outer space sets (where the producers probably blew all their budget when making this).  

Save some time to watch some of the bonus holiday films included on the DVD which include strange holiday puppet promotional films and trailers for regional Christmas productions which look joyously surreal in their own right. Don’t expect the DVD to look stunning, however. This is an old film probably transferred from a 16 mm print, but it is in color and is certainly watchable. Just setting some realistic expectations here folks!

Available through independent record stores on Record Store Day, you can find Santa Claus Conquers The Martians easily now on Discogs (click here) which is where I ordered my copy.

Anyway you celebrate, here is hoping everyone has a happy healthy merry holiday season and a much better year ahead!  

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