Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Christmas Time Is Here" - the sweetly sad blues version

'Tis the season…

Every year at this time I make sure to dig out my all-time favorite Christmas album (okay, I'll admit it, along with Bing's), and it's mostly because of this one irreplaceable song.

If there's such a thing as a plaintive, yearning Christmas blues, this would be it: one that, while fully acknowledging the joyful, sweet, soulful nature of the real Christmas, and not what it's become (you retailers will have to excuse the rest of us for wishing it could be another way), sadly asks, why isn't it that way all year?

It's the late pianist Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack for "A Charlie Brown Christmas," performed by him and his trio for the original animated special from 1965. Here are the lyrics; and even better, the entire album (including the equally poignant instrumental version of the song,) can be heard as free streams on Music, courtesy of the publisher, Concord Music Group.

"Christmas Time Is Here"
(Written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson)

Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call, their favorite time of year

Snowflakes in the air, carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes, of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air, beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside, and joyful memories there

Christmas time is here, we'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see, such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see, such spirit through the year...

(The story behind "A Charlie Brown Christmas," on Wikipedia.)

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As a musician friend recently pointed out, there was so much more to Vince Guaraldi than just his inspired Peanuts soundtracks. He had a touch for the almost painfully beautiful, as with his instrumental, "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," the 1963 Grammy winner of Best Instrumental Jazz Composition. That was from the album "Jazz Impression of Black Orpheus," Guaraldi's version of Antonio Carlos Jobim's haunting soundtrack score.

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On a lighter note, and speaking of Bing's classic (sort of), an old friend just sent this tune along...