Written by Fantasma el Rey
When Charlie Brown and the rest of Charles M. Schulz' Peanuts gang hit television for the first time in December 1965, Vince Guaraldi’s music was their theme. As A Charlie Brown Christmas animated our comic friends, Guaraldi’s music further brought life to those characters. Schulz and Peanuts had been ruling comic strips since 1950 and now with Gauraldi’s help they began a successful run with T.V. specials. Now available from Concord Music is Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts Portraits.
Vince Guaraldi had his own style of jazz by the time he ran into the Peanuts gang. His cheerful piano, plucky bass and steady, easy-does-it brush drumming with slight Latin overtones were mellow, cool and very playful. All those elements made up his signature sound and would breathe further fantastic life into the characters we all love and know so well.
The eleven-track set kicks off with the very familiar “Linus And Lucy,” which has become the "Peanuts" theme song over the years. This catchy little ditty was based on the Van Pelt siblings. His blue blanket always at his side, Linus is most known as Charlie Brown’s best friend. Meanwhile Lucy is a “fuss budget” who constantly refers to Charlie as a blockhead and swipes the football as he attempts to kick it.
Cool, jazzy blues plays a major part in these portraits. “Sally’s Blues” is a playful, mellow blues named after Charlie’s baby sister and long admirer of Linus. Good ol’ Charlie Brown is himself represented in two blues pieces, both variations of “Charlie’s Blues.” The first is “Blue Charlie Brown (Version #2),” which is a bit slower than the slightly more upbeat “Charlie’s Blues,” presented here in a variation of the original version.
Two other girls in the "Peanuts" gang are represented on disc here as well in “Peppermint Patty” and “Frieda (With The Naturally Curly Hair).” “Peppermint Patty,” the tomboy of the bunch who fancies Charlie, is captured here in the dreamy tune of here own name. “Frieda” is a lively run that illustrates the bounce in the natural curls of a little girl. An odd note is that while Frieda the character had a relatively short life in the comic strip her song clocks in at the longest at just over six minutes.
Rounding out the tracks are “Joe Cool,” “Schroeder” and “Little Birdie.” “Joe Cool” is the up-tempo horn-filled rant about Snoopy, the mischievous beagle loved worldwide, in one of his classic roles. “Little Birdie” features Guaraldi on vocals and is a funky jam centered on Snoopy’s friend the little yellow bird, Woodstock. Then we have “Schroeder,” a beautiful piano piece that no doubt the character himself would have played on that toy piano of his with ease and grace.
Closing the CD are two Gauraldi tracks played by George Winston, “The Masked Marvel” and another version of “Linus And Lucy.” “The Masked Marvel” is another tune Guaraldi put down with Snoopy in mind and is playing in the background when Snoopy licks Lucy’s face to win a wrist-wrestling match.
Peanuts Portraits also contains great liner notes filled with info on the music and the classic character that inspired the songs. A great CD with great music from the man who captured the Peanuts gang like no one but Schulz did.