Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Treat or trick?

I've had to keep mum about this, since initially getting involved back in early May. That's when Concord/Craft asked if I'd be willing to write fresh liner notes for an upcoming release of the score for the Peanuts television special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

(As if I'd have declined...!)

The assignment was a delightful excuse to once again probe the evolution of Guaraldi's efforts for the third prime-time Peanuts special, this time adding a few additional details that have come to light since my book was published.

Unfortunately, as has become clear from audio samples posted at the Varese Sarabande website and CraftRecordings' Instagram site, Concord/Craft did not have access to any of Guaraldi's original studio tapes, which we can assume contained takes that were far longer than what was edited into the TV special. (This lends weight to my long-standing fear that such tapes no longer exist.) These samples indicate that this new CD is built from a "baked" music-and-effects track; in other words, this disc's individual tracks will feature music only as it is heard in the animated special, with short edits, fades and some abrupt stops ... along with sound effects. The re-mastering certainly will enhance the audio quality, but there's no question that the listening experience will be compromised by the sound effects "clutter."

By definition, the CD also will be brief. Assuming every single note is included, the 17 tracks will run somewhere between 19 and 20 minutes.

I'll turn the rest of this post over to the Concord/Craft press release:


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One of the most sought-after soundtracks in the beloved collection of music from the iconic Peanuts animated TV specials, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is being made available for the first time ever on Friday, October 5, via Craft Recordings. Featuring music by Grammy Award-winning composer/performer Vince Guaraldi, the CD package includes a new introduction from the TV show's executive producer, Lee Mendelson, along with insightful liner notes by Derrick Bang, Peanuts historian and author of Vince Guaraldi at the Piano.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Music from the Soundtrack) features some of the most iconic tracks in pop culture, including the instantly recognizable "Linus and Lucy," as well as the languid, lyrical "Great Pumpkin Waltz." The music was recorded on October 4, 1966, at Desilu's Gower Street Studio in Hollywood, California, by Guaraldi (piano) and his longtime friends and trio sidemen - bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey - joined by Emanuel Klein (trumpet), John Gray (guitar) and Ronald Lang (woodwinds). The entire scoring process was overseen by composer, arranger and conductor John Scott Trotter, well-known for a three-decade run as Bing Crosby's music director and close friend.

Following the astounding popularity of Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts comic strip and the first two successful Peanuts television specials -- A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown's All-Stars -- It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown debuted October 27, 1966, with a phenomenal 49 percent audience share, meaning 49 percent of the people watching television during those 30 minutes had tuned in to see Charlie Brown.

"This is the quintessential Vince Guaraldi for our Peanuts specials ... some of his best atmospheric jazz," Mendelson shares. "Vince's score carries the gang with the autumn leaves, through the scary and cold Halloween night. This music comforts the indomitable faith of Linus, still waiting for his hero since 1966: forever in our ears, hearts and memories."

"Guaraldi had a strong sense of how music could -- and should -- be employed to maximize the viewing audience's emotional response," writes Bang. "[He] emphatically established the Peanuts 'musical personality' with this third outing, and all subsequent prime-time specials owed much to the groovin' atmosphere that is so prevalent in Great Pumpkin. Guaraldi had a gig for life ... and his legacy lives on, expand[ing] by the year, thanks in great part to the jazz swagger given to an insecure blockhead and his lovably crazy beagle."

Track listing:

1. Linus and Lucy
2. Graveyard Theme
3. Snoopy and the Leaf/Frieda (With the Naturally Curly Hair)
4. The Great Pumpkin Waltz
5. Linus and Lucy (Reprise)
6. Charlie Brown Theme/Happy Linus
7. The Great Pumpkin Waltz (Reprise)
8. The Red Baron/Military Drum March
9. The Great Pumpkin Waltz (2nd Reprise)
10. Trick or Treat
11. Fanfare/Breathless/Trick or Treat (Reprise)
12. Charlie Brown Theme (Reprise)
13. Breathless
14. It's a Long Way to Tipperary/There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding/Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag/Roses of Picardy
15. Trick or Treat (2nd Reprise)
16. Linus and Lucy (2nd Reprise)
17. Charlie Brown Theme (2nd Reprise)

It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown can be pre-ordered via Amazon or the Craft Recordings Web Store, or copies will be available October 5 at your local indie record store.