October 8, 2018

We got a rock: Craft Recordings releases inferior It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown soundtrack album

This week, Craft Recordings (a division of Concord Records) is releasing what they are calling a soundtrack album of Vince Guaraldi's music to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

The album will be released on CD on Friday, October 12; it's already available as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music stores, and also available on streaming services such as Spotify. A vinyl (LP) release has also been announced, but currently doesn't have a release date.

This might sound like exciting news to many Peanuts fans, given the great music Vince Guaraldi (and John Scott Trotter) composed for the classic television special. Unfortunately, it turns out the album is more trick than treat - it disappoints in content, quality, and length, and in my opinion, is best avoided and not worth adding to your collection.

The problems are due to the source used for the album. Unlike the music that appears on other Vince Guaraldi albums - such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Boy Named Charlie Brown - the tapes of the original musical recordings for the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown special are lost and may well no longer exist.

So instead, Craft Recordings has used the "music and effects" track from the special to create this album. Basically, this the exact audio from the television show, just without the dialog.

That means while it does have the background music as it appears in the special, the tracks also have all the sound effects - for example, the thuds and bumps of Linus and Lucy rolling the pumpkin and cutting it up in the opening scene, Snoopy blowing on the leaf and the sound of Charlie Brown charging into and landing in the leaf pile in the next scene, and so on. While most of the tracks are affected to some degree, the worst is "Breathless," the music when Snoopy the WWI Flying Ace imagines he's crossing no man's land. This is one of the soundtrack pieces most requested by fans - but on this release, the subtle music is buried under various gunshots, sirens, and other sounds to give the ambiance of World War I.

(If you want to hear it for yourself, you can play all the actual tracks from this album on YouTube; in particularly, try Breathless.)

The music and effects track is also at least one, if not several, generations removed from the original music recordings, resulting in a noticeable loss of sound quality. While Craft Recordings' engineers have made some effort to remaster and restore the sound, one cannot create a miracle from a weak source, and the limitations show - there is distinct hiss in some tracks, some harshness, and volume fluctuations. The tracks are also all in mono (not stereo).

The final issue is that this new album presents the music exactly as it appears in the special.

Typically, when music is recorded for a television special or a movie, the musicians record longer, full pieces that are then edited down to fit the special as needed. On the Charlie Brown Christmas album, we hear the full music pieces, instead of the shortened versions that play in the background of the show. Unfortunately this isn't the case with the Great Pumpkin album, since the original recording session tapes (apparently) no longer exist.

Using the music as it was edited for the special results in numerous very short cues (many are just 20-30 seconds long), abrupt fades and transitions, and a general choppy feel to the whole thing; it's not a satisfying listening experience just based on this alone. The intrusive sound effects and overall poor audio quality make it even worse.

In fact, the entire album is extremely short: it's only a little over 20 minutes long (as the special itself only runs around 24 minutes). Having to pay full album price for only 20 minutes of music is very poor value. At the very least, Craft Recordings should have combined the album with the release of music from another special.

Nowhere in their press release - or on the album cover, front or back - do Craft Recordings make it clear that customers are getting a music and effects track instead of the original recordings. The Great Pumpkin would not be impressed with their sincerity.

Given that we all love the music from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I wish I could give a better report. But this album in no way does that music justice, or provides an enjoyable listen. Releasing it in this form is inexcusable, and Craft Recordings should be ashamed to have done so; it feels like a cash grab on unsuspecting fans. You'd be better off saving your money, and just listening to the audio track of the special itself again.

October 4, 2018

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs twice in October 2018 on ABC

ABC will show It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown twice in October 2018: first in an edited version on Thursday, October 18 from 8:00 - 8:30 PM, and then the full, unedited special together with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown on Friday, October 26 from 8:00 - 9:00 PM (all times Eastern/Pacific).

February 5, 2018

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown & A Charlie Brown Valentine to air Friday, February 9, 2018 on ABC

Get together with your sweet babboo to watch the annual Peanuts Valentine's Day pairing on Friday, February 9, 2018:  ABC will be showing Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) together with A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002) from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific) that evening.