The reissue campaign of Vince Guaraldi’s piano trio music for the Peanuts TV specials franchise continues with this new compilation. So far the A Charlie Brown Christmas special has been remastered and reissued, and in 2014 Concord issued on Fantasy the original recordings for the soundtrack of a film about the life of Charles Schulz that never aired.
Now for the casual fan who only wants the hits, or for the completist, they’ve compiled a “greatest hits” disc that does indeed hit the high points. Its 12 songs also include some more obscure bits from the decade in which Guaraldi composed music for more and more Peanuts specials until his untimely death in 1976 at age 47.
Anybody who’s ever watched the Peanuts specials will recognize the hits that are up front, starting with the most familiar, the danceable “Linus and Lucy, “Baseball Theme, “Happiness Theme.” And I’m glad they included “Skating,” the theme from the skating scene on the Christmas special: it’s such a perfect evocation of a carefree winter day, with forward momentum that won’t let up.
The “Great Pumpkin Waltz,” “Christmas is Coming” and “Christmas Time Is Here” are less well known but deserving of inclusion. The latter is present in two versions sandwiched around ” the jaunty “Charlie Brown Theme, ” and the more melancholy “Oh, Good Grief” and “Skating”: a lovely blue instrumental version and one with vocals by a children’s choir that’s pretty cool, too. “Little Birdie, to the character of Snoopy’s friend Woodstock, vocals by Guaraldi himself. You can listen to it here.
The story’s been told many times of how TV producer Lee Mendelson heard Guaraldi’s Grammy-winning instrumental hit “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” on the radio while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and knew he was the right musician to supply music for his Schulz documentary. The world’s a slightly better place because of that serendipitous encounter that brought cool West Coast jazz into lots of people’s lives along with the Peanuts characters and stories. This Peanuts Greatest Hits collection is an example of Guaraldi’s very accessible jazz that never sacrifices its integrity.