on December 6, 2006
No, this is not your father's A Charlie Brown Christmas album. As has been pointed out here already, there's a different mix and alternate takes. But some points should be brought to a prospective buyer's attention so as to truly appreciate what's been done here.
The remix by Stephen Hart serves 1 purpose - to clean up a poorly recorded (even by mid-sixties standards)soundtrack. Noise reduction was used to remove excessive hiss, and the new mix was re-eq'd to accomodate listening by today's standards. It had been suggested that some left hand work by Vince is lost in this mix, but that is highly unlikely since, although probably recorded on a 4-track machine, the trio appeared to have had each of their instruments recorded in mono. Stephen merely places each instrument slightly to the left,center, or right in order to give a "live club" spaciousness to the sound, rather than the typical studio panned mixes we hear today.
In my opinion, people who are disgruntled with the actual sound of this disc have just been used to the original mix for so long that this appears foreign to them. They're just not used to it. If they long for a 60's sounding disc - they should simply convert their vinyl album to cd-r!
As for the replaced takes...that's another story altogether. Regarding the "wrong take" of "Linus & Lucy": the one presented on this reissue is actually the one that was used in the film (and this marks the first time this take was made commercially available). All previous issues of this soundtrack album used the version from the A Boy Named Charlie Brown documentary soundtrack.
We've NEVER had a commercially available version of the take of "Christmas Time is Here" (either the vocal or instrumental version) from the film, and this reissue is no exception, it is as the initial Fantasy release had it. The excerpt from "Christmas is Coming" in the film is to short to determine what take was finally used in it. The version on the new disc is NOT the one on the original issue, nor is the alternate bonus track.
Also, the take of "O Tannenbaum" is not an alternate version, but rather offers an arpeggiated chord introduction that apparently was overdubbed as an afterthought and was later cut out from the initial release. The version of "The Christmas Song" is the same as the original, not another take which was previously reported.
On a last note, there's a pleasant surprise at the end of "Skating," which is the same take as the original issue, but dosen't fade out and we're able to hear Vince's trio finish the song outright. Ditto for the instrumental track of "Christmas Time is Here" (though the effect is less dramatic). Jazz tunes were not meant to fade out!!
Should more care have been taken in letting the consumer know about these changes? Absolutely! But in spite of their...um... carelessness, this new reissue is a must have for all Vince & Charlie Brown Christmas fans.
on December 8, 2000
I really don't think any Christmas music collection could be complete without this soundtrack. When I think back of my childhood and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special on CBS during the holidays, I can't help but remember the warm feeling that Vince Guaraldi's arrangements instilled in me while watching the special. Looking back now, I also think that this soundtrack music was my first memorable exposure to jazz and probably set the stage for my musical appeal to instrumental jazz. "Christmas Time is Here" has become a Holiday jazz standard and has been re-recorded by a number of jazz vocalists but my personal favorite is "Skating". This is the Tao of Christmas. You can't help but lose yourself in the meditative freedom expressed in this arrangement, like the Peanuts characters in the movie, gliding so freely, smoothly and gracefully on the frozen pond in the pristine greyness of winter.
If you grew up watching the Peanuts during Christmas, this CD takes you back to that place in your childhood Christmas heart.
It wasn't only the wonderful humor of Charles Schulz and the adorable child voices that made "A Charlie Brown Christmas" such an enduring holiday favorite. The score by Vince Guaraldi was sophisticated and sensitive and stands alone as one of the best holiday albums ever. Frankly, we play it all year long, yes, Christmas in July or June or whenever.)
The original compositions ("Skating", "Linus and Lucy", "Christmas is Coming") are brilliant, quirky and humorous, yet are far from childish. They are jazz compositions of real merit, and Guaraldi must have been a true "Peanuts" fan because he really was able to interpret Schulz's characters in musical form.
The score also has Guaraldi's interpretations of favorite Christmas carols. In "Greensleeves" in particular, you can hear how Guaraldi flavors this English classic with snippets of the Charlie Brown music--very clever and makes the score hang together as a unit and not just a patchwork of holiday tunes.
Sometimes the sound is a bit fuzzy on this recording (made originally in 1965), but that doesn't detract much from the pure pleasure of the score. This is a CD we play frequently and I must say, it never palls. I hear new things every time.
on December 22, 2006
POSTED ON THE CONCORD WEB SITE:
"Wednesday December 20, 2006 12:50:35 PM
"OH, GOOD GRIEF!
"A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS CONUNDRUM!
"Some of you may have noticed that the new remixed, remastered version of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' had two mishaps -- these are as follows:
"Track 4: Linus And Lucy -- the original LP version was an edit of two different takes, in the remix for the new CD we ran one of the takes in its entirety. New pressings of the CD will revert back to the original stereo mix -- if you want to replace your copy, please see the instructions at the end of this explanation.
"Track 9: Christmas Is Coming -- the original LP version and the version on the new CD are entirely different takes. This is an unintentional mistake (those keeping close score will note that both versions are identical in length, thus confusion ensued during the final master assembly). Our sincere apologies, if you want to replace your copy, please see below.
