When the good folks at Vinyl Me Please offered me the opportunity to review their special red vinyl edition of the 2010 collection called Peanuts Portraits, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been a long time fan of Grammy award-winning composer Vince Guaraldi — one of America’s most successful jazz artists during his time, his legacy long linked to Charles Schulz’ Peanuts characters for which he scored many animated TV specials.
It is widely considered that Guaraldi’s music, a most perfect pairing with a cartoon series, was integral to bringing the cartoon to life, planting a rich melodic earworm in every viewer. I don’t know about you but I looked forward to hearing the different songs each year on A Charlie Brown Christmas and many of the other programs. Heck, I sometimes play that album during the year, not just at the holidays!
And that is the joy of Peanuts Portraits as it presents Guaraldi’s infectious swinging themes for each of the characters. It is a lot of fun hearing not only the super-familiar “Linus and Lucy” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (which first aired in December 1965!) alongside “Blue Charlie Brown” (from He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown, 1968). I didn’t realize that that Snoopy’s “Joe Cool” theme didn’t appear until 1972’s You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (a show I barely remember but the music I definitely recall — again, the earworm-in-action!).
And so it goes on Peanuts Portraits s with themes crafted for Sally (underscoring from It’s A Mystery, Charlie Brown), Schroeder (a longer alternate take from what was issued on A Boy Named Charlie Brown) and Woodstock (sung by Guaraldi on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving). Peppermint Patty is represented with a slower ballad arrangement of her 1967 theme which also appeared in 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) as is “the little red haired girl,” Frieda (in a longer alternate take from the A Boy Named Charlie Brown sessions).
The only odd thing about Peanuts Portraits is there are two tracks tagged on to the end of the album performed by pianist/composer George Winston, culled from his tribute album to Vince Guaraldi. They are perfectly ok renditions of “The Masked Marvel” and “Linus and Lucy” themes, but its a bit of incongruence in what would have been an otherwise perfect collection. It would have been better to keep the album limited entirely to Guaraldi’s performances.
Overall the sound on my red Vinyl Me Please edition of Peanuts Portraits is good, with a nice sense of analog warmth across the many varied sessions recorded in the 1960s and early ’70s (even though the compilation was probably created in the digital realm at some point, I suspect). While you will definitely hear the distinct difference in recording quality and production styles over time, ultimately what holds this album together is composer Guaraldi’s consistency of vision for the characters.
Peanuts Portraits is a lot of fun!
In other Peanuts news, the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack — certified quadruple Platinum by the RIAA in 2016, making it one of the best-selling jazz albums in history, reportedly second only to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue! — is enjoying yet another reissue for the holiday season 2020: an exclusive limited edition pressed on “snowball” colored vinyl!
It includes a bonus 3D “lenticular” print of Charles Shultz’s 1965 cover illustration to commemorate Peanuts’ 70th anniversary. I wasn’t able to get a pre-release copy to review (only black vinyl was available so I didn’t bother them for it) but this one seems so much fun I might just spring for it… just because! A Charlie Brown Christmas has been in print and reissued endlessly over the years, so its not like I don’t have the music — I have a great sounding version on SACD. There are many different colored vinyl editions of the album being made for different retailer exclusives.
There is also a limited edition seven-inch 45 RPM single coming out featuring the Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time Is Here.” It is backed with an alternate vocal take version on the B-side. Pressed on green vinyl, it is a limited run of 5,000 copies.
Christmastime is just around the corner and we all need certainly some holiday cheer this year. Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts music is certainly a great way to brighten up the season.