Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year

#8 Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965)

Plan A had me writing this one a month and a half ago. But perhaps that’s for the best. I assembled my top 25 just before the onslaught of 40-year retrospectives on this album, and when Christmas rolled around, I felt much less clever than before. I feared that I was getting caught up in the seasonal hype, or even worse, getting caught up in a tacky nostalgic Zeitgeist moment. One thing about Christmas records, though, is that they disappear from our stereos, if not our consciousnesses, come Jan 1. Now that I no longer worry about getting sick of hearing of this record (and in fact am now saddened to think that T-giving is 10 months away), I stand by my decision to rate it so high.

Plan A also had me writing this blurb with the record playing in the background. Since the holidays are over, I can’t be listening to Christmas music. So I’ll have to do this one by memory, even though – and here’s where I might surprise you – I don’t have this record etched into my soul. Like everyone else, I watched the TV special almost every year, but I didn’t own a copy of the soundtrack until 2002. In other words, this record still holds surprises for me. I think that’s what makes A Charlie Brown Christmas not just a great Christmas album but a great album, full stop. Everybody knows how warm and cuddly and eggnog-and-fireplaces it is (and surely, “Linus and Lucy” is a heavyweight in the ‘most joyful song ever’ competition). But it can be easy to gloss over its appropriately icy Christmas edge, to gloss over Guaraldi’s amazing patience and use of silence and space. There’s more than a twinge of holiday loneliness here. Just compare it with contemporary popular Christmas music. Contemporary music is popstars and Mannheim Steamroller, with sounds and effects crammed together and piled on top of one another, downright enforcing holiday cheer. Saying, YOU WILL BE MERRY, OR ELSE. Much like the TV program, (which, if you haven't seen it recently, is so different from current TV pacing and narrating style that it may as well have been made in Eastern Europe), the music on this soundtrack takes its time, explores neglected corners, meditates on the holiday, and isn’t afraid to let children express the emotions and thoughts that we don’t even let adults express anymore.

Plan A, finally, had me not getting sonned by Papa S. I remember having a conversation with him a couple of months back where we revealed to one another our plans to include Vince in our top 25s. I was sure that if he hadn’t revealed A Charlie Brown Christmas by #5, he wouldn’t do it at all. I was ready to call him out. But pride goeth, etc.


Papa Shoegaze said...

i cant even begin to understand you feeling that it wasnt coming. and its okay to put on, even now. i ran in place for 7 min. last night (doing the christmas shuffle) until i realized its never gonna snow again and to keep my joy to myself.

Sean B said...

Hey, it's supposed to snow tonight! (or offer a "wintry mix," but either way...) Maybe your invocation of the xmas magic worked its mojo on the weather. Then again, snow = school closing = no daycare tomorrow = stress, so maybe I'm being punished for NOT playing the record last night.

Papa Shoegaze said...

just found out ill be having my first snow day as a teacher tomorrow! our school is notorious for never closing-dont want to waste that money. but, usually the closing calls are a joke. however, tomorrow looks bad.
listen up