"The master has already been updated and versions hitting the stores from this point forward will be corrected.
"For those of you who have noticed that some of the songs have things you've never heard before -- you're right! And these things are NOT mistakes:
"Track 1: O Tannenbaum -- the original LP version had the introduction to the song cut off, on the new CD we reinstated the intro.
"Track 5: Christmas Time Is Here (instrumental) -- the original LP version fades out at the end of the song almost losing the last chord, on the new CD we intentionally left the last chord in.
"Track 7: Skating -- the original LP version fades during the bass solo at the very end, on the new CD we intentionally let the song run to its conclusion adding about ten seconds to the track.
"Finally, there has been great speculation and conjecture over whether or not any noise reduction was employed to generate the new CD. The new CD is remixed from the original three-track so the fact that you're not hearing that old familiar hiss is NOT due to the use of noise reduction, it is rather that the new mix is much quieter than the two-track stereo master. The only place a touch of noise reduction was utilized was on Track 10, 'Fur Elise,' as there is no three-track for that master -- it was originally recorded direct to two-track.
"So, should you like to trade in your CD with the the two alternate takes (Linus And Lucy & Christmas Is Coming) for one with corrected masters, please send your disc (not the digipack, just the disc please) or a receipt for your original purchase (if you wish to keep the disc with the alternates) to:
"Concord Music Group, Inc.
100 N. Crescent Drive;
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
"We will send you a replacement CD gladly in keeping with the spirit of the holiday. Please note that this replacement offer is only valid through March 1st, 2007. Thank you."
on December 9, 1999
A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the few Christmas shows that actually got it right. The music that Vince Guaraldi recorded for it has taken on a life of its own. Christmas Time Is Here has become a standard now and deserves to be. Sadly, Vince left us in the mid 70's before the cartoon and the music really became a cherished classic and I hope he knows how special this recording is to me and many, many others. Skating is like a 3 minute trip to another world and his version of The Christmas Song is among my top 3 favorite versions. This is the most relaxing beautiful Christmas music you could ever want to hear. You can forget about the overblown tripe that the so called "music elite" puts out now, this is the real deal.
And please, everyone remember Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts gang, in your prayers tonight. He was recently diagnosed with cancer and needs our support. Get well soon Sparky.
on November 21, 2006
I bought the original CD reissue of this album back in 1986; it has remained an essential part of my holiday listening ever since. I skipped the subsequent reissue, since I really didn't need to have "Greensleeves" badly enough to warrant buying the disc again.
That said, I was happy to hear that A Charlie Brown Christmas had been given the proper remastering treatment and reissued with bonus tracks and restored artwork.
However, I was not happy once I started listening.
1. The recordings have clearly been squashed using compression and limiting. As a result, the average level is comparable to that of a current pop release. Like classical music, jazz is supposed to have dynamic range. This new master doesn't have all that much (or not as much as it should, anyway). Sure, there was plenty of room to increase the volume somewhat (since early CDs often failed to take advantage of the headroom that was available), but there was simply no good reason to resort to compression. When it comes to remastering old(er) recordings, the number-one rule should be to provide the most faithful reproduction of the original recording possible, not to re-create the recording as if it had been made today. If I wanted to induce listening fatigue, I'd listen to whatever this month's new flavor is instead.
2. The mix sounds sterile, and bears little resemblance to the mix we've all been living with.
3. As folks have already pointed out, the version of "Linus and Lucy" presented here is a different version.
So, I think I'll ditch this edition and go buy that 1988 reissue instead. I'd recommend that you do the same.
on November 19, 2006
The perrenial Christmas favorite returns for its third incarnation on compact disc. The original Fantasy release (which is still in my possession) is now 20 years old. George Horn returns to master this new edition as he did the previous releases, but the entire project is shaken up by going back to the original multitrack master tapes, and being newly remixed by Stephen Hart, and this is where the new project no longer bears a resemblance to its original (and well-mixed) parent.
More than one track on this issue has been mistakenly taken from incorrect alternates (and yet we have a few additional alternate takes as bonus material), notably 'O Tannenbaum' and the signature tune 'Linus And Lucy', and modern noise reduction and digital effects have reduced tape noise, but have also sacrificed definition in the left-handed work of composer Vince Guaraldi, especially on the "wrong" take of 'Linus And Lucy'. The choral tag 'Hark, The Herald Angels Sing' is the most noticeably changed, with a more dominanant organ, and considerably reduced vocal levels. In this case, it isn't necessarily a bad thing, since I always cringed at the extreme difference in volume from the childrens' "Ooh"'s to their off-key, boisterous lyric performance.
On the whole, the entire album has a sound that is too 'modern', thanks to current digital reverb technology, a far more sterile environment than the huge echo and reverb chambers of vintage recording studios. They do go the extra mile in the packaging, in attempts to provide new liner notes, as well as vintage album artwork in an all-new digipack, but on the whole, consider this a supplement, and not the authentic broadcast version we're used to hearing.
on October 18, 2012
There are countless CD versions of this Guaraldi/Christmas classic. What we Guaraldi fans have always hoped for was a clearer, truer sound from those 1965 analogue tapes. This 2012 remaster doesn't improve nor trump the 2006 remaster in any way. 2006 was & still is our great hope! Except for the two bonus tracks 'Great Pumpkin Waltz & Thanksgiving' there is little reason to re-purchase if you already have the 2006 release (w/new yellow cover art), &/or the SACD version released years prior, whch has a better sound separation to the 1988 first-time CD release.
