December 2005

Various Artists - 40 Years: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Peak Records PKD-8534-2
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Eric Hetherington

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality **1/2
Overall Enjoyment **

Produced by pianist David Benoit, this album is a tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s 1965 soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas television special. It features many recognizable musicians, including Benoit, Toni Braxton, Dave Koz, Vanessa Williams and The Rippingtons. It is not a song-for-song re-recording of the original soundtrack, but includes many of the same numbers.

These smooth-jazz renditions of the Guaraldi classics didn’t inspire me, serving most to remind me of how much better the originals are. The playing shows a great deal of talent, but it is polite and lacks the swinging tempos and playfulness of the original recordings. The sound on the disc is good, with decent imaging and detail, but it is also a somewhat dull recording. Instruments do not pop into life as they do on stellar recordings, and it seems as if the disc has been mastered to blend into the background more than demand attention.

If you are a fan of the artists that appear on this disc, then you will likely enjoy this recording. I found the approach taken here too safe and think most people would enjoy Vince Guaraldi’s original recording, A Charlie Brown Christmas [Fantasy 8431], much more. If, after you’ve worn that one out, you need more jazzy Christmas CDs, I’d suggest a few others before this one, such as the new re-release of Herb Alpert's Christmas Album [Shout Factory DK 34411] or Yule Struttin’ [Blue Note 94857], which features many Blue Note greats.