Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Finally Gets First Ever Serving on Vinyl for Special 50th Anniversary 180g 1LP Edition

It finally hit me on a bleak ’n’ blurry rainy Saturday morning in November as to why Vince Guaraldi’s music for the Peanuts animation franchise has touched the hearts of so many people around the world — it’s genuinely uplifting, universally appealing music that can heat up even the coldest of soul coals. And in these times of emotional upheaval and worldwide turmoil, it’s really, really good to have life-affirming music like this to keep us afloat as we try, if you’ll pardon The Beatles’ reference, “take a sad song and make it better.”

By the way, did you know that only three albums of Peanuts music were commercially released during Vince Guaraldi’s lifetime? Don’t worry — I didn’t either, until I read that factoid on the interwebs. Another interesting detail popped out at me in the official press release supporting A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the new LP I’m quite appropriately reviewing today to duly honor this week’s impending holiday: “Along with Craft [Recordings’] It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas (the top selling Christmas album of all time), this [. . .] album creates the triumvirate of Guaraldi’s scores for the three most celebrated Peanuts’ specials.”


I have to admit when I first saw the cover for this all-new, first-time vinyl release that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the soundtrack to the Emmy-winning November 1973 TV special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, I was a little worried that it might be somewhat of an underwhelming release. I’ll have more to say about the LP’s cover art a bit later on, but when I looked beyond that and started listening, I was humbled — and subsequently enthused — by the charming, indie-production feel of this release,

Curiously, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has actually been released directly from Lee Mendelson Film Productions (LMFP) out of Burlingame, California, instead of on the core label that has been reissuing most of Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts catalog directly — the aforementioned Craft Recordings.

Now, if some of you reading this might be wondering just who Lee Mendelson is — in short, he is the guy who produced the original Charlie Brown TV specials in the 1960s and ’70s, and he is also the man who pinpointed bringing in then-rising jazz star Vince Guaraldi in the first place to create the musical voice for these wonderful Peanuts programs.

The fact is, Guaraldi’s work for the Peanuts cartoon series has long since become utterly iconic — music that is near-inextricably linked to the visual imagery of the Peanuts characters themselves, has impacted millions globally, and continues to inspire those who discover it year after year after year.


From the official press release, here’s some background stats worth noting: “This is the first self-released album by Lee Mendelson Film Productions, Inc. (LMFP) — the 60-year-old production company founded by Lee Mendelson — and LMFP is thrilled to finally bring this complete soundtrack to the public for the first time ever. LMFP recently discovered the original studio session tapes in the vaults and transferred them to a high-resolution digital at 192kHz/24-bit for the mixing and remastering of these tracks, as they did with Craft Recordings release of It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown in 2022. A labor of love, LMFP is excited to offer fans the opportunity to enjoy this music as much as they do, and they hope to release more of the soundtracks from these beloved specials and the great Vince Guaraldi very soon. . . . [L]iner notes give a track-by-track analysis by Sean Mendelson, musician, record producer, and son of Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson. . . [along with] stills from the special and some images of the original track assignments for each instrument.” The LP’s back cover further confirms the session tape transfers came from the 2-inch 16-track masters.

It has been interesting to be reminded a lot of this wonderful music was relatively buried beneath the dialogue in the A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. So, hearing it for the first time on a fine-sounding, well-centered, dead-quiet, 180g black vinyl pressing allows us access to these rich and funky fun — and effectively new Guaraldi Peanuts sounds from one of the three most popular Peanuts shows ever — and in a very high-fidelity manner, at that. It’s a special holiday treat indeed!


The SRP for the new 180g 1LP edition of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is $31.99, and it can be ordered directly from MVD right here.

The session players on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving give us some important cues to the funky undertow that draws us inside this music. The lineup on these sessions — officially notated on the back cover as the Vince Guaraldi Quintet — includes Guaraldi on keyboards and vocals, Seward McCain on electric bass, Mike Clark on drums, Tom Harrell on trumpet and brass arrangements, and Chuck Bennett on trombone.


“Funky undertow,” you ask? Yes, there is a soul-spirited funk-spunk within Guaraldi’s music as crafted for the A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, inspired by the then-emerging East Bay Sound in the San Francisco Bay area. For these sessions, Guaraldi tapped into the above-noted drummer Mike Clark, who helped pioneer that sound (along with fellow drummer David Garibaldi, of Tower of Power fame).

Herbie Hancock fans will also recognize Clark’s name from the seminal mid-’70s funky-jazz-fusion releases Thrust (1974), Man-Child (1975), Flood (1975), and the Death Wish soundtrack (1974), but he also played with the likes of Betty Davis and Alphonso Johnson. Clark was even in an incarnation of the iconic British progressive jazz fusion group Brand X, appearing on September 1979’s Product and April 1980’s Do They Hurt?

According to the liner notes included in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Clark more or less cut his musical teeth touring with Guaraldi in the early 1970s. The duo clearly had some synergy that pre-dated the Thanksgiving sessions, so it appears Guaraldi wanted to bring some of that vibe into this then-next-generation Peanuts music. For one thing, you’ll hear how Guaraldi worked with Clark on getting the grooves just right on “Little Birdie” (Side A, Track 5), which features Guaraldi’s vocals as well.


