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Archive for September 27th, 2013

It’s a New Reissue, Charlie Brown! Classic Christmas LP Expanded Again (and Reissued Again!)

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Snoopy Doghouse EditionUPDATE (9/27/2013): If you missed this remaster of A Charlie Brown Christmas (which we later reviewed) last year, fear not: it’s being released again – same disc, same master – with special “Snoopy Doghouse” packaging on October 22, 2013. That version can be bought by clicking the image above.

ORIGINAL POST (8/23/2012): Around Second Disc HQ, it’s hardly a Christmas season without good friends and family, beautiful decorations, and classic holiday music. For this holiday, a new CD edition of one of our favorite Christmas classics is coming out with a new remaster of Vince Guaraldi’s immortal soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

Vince Guaraldi would have likely attained icon status with his 1962 song “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” a breezy, Grammy-winning tune that seemed destined to become a standard. The song was heard by television producer Lee Mendelson, who was in the middle of finding a composer to provide a soundtrack to A Boy Named Charlie Brown, a documentary Mendelson was producing on Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the wildly popular Peanuts comic strip. Though the documentary was never aired on TV, Guaraldi’s music coupled with new animation of Charlie Brown and friends by Bill Melendez encouraged CBS to take a chance on a half-hour holiday special featuring the characters.

Despite a tight budget and a cast of young, untrained voice actors, A Charlie Brown Christmas became a rightful smash, viewed by half of the American television audiences in its premiere broadcast. To this day, dozens of Peanuts specials – some with music by and inspired by Guaraldi (who died in 1976) – have been made, and A Charlie Brown Christmas is still a network television staple.

The album, containing the unforgettable originals “Christmas Time is Here” and “Linus and Lucy” – the de facto theme for all things Peanuts – is a catalogue classic, having been released in a few different configurations by Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group over the years. (The 1988 CD premiere added one bonus track, “Greensleeves,” while a 2006 remaster added several alternate cues. That disc did court controversy, however, by utilizing a new remix and accidentally using alternate takes of some familiar songs. An amazing history of the soundtrack and its many reissues can be read here.)

Charlie Brown Christmas 2012 remasterThe new edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas – newly remastered from the original analog stereo mixes by Joe Tarantino – also features new liner notes by Guaraldi historian Derrick Bang and three additional bonus tracks: “Greensleeves,” “Thanksgiving Theme” and “The Great Pumpkin Waltz.” (Both were featured on the 1998 Concord disc Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits.) Additionally, a new green-colored vinyl release of the album will be available.

The discs are available October 9. Hit the jump to order your copy!

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Written by Mike Duquette

September 27, 2013 at 12:35

Review: Harry Nilsson, “Flash Harry”

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Harry Nilsson - Flash HarryWhen Harry Nilsson’s The RCA Albums Collection was finally unveiled earlier this year by Legacy Recordings, many finally stood up and took notice of the gifted singer-songwriter whose art deftly blended the high and the low, the angelic and the devilish, the euphoric and the melancholy.  That astounding box set included each one of Nilsson’s albums for the RCA label – in other words, his entire solo discography save one album.  And now, that final missing link is finally here, on CD to join its brethren.  At long last…Flash Harry!

A series of incidents, ranging from lack of promotion to the label’s release of a “greatest hits” collection with a Harry lookalike on its cover (!), led Nilsson to sever his ties with the only record company he ever truly called home.  1977’s Knnillssonn turned out to be his final RCA album, but in 1980, it was time to greet the new decade with a new label (Mercury) and a new album: Flash Harry.  Problem was, hardly anybody ever heard it!  Despite a starry array of musicians including Van Dyke Parks, Ringo Starr, Lowell George, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Keith Allison, Dr. John and Klaus Voormann, a name producer (Stax guitar great Steve Cropper) and an eclectic crop of songs, the LP was withheld from release in North America.  Issued only in Europe and Japan, Harry disappeared in, well, a Flash.  It’s never been reissued in any format, until now.  Varese Sarabande has rescued Nilsson’s studio swansong and reissued it on both vinyl and CD, and it makes a perfect complement – indeed, a necessary one – to the expansive RCA box.

A taut collection of just ten loose songs, Flash Harry has an air of an artist not taking himself too seriously, for good or ill.  Blink and you will have missed it – and given the album’s fate, this ephemeral quality is fitting.  Despite Cropper’s presence as co-producer (with Cherokee Studios’ owner/engineer Bruce Robb), Flash Harry isn’t Nilsson’s “R&B album.”  There are soulful elements for sure – but Nilsson, even at his most vocally diminished, always possessed a soulful tone.  Cropper may have brought that timbre of his voice out on Flash Harry, but moreover, its spirited, anything-goes party vibe both stands in marked contrast to, and as a natural continuation of, RCA farewell Knnillssonn.  That underrated classic brought Nilsson full circle to his ornate, early productions for the label, with the stunning ballad “All I Think About is You” and sweet “Perfect Day” taking spots alongside calypso, rock and theatrical vaudeville excursions.  Flash Harry lacks anything as beautiful or evocative as those two songs or the equally-wonderful “Blanket for a Sail.”  But it has the same rollicking stylistic diversity as its predecessor of three years earlier.  By 1980, Nilsson had committed himself to penning musicals for stage and screen, and those projects informed his work on the album, as well.

Join us for more in a Flash – just hit the jump!

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Written by Joe Marchese

September 27, 2013 at 09:38

Posted in Harry Nilsson, News, Reissues, Reviews

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