August 17, 2022

Five-disc deluxe edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack coming fall 2022

It's going to be a good year for Vince Guaraldi and Peanuts music fans! Not only are we getting a proper music-only release of the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown soundtrack in August, now Craft Recordings has announced a 5-disc "super deluxe edition" of the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack coming in fall 2022.  Originally announced as being available on October 14, 2022, Craft has announced that at least the CD versions will be delayed by 4-6 weeks.

While the beloved holiday album has been reissued and rereleased numerous times over the years, nearly all those reissues have had the same content - just the original 11 album tracks, gussied up in some new packaging or with a sheen of slight remastering.

But this fall's deluxe edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas offers something truly different and new: more than 50 tracks of previously unreleased alternate performances, outtakes, and additional bits of music, all sourced from the original tapes of five different 1965 album recording sessions. There are 16 alternate versions of "Christmas is Coming" alone!

The primary release is a 5-disc "super deluxe edition" with four CDs and one Blu-ray Audio disc. The contents are:
  • Disc 1: A new stereo mix of the original 11 album tracks, together with the original album mix of the same;
  • Discs 2 - 4: A total of 58 tracks of alternate takes, outtakes, etc. from the recording sessions;
  • Disc 5: Blu-ray Audio disc featuring a high resolution stereo version of the album, and a new Dolby Atmos surround-sound mix of the album.
(A Blu-ray Audio disc can be played in a regular Blu-ray video disc player.)

The discs come in a 56-page hardbound book with extensive new liner notes by Peanuts historian and Vince Guaraldi biographer Derrick Bang.

See Craft's press release for a complete, detailed track list.

Interestingly, the recording session tracks will not be edited to remove the discussions between Guaraldi and his fellow musicians, so along with hearing how the pieces evolved between takes, you'll also be able to hear their thoughts - and occasional frustrations when a performance doesn't go as planned - as if you were in the studio with them.

For those who don't need every single alternate take, on the same day Craft is also releasing a separate, single CD "highlights" deluxe edition that contains just the new 2022 stereo mix of the original album tracks, plus a selection of the best 13 additional alternate takes/outtakes and a condensed version of Derrick Bang's liner notes.

There will also be a 2-LP deluxe edition with the same content as the single CD release, and a digital release matching the 4 CDs from the "super deluxe edition."

All editions are available to pre-order now.

Craft's updated release information says the digital version of the album, and the LP version, are still coming on October 14; however, they say the single disc CD version now has a release date of November 4, and the 5-disc super deluxe edition won't be coming until December 2. (Very disappointing!)

Note that this new deluxe edition is based on recording sessions for the A Charlie Brown Christmas album, not the recording sessions for the television show, which were done separately. So despite the extensive content, not all the music from the television show is included.  And for the most part the exact performances from the special's audio track will not be found here - although the differences are subtle enough that most people won't notice. Unfortunately, the recording sessions for the television soundtrack performances have yet to be found, despite the determined efforts that led to this release and the upcoming Great Pumpkin release. For more details, see Derrick Bang's blog post.

But don't let that take away from the fact that there's an amazing amount of new material for even the most devoted fan to delve into!

In regards to the "new 2022 stereo mix"... if you're wondering, what's the deal with the "new stereo mix" vs "the original album mix?"  How is a "new mix" different from a "new remaster?" Let me try to explain.

Typically, when music is recorded for an album, each instrument - or group of instruments - is initially recorded to a separate tape. Then a mixing engineer combines those separated recordings onto a single tape, balancing the volume level and adjusting the stereo placement of each instrument to create a pleasing listening experience. That final mixed tape is the "album master."

When an album is remastered, an engineer starts with the original album master tape - with all the instruments already combined - and tweaks or cleans up the sound based on the original mixing, trying to improve the sound while retaining the original balancing and placement of the instruments.

By contrast, when an album is remixed, the engineer instead goes back to the original separated tapes for each instrument, and creates a new combination of them, possibly with different volume choices for each instrument, or different stereo placement. New technology and techniques developed since the time of the original mixing means that a remix can sound cleaner, fuller, and "better" than the original, revealing subtleties hidden by the original mix. But a new mix can also be controversial, because the result will sound different from the original mix that fans have been listening to for decades. And many people - not unreasonably - want to enjoy the album as they remember it sounding.

With this new 5-disc A Charlie Brown Christmas deluxe edition, Craft has decided to try their hand at creating a new mix of the original album tracks. While some listeners may end up preferring the new mix, Craft is wisely also including the original album mix for those who prefer the original.


Anonymous said...

A few (many?) years ago, they released a version of A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack that appeared to be remixed and included a handful of alternate versions of tracks. This included an alternate version that included the kid chorus vocals. Were the kids brought in for the TV recording sessions AND the soundtrack sessions? Are the kids on any of the 50 alternates in this package?

Scott McGuire said...

You're thinking of the 2006 expanded and remixed release, which included four alternate versions as bonus tracks.

Every vocal you hear on the album is actually performed by the kids chorus. The 2006 release included an alternate vocal version of "Christmas Time Is Here" where they kids just vocalize "doo doo doo" instead of words, that's probably what you're thinking of. That alternate track - along with the three alternates from the 2006 release - are also included on this new deluxe edition, along with many more previously unreleased alternate.

For the vocal tracks with the kids chorus, there weren't separate album and TV recording sessions. (There were separate sessions for the most of the instrumental tracks.) The new 2022 deluxe edition includes tracks from the recording session with the kids for "Christmas Time Is Here;" but unfortunately the session tapes for the other two vocal tracks - “Hark, the Herald” and “My Little Drum” - were not located and so alternates for those tracks aren't included on the new deluxe edition.