If ever you wanted to experience pure nostalgia in music form, this is it. Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed the music for 16 of the Peanuts TV specials and one of the movies, and for generations of kids this was the soundtrack to their weekends and holiday seasons as they followed the escapades of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
While there have been plenty of soundtracks and compilation albums released over the years (over a dozen albums including soundtracks, covers, tributes and more), there’s never really been a proper release of the Peanuts Halloween Special – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – until now.
Well, when we say there hasn’t been a “proper” release, that’s not entirely true. Back in 2018, Concord Music released their own version of this soundtrack, but at the time it was criticised for a number of reasons. Concord Music didn’t have access to any of the master studio recordings, so they had to take their music directly from the television soundtrack. This resulted in other bits and pieces, such as the show’s sound effects, becoming part of the final mix. Another issue is that the tracks were edited to fit the way the special was broadcast, leading to some tracks ending abruptly.
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Now, four years later, Craft Recordings brings us what is as near to a definitive release as we will ever see. Remastered from newly discovered analogue tapes, and featuring not only the original soundtrack (free of special effects!) but seven alternate takes as well, it’s being released on CD, vinyl and even a pumpkin-shaped picture disc. There’s new liner notes by Peanuts historian Derrick Bang, with additional contributions from the family of Lee Mendelson, the producer and co-creator of the Peanuts TV specials, and even a note from Mendelson himself to finish out this new release.
24 tracks long and clocking in at a brisk 30 minutes and change, it is, in some ways, a fairly simple album, musically speaking. Best described as ‘smooth jazz’, it’s not a difficult listen by any measure. It’s definitely something to stick on in the background and just let it entertain you. The music has always been one of the great standouts of the Peanuts specials as they tend to be somewhat light on dialogue and special effects, the soundtrack doing the heavy lifting for setting the mood.
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There are multiple versions of the same pieces such as ‘Linus and Lucy’, ‘The Great Pumpkin Waltz’ and the ‘Graveyard Theme’, each ranging in length from two minutes down to a mere 30 seconds in various reprises and alternate versions The last seven tracks, in fact, are all alternative takes. The piano driven ‘Linus and Lucy’ is the standout track of not only this but really every other Peanuts special, defining the entire series of specials even more than Charlie Brown’s own theme.
So who is this album for? Peanuts is no longer the cultural touchstone it was back in the 60s and 70s, but it’s still good to see these formerly lost pieces of music getting their moment to shine. It’s definitely one for the enduring Peanuts fan, though both the special itself and this album serve as a good jumping off point for the franchise as a whole. Craft have really put a lot of effort into this new release, the quality of the mastering absolutely top notch. Bass notes are rich, trebles are clean; the album not sounding over-produced or muted. Really the only negative to be found is that the number of repeats and reprises mean this album might outstay its welcome sooner rather than later.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is out on 26th August from Craft Recordings.