When you hear certain tracks on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, they will have a more modern-leaning and at times soulful vibe. This helps explain a curious song title like “Is It James or Charlie?” (Side A, Track 7), which playfully refers to the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. You’ll hear Guaraldi multitrack-layering up his piano sound with a Hohner clavinet (the electric instrument popularized by Stevie Wonder on his smash 1972 hit “Superstition”), Fender Rhodes electric piano, and Wurlitzer organ, as well as periodic Latin percussion twists and rich horn sections.

This isn’t some tired retread of A Charlie Brown Christmas, folks. I know that for a fact because I reviewed A Charlie Brown Christmas last year in its expanded 2LP form — a review you can read right here.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was produced for this new 180g 1LP edition by Sean and Jason Mendelson, remixed by Terry Carleton at Bones and Knives, and restored and mastered/remastered by Vinson Hudson. While original production credits were not directly available, a little sleuthing revealed one fun detail worth noting — and a possible ID for the engineer too.


On the flipside of the included liner notes insert are reproductions of session recording sheets from Wally Heider Studios. If you look closely at one of them, it playfully lists the producer as being “Peanuts,” which we’ll interpret as meaning Vince Guaraldi for Lee Mendelson Film Productions. As for the engineer, it just lists the name “Ken.” I checked many of my own Guaraldi discs, and one of them lists an engineer at Wally Heider Studios named Ken Hopkins — so, while we don’t know it for certain at this time, there is indeed a good possibility Hopkins might be the very same engineer behind these Thanksgivingrecordings.

Back to the music! As a full album listen, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving works very well, even though there are repetitive alternate takes included — such as those showing the development of “Thanksgiving Theme” and “Thanksgiving Interlude” on much of Side B. The grooving new “bonus” version of the classic “Linus and Lucy” theme (Side B, Track 7) is super-rich with layered, haunting horns and a Harmon-muted trumpet solo. Also, there is an alternate version of “Is It James or Charlie?” (Side B, Track 11) with whistling added in.

If you’ll open your mind for just a moment, let me add that I can’t help notice that some of these musical cues pre-echo the sort of soul-jazz spun sound the Grateful Dead pursued on their own albums from around this time (notably, June 1974’s From the Mars Hotel and September 1975’s Blues for Allah). Relative to that, it is also worth noting that Guaraldi was friends with the Dead, and he is even included in the back cover photo on their June 1969 album Aoxomoxoa. (If you are a hardcore Guaraldi fan like we are, you will likely geek out on all these little bits of nuance.)


I am generally very happy with the A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving LP release, and if I have any gripe about it at all, it is simply that this album deserves a better cover design. Don’t get me wrong — I do love the graphic on the cover, which is no doubt a still pulled from the TV special. Unfortunately, it appears quite blurry here, and the printing colors seem a bit off the mark as well. For example, Snoopy is effectively the same color as the sky behind him. Conversely, this in some ways underscores my earlier appreciation for the independently produced feel of this project — clearly, the LMFP powers that be put their time and energy into making sure these recordings sounded great, which is ultimately the most important thing. Maybe next year, they’ll upgrade the cover art a bit for a deluxe edition. (Fingers crossed.)

Now, if you just want to put on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for background during upcoming holiday festivities, fear not — it’s all going to work out fine! In fact, I suspect that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will help your Turkey Day festivities step right into the ensuing Christmas-related holiday season more smoothly than ever. We think it is a nice thing indeed to finally have a missing soundtrack link between these two holidays, which have admittedly become blurred and commercialized over the years.

Thing is, late November on through the New Year is a great time to reflect on the past year and count one’s blessings. I am thankful that we can now add Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to our holiday music playlists and respective turntable spins.

And, with that — all of us here at AP wish all of you a very safe and happy holiday season ahead!

(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for, among others, and you can see more of his impressive C.V. at LinkedIn.)



180g 1LP (LMFP)

Side A
1. Charlie Brown Blues
2. Thanksgiving Theme
3. Thanksgiving Theme (Reprise)
4. Peppermint Patty
5. Little Birdie
6. Thanksgiving Interlude
7. Is It James Or Charlie?
8. Linus And Lucy
9. Fife & Drums Theme

Side B
1. Charlie Brown Blues (Reprise)
2. Thanksgiving Interlude (Reprise)
3. Thanksgiving Theme (2nd Reprise)
4. Thanksgiving Theme (3rd Reprise)
Bonus/Alternate Tracks
5. Thanksgiving Theme (Alternate)
6. Peppermint Patty (Bonus Mix)
7. Linus And Lucy (Bonus Mix)
8. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate Take 2, 4, and 6)
9. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate Take 10)
10. Thanksgiving Interlude (Alternate Take 14)
11. Is It James Or Charlie? (Bonus Mix With Whistling)
12. Clark And Guaraldi


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