Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Christmas comes early!

If the upcoming release of the newly discovered Great Pumpkin score made your eyes sparkle... the old Hollywood saying goes, You ain't seen nuthin' yet.

Craft Recordings has just announced what they're (modestly) calling the "Definitive, Super Deluxe Edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas."

And, honestly, the hyperbole for this five-disc set is justified.

While audiophiles likely will salivate over Disc 5's Blu-Ray Audio 2022 stereo mix and 2022 Dolby Atmos mix of the original 1965 album, the set's true buried treasures will be found on Discs 2 through 4: five original studio recording sessions, taking place between September 17 and October 28 that year, during which most of the album's tracks — and particularly Guaraldi's original tunes — were shaped, rehearsed, modified and occasionally fluffed.

The new stereo mix, along with 13 of the best alternate takes, also is available on a Deluxe Edition double-LP and CD.

The release date for everything above originally was scheduled for October 14.

UPDATE: As of October 4, the single-disc edition has been delayed to November 4, and the five-disc Definitive, Super-Deluxe Edition has been delayed to December 2.

Full details can be found within Craft's press release, which debuts today.

Check out the promotional video here.

As I discuss, within the 56-page booklet that accompanies this release, some of Guaraldi's new songs — notably "Christmas Time Is Here" — began life quite close to the version we know and love today. Others, such as "Skating" and "Christmas Is Coming," had a difficult birth, as Guaraldi wrestled with different bridges and ways to conclude them.

These sessions haven't been edited to remove commentary — and occasional bursts of frustration — between Guaraldi and his sidemen; you'll hear everything precisely as it all occurred, as if you were sitting alongside the recording engineer.

Three tracks are available to preview:

Now — in an effort to forestall some pointed questions — let's discuss what will not be found within this set:

These are, almost entirely, album studio sessions — exceptions noted below — which must be distinguished from the additional sessions (likely with different sidemen) that produced the score as heard in the TV special. (I know this can seem confusing, but they are two entirely different animals.) TV versions of some cues display subtle differences, and — thus far — those studio sessions have yet to be located.

On the other hand, Disc 3 does include one session with the young members of San Rafael's St. Paul's Church Choir, who "doubled" the young actors who voiced Charlie Brown and his friends, when they sing "Christmas Time Is Here." The take which ultimately is accepted appears both on the album, and in the TV special.

And yes: Disc 3 also includes Guaraldi's different versions of "Jingle Bells," as an increasingly annoyed Schroeder attempts to please Lucy. (And even Guaraldi doesn't get each version right, the first time!)

Sadly, the reel(s) for the choir's additional session(s) — which produced the vocal versions of "My Little Drum" and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing — have yet to be located ... and, believe me, folks looked hard. Ergo, you also won't find those in this set.

But that's hardly cause for major complaint, when we have — as just one example — 16 takes (!) of "Christmas Is Coming," as Guaraldi and his sidemen shape this rockin' tune into its final format.

I had a blast, earlier this year, listening to all of this stuff while writing up fresh liner notes.

I'm sure you gentle readers will be just as jazzed.


Derrick Bang said...

Um ... no, that isn't accurate. A lengthy discussion of Fantasy's 2006 CD release can be found at ... about 1/3 of the way into the document.

As for the relationship between the music for the never-aired documentary "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," and the subsequent score for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," that was covered, again in considerable detail, in these two earlier posts:

Anonymous said...

This is really exciting news! I am so curious to hear all the alternate tales.
Did you hear the new 2022 stereo mix? And if so, how does it compare to the 2006 remaster?

Derrick Bang said...

Not yet, no, so I cannot comment. I won't get access to that any sooner than everybody else, so we'll all find out together!

Anonymous said...

This is so exciting!

Can't wait to get my hands on this!

Also congrats on the Great Pumpkin set! It still amazes me that after all of these years the original reels were found and could be used.