Charlie Brown

Retroist Scoreboard 3-22-17: Charlie Brown vs. The Devil

Soundtrack fans, there are some classics both well-known and obscure out this week, music for everyone from the Devil to Snoopy. Surely somewhere, in that vast spectrum, you’ll hear something you like.

Intrada has managed to squeeze onto a single CD two scores by the late, great Leonard Rosenman (Rebel Without A Cause, A Man Called Horse, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Lord Of The Rings, Star Trek IV, Robocop 2), but the difference in subject matter is a bit jarring. The scores in question are from the 1975 film Race With The Devil and 1982’s romantic drama Making Love (!). Intrada points out that fans of Rosenman’s music from his two entries on the original Planet Of The Apes film cycle will enjoy Race With The Devil. If you don’t get whiplash from the transition in tone, this one’s for you. Rosenman is film music royalty who often doesn’t get his due, despite a stellar high-profile resume.

For those who don’t feel like dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, Kritzerland Records has a real treat – complete score from 1969’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown, composed by Vince Guaraldi and John Scott Trotter with songs by Rod McKuen. Though there has been an LP release for this movie, it was a dialogue-heavy “story album”, and this CD is the first-ever release of the music without that dialogue. Only 1,000 copies are being pressed, so you may need to fly a little bit faster than Woodstock.
Charlie Brown

For fans of modern reboots of their childhood, Varese Sarabande has has Brian Tyler’s score from the new Power Rangers . Tyler’s music has graced major franchises from the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies to Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Avengers: Age Of Ultron… it’s safe to say he’s on the go-to shortlist in Hollywood for “big-screen epic”.

And now, to further your soundtrack collecting education, here’s another chunk of the glossary. When is a soundtrack not just an official release of the original recordings? Well…there are some grey areas. And some of them are expensive.

Until next week, music lovers…

The Retroist Scoreboard Glossary, part 3: rarities & oddities
Bootleg – when a soundtrack is not commercially available on CD, it’s not uncommon for someone to perceive a demand that has gone unfulfilled…and fill it. For many years, soundtracks released only on LP (i.e. Tron, The Black Hole, Silent Running) were bootlegged on CD. Bootlegs should be considered, if not an absolute no-no, then an absolute last resort: proceeds from bootleg sales line the pockets of individuals who happened to own an old LP, with none of the proceeds going to the composers, the studios, or the musicians who brought the music life with their performances. Keeping an eye on the bootleg market, however, has provided the soundtrack labels with something of an indicator for which releases are desired: the three examples above have all since received official reissues, two of them vastly expanded. In this collector’s opinion, if an official reissue of a title is released, even if you’ve bought a bootleg along the way, it’s only proper to buy the official reissue. (In many cases, the sound quality will be vastly superior to the bootleg.)

Composer Promo – in the days before digital music could be embedded into a web site, composers seeking future work would ship out composer promo CDs to producers, directors, and studios’ heads of music. These were not intended for public distribution (but hold that thought for a moment), and as such were not officially licensed by the studios in question. To defray the costs of having custom CDs pressed, composers would sometimes quietly look the other way while the pressing plant sold a very, very limited number of copies directly into the soundtrack collectors’ market (and would likely deny all knowledge if a studio lawyer came calling). In the 1990s, one such operation, Super Tracks, was particularly brazen about selling composer promos of titles such as Krull and Galaxy Quest, eventually disappearing in one legal dust-up too many; studio lawyers often regarded composer promos as no better than bootlegs. A close cousin of composer promos is the private-label release, intentionally created for sale to collectors. With the advent of streaming audio from composers’ professional web sites, actual composer promo CDs and their attendant legal issues have all but vanished.

Private Label Release – some composers have decided to cut out the middle man and have small runs of their scores pressed for sale directly to fans and collectors (such as John Scott’s marvelous score from The Final Countdown, or the many soundtracks released by the late Joel Goldsmith’s Free Clyde label, named after his dog). These may be subject to the same licensing and quality issues as composer promos, and can suddenly go “out of print” for that reason, but are intended from the outset for public sale. For some lesser-known composers and their even-lesser-known scores, this may be the only way to obtain the material. In some rare cases (i.e. Dennis McCarthy’s score from the PC game Star Trek: Borg), a private label release will quietly go out of print and get a fully licensed official CD release on one of the soundtrack labels.

Rerecording – a from-the-ground-up reconstruction and new recording of a score, usually using the original sheet music and the composer’s original notes, along with extensive notation on the part of whoever is behind the new recording. This is a dirty word for some collectors, as what they’re getting is not the original recording, and may differ in terms of tempo/timing, performance or instrument quality (up to and including recreating orchestral recordings entirely with synthesizers – see also the wide spread of opinions about including dialogue in soundtrack releases, and magnify that controversy by a thousand). One thing to keep in mind: there are, sadly, many cases where original session recordings have vanished or have been damaged beyond the ability to restore them, meaning that rerecordings are the only way we can listen to those scores now (example: John Barry’s Raise The Titanic!).

