Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas did as much to define the Peanuts gang as it did to capture what Charles Schulz wrote in his strip. In the same way that the television special literally animated the characters, Guaraldi’s music provided an emotional soundtrack to which they moved and danced, fleshing out a whole new dimension of the characters’ personalities. Every song on the soundtrack, even the traditional tunes adapted by Guaraldi, quickly become sense memories of the special, and a few, such as “Linus and Lucy,” “Skating” and “Christmas is Coming” were indelibly wed to their animated sequences. Like the television special, the soundtrack is a perennial. It’s been reissued on CD twice before, initially in 1988, and as recently as 2006, the latter being the subject of mastering mistakes, changes from the original album and much heated discussion.
The 2012 edition features a new re-master by Joe Tarantino that returns to original stereo album master, including its mix and edits. The piano arpeggio that opened “O Tannenbaum” on the 2006 reissue is once again removed, the end of the instrumental “Christmas Time is Here” is once again faded, and the end of “Skating” once again fades before the bass solo. The bonus “Greensleeves,” which had been added to the original CD reissue is retained and augmented by two more bonuses: “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Thanksgiving Theme.” These latter two seem to have been drawn from the mono television soundtrack, rather than master tapes, sounding the same as they do on Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits. Unfortunately, the 2012 release drops the alternate takes that appeared on the 2006 edition, despite there being room left at the end of this forty-five minute CD. Audiophiles can argue the merits of each remaster (the piano here feels as if it’s pushed forward to the point of harshness in spots), but what can’t be disputed is the beauty and lasting emotional resonance of Guaraldi’s music. [©2012 Hyperbolium]