Friday, January 19, 2007

Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas (REMASTERED)

It's my personal belief that the greatest Christmas album of all time is "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi.

Even if this wasn't recorded for the Peanuts gang in 1965 and released as a soundtrack to a one-off TV special, the music would still hold up on its own. It's that good.

However, the strains of the Vince Guaraldi trio are forever linked with Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and a boy named Charlie Brown. The music was a perfect marriage for the Peanuts characters and all its subsequent movies and TV specials.

When this newly remastered version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was released last year, many of us were elated, ecstatic, and excited all wrapped into one.

It's no secret that the original pressings of the soundtracks on CD (1988, 2000) were not the greatest quality and fans worldwide awaited a true remastered work of art.

When it comes to high fidelity, noise reduction, and the like, I am totally clueless. I wouldn't know (and still don't know) what the wrong compression or equalization can do to a music track. I just heard the familiar tunes of my childhood cleaned up for the first time ever and I was thrilled.

However, many musicologists, critics, and longtime fans yelled "Good Grief!" Amazon.com customer reviews were either full of praise or damnation for the new release. Alternate takes and mixes were used or replaced on the new soundtrack and people wanted blood.

So what do you think of the album? Was it a moral sin for Concord Music to rearrange the music? Did they overcompensate the noise reduction button? Will future generations of kids even notice or care about these mistakes? Did Concord Music mess with not just the music but the memories as well?

For the entire weekend of January 19 - 21, I am throwing the yuleblog open for discussion on this album. Don't be shy - any opinion is welcome.

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Jeff -
People can get pretty peaved when you mess with their cherished memories, but it doesn't mean that it's not nice to have such a clear and pristine recording for anyone who didn't wear out their original recording and wants to discover the beautiful tones for the first time, fresh as can be.

I do find it weird that Track 16 just sort of ends, cut off in it's prime. That could have been a lot more subtle, but that's nit-picking...

Great album, both versions.

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Stubbyfears -
I haven't purchased the Remastered version. However, the resulting controversy reminds me very much of "New Coke." At the time "New Coke" was introduced, Coke had fallen far below Pepsi in market share. The new, much sweeter (sickeningly so) brew was, at the time, tagged as "the greatest marketing blunder of all time." Coke was "forced" to continue to sell "old Coke," as well as "New Coke." To be honest, I don't even know if they still sell "New Coke."

Yet, as the years passed, it came to light that the "blunder" was intentional and, actually, a stroke of marketing genius. Coke garnered tons of free publicity. Everybody was talking about Coke. And Coke's market share skyrocketed. And it was all intentional.

By remastering "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as they did, the record company ensured that there would be controversy, that people would be talking at length about a 40 year old album that virtually everyone already owned. Lots of the "New Chuck" would sell, but so would many copies of "Old Chuck." If the hue and cry leads to being forced to produce even more "Old Chuck," so much the better. Then will come the inevitable secondary market reprecussions..."Is 'New Chuck' more scarce than 'Old Chuck?'" (And the record companies do pay close attention to the secondary market and use that info to help determine marketing strategies.)

Its WIN-WIN for the record company. And, I imagine, very much deliberate. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make a lot of people think they must own both versions. And they probably will.

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Jeff -
I totally understand cynicism in the face of record companies regularly releasing remastered versions six months after we bought the 'regular' version, and I also think given that so many years had passed since the original version was released, plus the fact that we the audience are asking for higher and higher quality, that this version is indeed justified and welcomed. I'll give people credit to know if they want to spend money again for an enhanced version. At Christmastime, we (if I may speak for regular visitors to this site) have to become quite discerning or face the poorhouse, and think people who are old enough to shop for themselves can figure that one out pretty quickly. Just my 2 cents.

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Ernie -
I'm afraid I don't have much of an opinion. I've never been a huge fan of that music. I love the special, though.

But whatever the record company does, it just means more sales for them. I perfect reissue wouldn't have generated more sales than this issue, and certainly the controversy hasn't hurt sales one lick.

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THIS JUST IN: Concord Music posted a very interesting message at their web site on December 20, 2006 concerning this CD. Seems they've admitted their mistakes and are willing to make amends (until March 1, 2007 at least!).


Capt

4 comments:

Jeff said...

People can get pretty peaved when you mess with their cherished memories, but it doesn't mean that it's not nice to have such a clear and pristine recording for anyone who didn't wear out their original recording and wants to discover the beautiful tones for the first time, fresh as can be.

I do find it weird that Track 16 just sort of ends, cut off in it's prime. That could have been a lot more subtle, but that's nit-picking...

Great album, both versions.

stubbysfears said...

I haven't purchased the Remastered version. However, the resulting controversy reminds me very much of "New Coke." At the time "New Coke" was introduced, Coke had fallen far below Pepsi in market share. The new, much sweeter (sickeningly so) brew was, at the time, tagged as "the greatest marketing blunder of all time." Coke was "forced" to continue to sell "old Coke," as well as "New Coke." To be honest, I don't even know if they still sell "New Coke."

Yet, as the years passed, it came to light that the "blunder" was intentional and, actually, a stroke of marketing genius. Coke garnered tons of free publicity. Everybody was talking about Coke. And Coke's market share skyrocketed. And it was all intentional.

By remastering "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as they did, the record company ensured that there would be controversy, that people would be talking at length about a 40 year old album that virtually everyone already owned. Lots of the "New Chuck" would sell, but so would many copies of "Old Chuck." If the hue and cry leads to being forced to produce even more "Old Chuck," so much the better. Then will come the inevitable secondary market reprecussions..."Is 'New Chuck' more scarce than 'Old Chuck?'" (And the record companies do pay close attention to the secondary market and use that info to help determine marketing strategies.)

Its WIN-WIN for the record company. And, I imagine, very much deliberate. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make a lot of people think they must own both versions. And they probably will.

Jeff said...

I totally understand cynicism in the face of record companies regularly releasing remastered versions six months after we bought the 'regular' version, and I also think given that so many years had passed since the original version was released, plus the fact that we the audience are asking for higher and higher quality, that this version is indeed justified and welcomed. I'll give people credit to know if they want to spend money again for an enhanced version. At Christmastime, we (if I may speak for regular visitors to this site) have to become quite discerning or face the poorhouse, and think people who are old enough to shop for themselves can figure that one out pretty quickly. Just my 2 cents.

Ernie said...

I'm afraid I don't have much of an opinion. I've never been a huge fan of that music. I love the special, though.

But whatever the record company does, it just means more sales for them. I perfect reissue wouldn't have generated more sales than this issue, and certainly the controversy hasn't hurt sales one lick.