Charles “Sparky” Schulz Draws Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown

Every once in a while, I try to draw something. I’m hopeless at it of course, it takes me hours to concoct the most basic of outlines and the end result is rarely what I had in my mind’s eye when I started. You would think that watching a professional at work would inspire me, but in the case of Charles Schulz in this video, it does little but deflate my ambition. It takes little more than 30 seconds for Schulz to sketch out a perfect Charlie Brown here:

Time to get out the sketch pad and start practicing…

DVD REVIEW: This is America Charlie Brown

ThisIsAmericaCharlieBrown_Warner

When our pals over at ol’ Warner Bros. Home Entertainment sent over a copy of their newest release in the Peanuts catalog, This is America, Charlie Brown, I was intrigued. Here was an 8 part series combining the seemingly disparate elements of Chuck and the gang with key moments in American history. I wondered how would these mesh? I mean, sure Snoopy has always had one foot (paw?) entrenched in the high-flying combat of WW1 (I can’t believe I didn’t take the easy road to a dog-fight joke…), but this was a bit more in-depth, and the fear that the series would be more dry educational film than entertainment (always a danger in productions such as this) loomed large. So were those fears justified?

Let’s get the biggest thing out-of-the-way, this is indeed a production geared more towards education than anything else, but it is anything but dry. With the typical mature yet fun and spirited writing that has forever been a Peanuts signature quality, this feature manages to teach a broad range of history, everything from the first flight to space exploration to the history of jazz (fitting given the series long-standing association with jazz infused soundtracks), while giving plenty of opportunities for each member of the Peanuts cast to shine in entertaining ways.

Honestly, this production is of such high quality in every department; from animation, to writing to score, that I simply cannot believe it has been nearly completely forgotten (save for the episode Mayflower Voyagers which has appeared from time to time paired with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the series has not been re-run ).

I do feel that a very large, and at first jarring, issue should be mentioned; namely that in an ultra-rare (though absolutely necessary) occurrence in the Peanuts franchise, adults are actually shown full body (displaying a similar design aesthetic to Bill Melendez’s previous work for the series)! As I watched, I had a sense that something was just “off” about the feature, and then it hit me; “Holy cats! You can actually see the adults…all of them!!!” I can recall only one other time when this has happened; 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!).

Instead of fading into obscurity, this should instead be included in every elementary schools video library, as I believe that the Peanuts gang mixed with these vibrant periods in American history would completely engage students and provide a great supplement to often stuffy history books!

You can pick up your own copy of This is America, Charlie Brown here!

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown – The Most Sincere Peanuts Special

It is quite likely that Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is the first Peanuts special I encountered as a kid. And while I think all the early Peanuts specials had good messages, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has some of the most “sincere” (to borrow a term from a different Peanuts special) messages. It presents some very honest truths about love and all the other affections that go with it.

One such truth is the desperation of wanting to be loved. We get this truth close to the end, after Charlie Brown has failed to receive any valentines at all, much less a valentine from the Red-Haired Girl. He says, “I’d give anything if that Little Red-Haired Girl had sent me a valentine.” And not only does he say that, but he says it with such resignation, such a realization that it is just not going to happen.

Another is the material and other constraints of the search for love. Though Linus admires the ground upon which his teacher walks, he knows he is too young, and when he misses his opportunity to give her the valentine he had purchased, he laments the fact that he “spent all [his] money.” The loss of money, a precious and scant commodity at that age, is a further insult to the injury of the loss of love.

Yet another is the “hope springs eternal” aspect of love. After talking over his disappointments with this year’s valentine haul, Charlie Brown switches gears and starts dreaming about the loads of valentines he will get in years to come.

Fortunately, all these truths are balanced with great jokes (Snoopy and Woodstock catching and eating the chocolates Linus throws off the bridge in his anger, Violet saying that she bought a bottle of “heart-shaped shaving lotions” for a man who “wears a beard and saying it to Linus while he is in a rush to catch his teacher, the messages on the candy hearts). They are also offset by the weird way Sally, who threatened to slug Linus if he tried to hold her hand in The Great Pumpkin, now is ready and willing to kiss her “sweet baboo”. But they are still there. I learned them as a kid from this special and experienced them later in life. I’m sure we all did. And while I can’t say I’m happy I did, I can’t really say I’m sad either. Perhaps the best I can do is what Linus did, and just say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” come what may.

Happy New Year, Charlie Brown

The holiday season is almost over, and we’re facing nine months of drudgery until the great holidays of autumn and winter come back around. Depressing? Yes. But one thing that can help ease the misery a little is Happy New Year, Charlie Brown.

In the title screen, Charlie Brown and Linus are depicted laying dizzy on the ground after having been knocked over by a snowball from Lucy. Considering the “New Year” title, though, it kind of looks like they’ve celebrated a little too much. That, and the threat of Charlie Brown having to kiss Peppermint Patty at midnight, are some unfortunate aspects of this special.

I’d never heard of nor seen this Peanuts special, or if I had, I’d forgotten about it. But it has a lot of the things that make A Charlie Brown Christmas so great. There is dancing from the Peanuts gang, a scene with Schroeder and his piano, Snoopy giving Lucy dog germs, and snow. There are also familiar elements from the other Peanuts specials, like Peppermint Patty, Woodstock, and the Little Red-Haired Girl (whom Charlie Brown calls “Heather”). And there’s a musical chairs number and a sub-plot about Charlie Brown trying to read through War and Peace before returning to school (which he’s obviously not going to do, since he’s only on page 5 on New Year’s Eve).

Honestly, this one is not as good as the Christmas and Great Pumpkin specials. But you can watch it for free on Netflix Instant, and if you’re clinging to every vestige of the holiday season you can (as I am), it might help a little.