Upon its initial release the 2006 had two errors in its selection of two alternate takes; one for 'Linus & Lucy' & the other, 'Christmas Is Coming'. This was quickly remedied in 2007 with the official takes clearly (& happily) reinstated & remastered (a CD recall of sorts, thanks to us wierd & faithful Guaraldi fans!). And so what you get on the corrected 2006 release is a vastly improved sound wherein every nuance of all three instrumentalists are clearly heard as well as the surprisingly new sound quality of the children's three choir vocals (My Little Drum, Christmas Time Is Here & Hark The Herald), plus the great surprise-find of the Children's Choir take 'humming' the classic 'Christmas Time Is Here' as an added bonus track! The 2006 also has all the whistles and bells of added bonus takes & a nearly perfect remaster which included the little arpeggio lead-in which opens 'O Tannenbaum'. Who knew that existed?!?
At first listen the 2012 release has an overall disappointing lower sonic volume. The equalization is a bit overwrought. On certain tracks the stereo has squashed the two instrumentalists to one speaker. The 2012 accompanying booklet makes audio claims that, ironically, are distinctly evident in the 2006 re-release and not in this new remaster! There's nothing improved in the 2012 to my estimation; the children's choir seems buried & dry in the mix as opposed to it being so clear & slightly reverb-coated in the 2006 remaster. And although Guaraldi's piano is up in the mix some it is also equalized into a muffle (to reduce tape hiss).
The only remote reason to re-purchase is for the two added bonus tracks which seem as though they are lifted from the actual 1/2 hour soundtrack mix and not taken from any masters from the Fantasy vaults. They sound like they're taken from your TV speakers; a jarring difference in sound quality! Sorry, Fantasy... 2012 was better in 2006. Although I still purchased the 2012, it is purely for all those big Peanuts/Guaraldi freaks like me...but I'm glad I have my Charlie Brown from 2006 in 2012! Confused!?!...
P.S. Amazon seems to be offerring only the 1st-time release of the 2006 remaster which included the 'wrong' takes of 'Linus & Lucy' & 'Christmas Is Coming'. This is the open-up cardboard cover (w/yellow background)... Beware! Still preferred over the 2012, in sound, & with the other whistles & bells... The 'Linus & Lucy' (alternate take) does have the famous bridge to which Snoopy dances on Schroeder's piano in that hilarious sequence!
on October 25, 2012
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]
on December 18, 2006
Well, I've ended up purchasing both of the new releases of the original Charlie Brown Christmas music: this one (the DVD/CD release) and also the remastered version just on CD (with the yellow background cell artwork on the cover).
On this release, you get a DVD and a CD. For some reason, the CD included is NOT the remastered stereo version. It appears to be just a reissue of the original Fantasy Records release on CD. Without the remastering, the sound is brighter, but also much noisier. Some, however, seem to prefer the original, especially if it's what they grew up listening to.
The DVD, on the other hand, has the new, beautifully remastered (some would say re-mixed) versions, in a variety of surround formats, etc. I haven't played them on a surround system, but even just listening to the high-definition stereo tracks through headphones was truly wonderful. Oddly, the songs are not in the same order as on the original release.
Now, about the digital sound files that are included on this DVD for your iPod. The liner notes claim that these files provide a better sound than if you were to rip them from the CD yourself. Well, this is true if you just take the CD that came with this package and rip the files -- because you are then comparing the original release with the remastered version.
Not good enough.
So I went back to the store and bought the remastered CD, and ripped those to iTunes using the Apple Lossless conversion. The result? The files that I ripped myself have about twice the bit rate as the ones provided on the DVD here. They don't sound "twice as good," but on good headphones they do sound clearer, more distinct, and more alive than the pre-made versions on the DVD. Musically, they appear to be identical in terms of the take, the mix, etc. (I haven't confirmed this for every single track).
It's a bit misleading that on the back of the package, this DVD/CD release mentions compatibility with "Apple Lossless," as if they had provided digital files already encoded for you in Apple Lossless. They have not. The files provided have a bit rate of 320 kbps, less than half the bit rate of the Apple Lossles files I ended up ripping from the remastered CD release.
Overall, I'm certainly not sorry I purchased this DVD/CD package, or the remastered CD. The remastered CD is great for the car or office, and provided the best files for my iPod. This DVD, on the other hand, is great for a home theater or DVD-based audio system that can take advantage of the surround and/or hi-definition stereo, and hey, it includes the original recording on CD as a bonus!
I would call this a 5-star release, but I am deducting one star just because of the lack of clarity and slight misrepresentation in the packaging about what's included. I applaud Monster Music for the job they have done with these recordings, but they should know that people who invest in these sorts of releases would like to have as much ACCURATE information as possible about what they are buying.