Wednesday, June 15, 2022

This definitely isn't a rock!

I've been sitting on this information since December.

Craft Recordings went public with the news today, which makes it fair game for this blog.

As I describe in my fresh liner notes, this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the sigh of rapturous satisfaction from Guaraldi fans who for decades believed — nay, insisted — that original Great Pumpkin recording session tapes must exist. Somewhere.

(Yes, I had to borrow a note from one of Charles Schulz's most famous quotes: With this set of liner notes, I had to write the same thing without repeating myself. You can tell me whether I succeeded.)

I guess we can thank Covid.

Assuming one managed to escape getting sick, pandemic-enforced isolation had a few benefits, such as encouraging some of us to finally tackle massive, long-postponed projects of one sort or another. Honestly, what else were we able to do with our time?

The folks over at Lee Mendelson Film Productions spent a year and change spelunking in the darkest corners of their voluminous archives. Marvelous Guaraldi artifacts — some believed lost forever — were unearthed.

This is the first.

Craft's official announcement includes quite a lot of detail, so check it out.

Craft also released a short promo video, which can be seen here. (And I was pleasantly surprised by the shout-out.)

This release actually is better than we could have hoped for, because it includes a number of alternate takes ... and, yes, full-length versions of iconic Peanuts themes heard only partially during the TV special.

"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" (Alternate Take 2) can be heard on various digital platforms, including YouTube.

Barring supply-chain issues, all formats should be available on August 26.

The sole vexing note is that the cover of this new release is almost identical to its inferior 2018 predecessor; fans will need to be extremely careful — particularly with online orders — when purchasing a copy. Yes, the 2022 copyright date is helpful; and yes, the presence of the aforementioned alternates takes, in the track list, is a giveaway. But the quickest distinction is that the 2018 release is called "Music from the soundtrack" (above the album title), whereas the 2022 release is an "Original soundtrack recording."

Even so, I do fear that some casual buyers may not look that closely.

To anticipate the obvious next question, yes, there may be more to come. The Mendelson vaults have yet to be fully archived, and future plans also will depend upon this release's sales (so tell all of your friends and family members to buy one!).

Meanwhile, Linus would be pleased: The Great Pumpkin really did show up this time!

UPDATE 8/26: Although CDs are "in the world" as of today, the street date of the vinyl versions has been bumped back to September 9.


Doug said...

This is so cool, and something I had abandoned hope of anyone finding! Have already listened repeatedly to the alternate "Great Pumpkin Waltz" they have pre-released (the tentative toy piano in the middle makes clear that it's a different performance than I'd heard previously). The limited edition vinyl has already sold out (within a day!), but I'm a CD customer, anyhow. So cool!

I've heard rumors that a few of the "Pumpkin" cues were not on the rediscovered session reels. So does this mean that there may still be a few with the overlaid sound effects?

Derrick Bang said...

Doug: They’re not rumors. It is true that a few — and I stress the phrase “a few” — of the lesser (shorter) cues were not part of the recording session on these newly discovered reels, and therefore have been lifted from “less optimal sources.” But I can say, with authority, that there’s no trace of dialogue or sound effect artifacts, so those “other sources” clearly weren’t the tracks on the 2018 release. Indeed, a casual listener likely won’t be able to distinguish them (although I’ve no doubt that sharp-eared audiophiles will spot them right away). And, actually, intuition will identify said cues without even listening to them. This new album release is dominated by cues written by Guaraldi, and recorded with his Septet, during a single studio session on October 4, 1966; the compositions by John Scott Trotter apparently were laid down at another time.

As for a few other concerns that have been cropping up elsewhere…

I lamented, in the post above, the decision to employ a cover identical to the 2018 release. This already (predictably) has lead to confusion, irritation and even a bit of disbelief (by some who insist that this “isn’t a new release at all”). That’s sad and very unfortunate.

I’m puzzled, however, by some who complain that the initial 17 cues are the “same length” as their 2018 counterparts (allowing for slight differences that result from the new mastering). This misses two key points. First, of course they’re the same length; they're ultimately the same cues, as precisely timed by John Scott Trotter during the recording sessions. Overlaying dialogue and sound effects, during later post-scoring production work, wouldn’t have altered each cue’s running time. Most crucially, though, the tracks on this new release have been re-mastered from the cues as originally laid down in the studio, before anything else was done to them; they are, therefore, “pure” recordings (along with the many lovely alternate takes). Surely, that’s cause enough for celebration!

Anonymous said...

This is such amazing news! I love when long thought “lost” media is rediscovered.

Now, why on earth Craft decided to use the exact same cover art which has led to much confusion and debate, is beyond me.

I had to spend a good chunk of time browsing forums and blog posts to get a definitive answer on the sound effects question, and if only some or all tracks are from the newly discovered original sources. They really should have created new cover art and perhaps even subtitled it something like, “Special Edition” or otherwise somehow allude that it’s a new, revised edition in some way. The 2018 and 2022 releases will appear exactly the same in search results on retail sites and places like Google, and potential customers who may have no idea that it was re-released at all won’t even know to check things like the track list and such. They’ll just see the same image everywhere and think it’s all the same thing.

Alas… Craft has made their choice, so that’s that. Bizarre though. You’d think they’d want to shout this from the rooftops.

Ric in France said...

This is great news. Great Pumpkin news even. I had passed on buying the previous iteration because of the except nature of the source material at the time and the unavoidable sound effects. But now i can go ahead and get the complete arrangements plus alternate takes. A worthy companion to the two original 1960s albums of Guaraldi’s Peanuts music.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, Trotter’s cues like Breathless are from another source but still without sound effects? As long as those ones still have decent quality and don’t have the dialogue/sound effects simply filtered out or digitally removed I’m happy.

Derrick Bang said...

That's what I said above: no sound effects, no dialogue, no intrusive artifacts from either. Just pure music.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the front cover art, apparently the only difference is a rewording of the text above the album title:

2018 release says "Music from the Soundtrack".
2022 release says "Original Soundtrack Recording".

Lone Wolf said...

Only 500 copies of the splatter vinyl. Sold out almost immediately. Sad :(

Jim M. said...

Absolute perfection! I purchased both a CD and mp3 download to make sure that Craft knows there's interest in the endeavor. The version of Linus and Lucy that opens this special has always been my favorite. So many wonderful things to say about the release, but I'll stick with "absolute perfection" - that sums it up nicely.

Here's hoping there's been sufficient success with this and with pre-release interest in the expanded Christmas sessions! Meanwhile, I'll daydream of other Guaraldi goodies waiting to be found and released. "He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown" and "It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown" soundtracks would be a dream come true...but I'd say the same for just about any of the specials!

Frank Oliver Hellmann said...

I noticed that on the New CD Track 4 "The Great Pumpkin Waltz" runs 2:37. On the old CD this Track runs 3:30 and it sounds different, with two guitar bridges and a different ending. Perhaps the old Version was a spliced together version?

Derrick Bang said...

You guessed correctly; definitely spliced together.

Nothing on the recently discovered session reel ran longer than 2:41, so — by definition — that 3:30 track is a "construction."