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Music Review: An expanded soundtrack marks 50th anniversary of ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’

This cover image released by Lee Mendelson Film Productions shows the original soundtrack recording for "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" by Vince Guaraldi. (Lee Mendelson Film Productions via 鶹ýapp)

This cover image released by Lee Mendelson Film Productions shows the original soundtrack recording for “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” by Vince Guaraldi. (Lee Mendelson Film Productions via 鶹ýapp)

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An expanded soundtrack for the Thanksgiving season filled with childlike charm is reason to do the Snoopy dance.

“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” will be released Friday in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Peanuts TV special, which first aired in November 1973. The restored, remixed, remastered album by the late jazz composer and keyboardist Vince Guaraldi features 21 tracks, nearly half of which have not been previously released.

As many “ Peanuts” fans know, Guaraldi’s tunes emit the warm glow of a fireplace at holiday time, which makes them ideal background music. Or turn up the volume to appreciate the evolution of these compositions, most of which are presented in multiple takes.

Guaraldi is accompanied by Seward McCain on electric bass, Mike Clark on drums, Tom Harrell on trumpet and Chuck Bennett on trombone, and the tunes are explored by the ensemble in various configurations, including overdubs.

Six cuts last a half-minute or less, which makes the album a bit choppy, but it’s interesting to hear Guaraldi experiment as he plays grand piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Hohner Clavinet and even guitar.

There are new versions of the familiar tunes “Thanksgiving Theme” and “Linus and Lucy,” as well as a brief jam involving only Guaraldi and Clark. Five cuts titled “Thanksgiving Interlude” are included, among them a version used in the show that was the 17th and final take.

Joyful, youthful melodies are a common thread, as are skittering, deceptively funky grooves, which seem both unpredictable and natural, like the rhythms of a playground. Peanuts and the music that accompanies it never gets old.

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