VINCE GUARALDI A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy)

If the measure of a successful Christmas album is that it’s still entertaining when the clocks go forward, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a particularly satisfying example of the genre. Vince Guaraldi’s tinkling whitebread piano stylings never marked him out as one of jazz’s heavy hitters (in a booklet quote he says, “I don’t think I’m a great piano player. But I would like to have people like me, to play pretty tunes and reach the audience.”) – imagine Dave Brubeck without the collegiate cachet and mad time signatures - but they make a delightfully apposite soundtrack for the titular 1965 Peanuts television special.

“O Tannenbaum”, “What Child Is This” and “My Little Drum” are loosened from their festive bonds, turning them into performances that can be appreciated all year round if so desired. “My Little Drum” is gently tickled by the bossa nova boom that also helped popularise Guaraldi’s earlier “Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus” album, and if you’ve been a child near a television at any point during the last forty years “Linus And Lucy” should be instantly familiar. “Christmas Is Coming” is deliciously propulsive, a perfect evocation of the fevered, Technicolor anticipation its title suggests. Admittedly, though, the few vocal tracks are unavoidably season-specific, and I still find the children’s choir on “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” painfully jarring.

This reissue is lovingly packaged, with a new booklet essay, four bonus alternate takes and a gatefold digipak (if you see what I mean) with a transparency of the Peanuts characters on the front. If you suspect that your next festive season might benefit from some soothing sonic balm, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will repay your trust many times over.