The tinkling piano lines, rolling brushed drums, and sprightly tempos of Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas are a welcome sign of the holiday season. Guaraldi’s keyboard treatments of classic Christmas songs like “Greensleeves,” “O Tannenbaum,” and the classic children’s choral arrangement of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” give these classics a new sound. Some of his originals, such as “Christmas Time is Here,” portray the loneliness and melancholy of the holiday season though a few minor chords and a contemplative melody. Other new songs, like the bright, upbeat “Linus and Lucy,” sound like the rush of energy you sometimes felt as a kid around the holiday.
While the album became an instant classic on its original release in 1965, its track sequence and mastering have gotten tweaked on every subsequent media. A 2006 CD reissue included several alternate takes and newly re-edited tracks that were incorrectly labeled as the original versions, and the mix emphasized the drums at the expense of the piano. Though later pressings corrected these mistakes, Fantasy has now re-released the album with the correct mix and sequencing, and included some beloved music from other Charlie Brown records to sweeten the deal.
This iteration of A Charlie Brown Christmas sounds like the platonic ideal version of the album. Fantasy has retained the sequencing and recordings of the album from its initial release, and the mix has a much fuller sound than the 2006 issue. The care taken in the remastering and choice of bonus tracks makes this the reissue to own.
The best part of the 2006 reissue was the charming, informative sleeve art and liner notes. The CD came in a digipak that looked like cel animation, and the liner notes described how Charles Schulz plucked Vince Guaraldi out of obscurity to record the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Fantasy has not only improved the sound of the recordings, but they have also retained the best parts of the 2006 reissue.
A Charlie Brown Christmas was released on October 9 by Fantasy via Concord Music Group. It is available to purchase from their website.