On the 9th Day of Christmas… “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (Review)

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A Charlie Brown Christmas” is one of the most celebrated films in the holiday movie canon. The jazzy, largely instrumental score composed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is equally as enjoyable, though severely underappreciated.

If you’ve seen any Peanuts animated video, Vince Guaraldi’s traditional loose jazz should be familiar. The soundtrack A Charlie Brown Christmas compiles recognizable holiday tunes and adapts them to piano-centric pieces. Furthermore, there’s almost no singing. One of the few vocal tracks is “Christmas Time is Here,” included in the intro to the animated film. As you may have guessed if you haven’t seen the movie, all tracks on the album appear in the Peanuts movie. “O Tannenbaum” kicks off the soundtrack, followed by a toe-tappingly catchy “What Child Is This.” A usually somber tune, Guaraldi breaks barriers with a unique rendition.

As expected, the Peanuts main theme, “Linus and Lucy,” is included on the soundtrack. My favorite track is “My Little Drum,” a spin-off of the Little Drummer Boy. The track features vocal “pa-rum-pum-pums” and “oohs” in time with the instrumentation. “Skating” is another personal favorite which, appropriately, seems to skitter across the speakers. Similarly, “Christmas Is Coming” may induce spontaneous cases of the Peanuts dance, so be careful when you push play.

While the album consists of 12 tracks, play time feels much shorter due to sparse lyrics. There isn’t a song you’ll want to skip. Guaraldi sets his album apart by providing Christmas tunes, many of which normally associate with a serious tone, in a lighter mood. Each track is upbeat, and refreshingly modern. Overall, Guaraldi masterfully crafts a finger-snapping album which serves as a lounge music twist on traditional holiday tunes. A Charlie Brown Christmas is at least as impressive and lovable as its film counterpart, and being mostly instrumental is the perfect album to liven up your Christmas party.

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On the 11th Day of Christmas… “Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas” (Review)

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Since a young age, Aaron Neville has graced the stereo during the holidays like a pleasant dusting of snow. The New Orleans musician’s album, Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas lives up to its title with a spiced up creole and soul-infused disc. Before you know it, you’ll be grasping the nearest faux Christmas tree as a mic stand and silently mimicking Neville’s booming bellows. Seriously, you can’t help but get into Aaron Neville’s animated holiday CD.

Featuring mainly traditional Christmas tunes, Neville offers a smattering of more serious songs. Appropriately, his delivery is straightforward though certainly not dry. The first track, “Please Come Home for Christmas” sets the mood for the rest of the album. Neville’s warbling vocals, complete with a Cajun hint compliment the smorgasbord of jazzy instrumentation. Had Neville added a subtitle to the album, it would read “Traditional Christmas Tunes in a Non-Traditional Style.”

While the entire album serves up a relaxing holiday audio experience, the tracks where Neville asserts his dominant New Orleans groove are truly terrific. In addition to “Please Come Home for Christmas,” the version of “The Christmas Song” found on this album might be the best rendition to date. “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” similarly provides an inevitable toe-tapping experience. Be forewarned, you may even begin snapping in tune (or if you’re me, out of tune) with the snazzy hi-hats.

By far the two stand out tracks are “Such a Night” and “Louisiana Christmas Day.” “Such a Night,” builds to a powerful crescendo and ultimately concludes with a spoken word piece. Neville really busts out on “Louisiana Christmas Day” with a thick Cajun drawl and references to the bayou. That being said, the other 9 tracks aren’t far behind these two.

Overall, Aaron Neville provides a melodic, and creole-inspired take on beloved Christmas tunes. If snazzy music is your cup of gingerbread latte, make Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas a new part of your holiday tradition.