Written by 4:06 am Audiophile Music

Peanuts & Guaraldi: A Timeless Pairing of Joyous Hits

Mark Smotroff finds that “just right” taste of Guaraldi’s Peanuts music …

So kidz, the first question that came to my mind here when sitting down to write this review was not whether the music contained in this album is good or bad, or even whether it sounds good or bad. No, the music is fantastic and the sound, even for a CD, sounds just fine for probably 95-percent of the people who will buy this collection.

AR-PeanutsGreatest225.jpgNo, the first question to come into my mind is whether the album — called Peanuts Greatest Hits — perhaps would have been better served calling it Vince Guaraldi’s Greatest Hits. 

Vince who, you ask?

Yeah, I was afraid you might say that… and in doing so you just answered my question.

Vince Guaraldi is the fellow who wrote all that amazing music used in the Peanuts TV specials (and if you don’t know about what Peanuts are then you really need to get yourself over to YouTube or Amazon and the Wiki before reading any this any further).  

And history being what it is, for better or for worse, Guaraldi may well be remembered simply as “that guy who wrote the great Peanuts music.”  In fact, Guaraldi had a rich — if short lived, as he died young at 47 — career that included stints with jazz greats Cal Tjader and Woody Herman.  He hit the so called “big time” years before the Peanuts connection with his spectacular album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, with its signature hit “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” (a Grammy winner for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1963).

Great Guaraldi Trivia:  Did you know that Vince appears in the photo on the back cover of The Grateful Dead’s third album, Aoxomoxoa?  Yup, he’s in there!   Vince was apparently friends with The Grateful Dead and reportedly sat in with them periodically (though as far as I know no recordings of those events have surfaced).

But I digress….

Seriously folks, fame is a fleeting thing, especially when you are dead and gone from this world as we know it.  People forget this kind of thing. 

AR-ABoyNamedCharlieBrown225.jpgSo, the notion that Vince’s music lives on beyond his lifespan in the hearts and minds of the masses as “Peanuts Music” is probably not a bad thing. It is a really good starting point for those who might get turned on to his sumptuous melodies and often soaring arrangements. 

Accordingly, this fun and handy new release from Concord Music Group’s Fantasy Records imprint called Peanuts Greatest Hits (with subtitled attribution to the Vince Guaraldi Trio) is a really fine cross section of the music that arguably made the Peanuts TV programs a success. 

Cool. Fun. Joyous. Introspective. Innovative. Imaginative. Somber. Sassy. Swinging. 

The album opens with possibly the best known Peanuts theme, “Linus and Lucy” and works its way though to the “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and several timeless selections from the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special.  Frankly, I can listen to “Christmas Time Is Here” any time of year. Its that beautiful a tune. 

I am very happy to have this collection as it is a fine summarization of Peanuts music as imagined by Vince Guaraldi.  Even compared to my original blue label Fantasy Records LP pressing of Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the CD sounded pretty respectable for basic listening. Its a CD, so expect some digital edges along the way when played on a decent quality stereo system (it sounds great in the car!).

Bottom line: it is simply very handy to have all these key songs in one place for that just right taste of Peanuts music one craves every now and then.  This music is timeless.

Looking over the liner notes, this album also clued me into some other Guaraldi/Peanuts recordings that I didn’t even know existed such as Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits and Peanuts Portraits.

AR-PeanutsGreatestCD225.jpgWhile I was on Amazon, I found several other Guaraldi/Peanuts related releases for completists (which I consider myself) so that will be fun to explore those recordings as well. Vince Guaraldi and the Lost Cues From the Charlie Brown TV Specials looks especially interesting.

So, yes, this type of Peanuts-centric collection is a good thing. Not only does it neatly summarize much of the essence of the beloved TV programs, but it also serves as a solid introduction to the music of Vince Guaraldi. Coupled with the aforementioned Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus you should have some of the essential music that made this San Francisco Bay Area jazz musician a legend.

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