In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
Good grief. Not another Christmas album! Can't you see it's
all designed to line someone's pockets? What about the true
meaning of Christmas?
These questions are the kind that kept Charlie Brown awake at
night. Back in 1965, the animated tale of his struggle with
the commercialisation of Christmas and his ongoing battle
with depression and self-loathing aired for the first time,
changing forever the baby-boomers' experience of the festive
A Charlie Brown Christmas was a commercial and critical hit,
despite nervousness from CBS executives about its clunky
visual style, the halting voice work by its young amateur
actors, and its soundtrack. Jazz!
Whose kids were going to want to hear jazz with their
cartoon?Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic
strip, could see how it would work. His decision to enlist
pianist Vince Guaraldi and his trio to perform the music
proved canny and resulted in a soundtrack album that has
matched the ongoing popularity of the TV special.
The genius lies in the synchronicity between the themes that
Schultz' characters explore and the nuanced elegance of the
score. Schultz credits his audience with the ability to
recognise pathos and humour in the more sophisticated
big-picture questions that run through his work. He also
knows that music and movement will captivate even the
youngest viewer, no matter what the style.
To Guaraldi's credit, the music stands strongly on its own,
though there will forever be a unique joy in watching the
Peanuts crew free-form dance to his composition Linus And
Lucy, and Snoopy out-skating them all to the strains of
Christmastime Is Here. Fluid treatments of O Tannenbaum and
Greensleeves are similarly inspired scene-setters that make
for a relaxed, easy-listening experience.
Most importantly, Guaraldi's cool lounge vibe creates
poignancy and space for reflection, picking up the tempo when
needed to match the characters' moments of determination,
discovery and celebration.