Friday, October 25, 2013

A different sort of gold record

Record Store Day, now an international "holiday" celebrated on the third Saturday of April, began with a modest proposal back in 2007: that something should be done, along the lines of Free Comic Book Day — which began in 2002 — to call attention to the old-fashioned, Mom 'n' Pop retail music outlets that were vanishing from the landscape, thanks to the pernicious effect of Internet sellers.

The first Record Store Day took place in 2008; the event has since blossomed into a Very Big Deal that involves special appearances and performances by hundreds of recording artists, who meet and greet their fans at the surviving record stores across the country and around the world. The biggest attraction, however, likely is the release of special vinyl and CD singles and albums: many available only on the day in question, and only at these vintage brick-and-mortar stores.

In 2010, recognizing a promotional opportunity, the folks behind Record Store Day aligned their activities with what has come to be known as "Black Friday": the day after Thanksgiving, which is — for better or worse — recognized as the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Dubbing their piggy-back event "Back to Black Friday," the Record Store Day team encouraged their North American brick-and-mortar record store clients to participate just as noisily in Black Friday activities. The sweetener: yet another round (albeit more modest) of artist appearances and vinyl/CD releases.

Which brings us to this year, and the question undoubtedly percolating just behind your lips: What, if anything, does this have to do with our beloved Dr. Funk?

Ahem. By now, you must have noticed the image above.

This year's Back to Black Friday celebration will take place on November 29, the day after Thanksgiving. A few of the special vinyl and CD releases will be keyed to the holiday season, and one of them will come from Fantasy Records: a faithful recreation of their 1964 Vince Guaraldi Trio single — "Linus and Lucy" on the A side, "Oh, Good Grief" on the B side — with a new picture sleeve. 

And the disc will be pressed onto gold vinyl.

Pretty cool, eh?

(My allegiance to historical accuracy compels me to point out that the original 1964 single in question, Fantasy 593X, came from the album Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, as opposed to the later soundtrack album for A Charlie Brown Christmas, as this gold vinyl re-release implies. Indeed, "Oh, Good Grief" isn't even on the Christmas album. Had Fantasy really wanted to be authentic, they'd have granted this special treatment to the single that did come from the Christmas album, Fantasy 608X, with "Christmas Time Is Here" on the A side, and "What Child Is This" on the B side. But I digress.)

Now, you can't order this special Guaraldi single online; the whole point is to bring warm bodies into old-style record stores. You can find the closest participating outlet here, and while you're visiting, you'll also want to check out the Back to Black Friday FAQ. This is important, because not every store will stock every special release; most probably will base their orders on customer requests. That's why you're reading these words now, as opposed to a month from now: It's up to you to visit your favorite music store and ask them to bring in a copy of Vince's disc. Or two, or three, if you're thinking of gifts to other deserving jazz fans. Or if you simply wish to hoard a few, against the inevitable rise in value a few years down the road.

Viewing the entire list of anticipated releases, I also note holiday offerings from the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Denver & The Muppets, and Ernie Kovacs (gotta get that one!). Guaraldi's disc, however, seems to be one of very few jazz releases.

So, what are you waiting for? Hopefully, you already know where to find your local music store, because you're a regular customer. If not, check the online resource, take a little trip, introduce yourself and ask for this spiffy Guaraldi special. 

The person-to-person eye contact will do you good.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Once more unto the breach, dear friends...

You've gotta give Fantasy credit. They work hard to sell us the same thing, over and over and over.

Today marks the debut of yet another edition of Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Christmas, officially dubbed the "Snoopy Doghouse Edition." The disc itself is the same as the 2012 remastered edition (covered in a previous blog entry), but the CD sleeve has blossomed into something truly unusual.

As you can see in the photo above, the customized sleeve unfolds and converts into Snoopy's decorated doghouse. The package also comes with four character cut-outs and stands, so that a dedicated fan can set up a tiny holiday tableau, as shown. (I can't help noticing that the relative scale of the figures and doghouse is somewhat off, but maybe I'm being unduly picky.)

For as long as the link functions, Concord's YouTube Channel features a cute "unpacking video" that can be viewed here.

It's an intriguing marketing ploy, which reminds me of the opulent debut release of Guaraldi's Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown, back in December 1964. Fantasy issued the first printing of that LP with a gatefold album jacket that included a dozen 8-by-10, frame-ready Charles Schulz "posters" of the Peanuts gang. (See my Guaraldi discography for further details about that album.)

I've honestly lost track of how many versions of this album sit on my shelves, but Fantasy certainly has my number; I obviously need to get this one, as well.

But this release does beg the obvious question: How many times can Fantasy sell the same product to the mainstream public? And if last year saw the arrival of what one assumes is the ultimate re-mastered edition, followed this year by a variant with cute packaging, what will the label do in 2015, to celebrate the album's 50th anniversary?

The mind doth boggle...