ALBUM REVIEW - Vince Guaraldi's "The Complete Warner Bros. - Seven Arts Recordings"

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Vince Guaraldi

The Complete Warner Bros. - Seven Arts Recordings

Omnivore Recordings


Vince Guaraldi left his longtime label Fantasy in 1968, hopping over to Warner Bros. and reinterpreting pieces he’d written for the popular animated series Peanuts. (Guaraldi also scored the comic’s first feature film.) That first record, Oh, Good Grief! shines the spotlight directly on some of his most playful performances and compositions, whether the beloved “Linus and Lucy,” “Peppermint Patty” or “Red Baron.” These recordings differ from the originals in that electric guitar and electric harpsicord entered into the mix, giving the record a more contemporary twist. “Great Pumpkin Waltz,” for instance, gains a certain musical and emotional heft from Eddie Duran’s graceful performance.

With The Electric Vince Guaraldi (1969) the keyboardist turned his attention to a variety of pop numbers in the air at the time, including Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” (rather groovily), The Beatles’ “Yesterday” (with lush strings) and even made his vocal debut on a rendition of Tim Hardin’s sublime “Reason to Believe.” These mingle nicely with a handful originals, including “Coffee and Doe-Nuts” and “Lucifer’s Lady.”

In 1970, he’d issue his final sides for Warner Bros. as well as the last album issued in his lifetime. Seen as a return to jazz, Alma-Ville, it focused once more on Guaraldi the composer as he penned nine of the six tunes heard on the record. Opener “The Masked Marvel” bridges the distance between the aforementioned “Linus and Lucy” and Horace Silver at his best and though contemporary trappings are again present, the LP doesn’t sound dated. Not there and not on the closing “Jimbo’s (aka Jambo’s),” during which he does some of his most remarkable and lyrical playing not only on that record but across the whole set.

A quartet of previously unissued tracks rounds out the collection, including “The Share Cropper’s Daughter,” a nifty experiment that quickly reveals why it was relegated to the vault. With its fuzzed-out guitars, busybody drumming and overall frivolity, it’s fun listening but fails to live up to the maestro’s otherwise considerable abilities. (That said, having it available is one of the treats of this collection).

Guaraldi would die suddenly in 1976, with the usual round of archival and live archival releases subsequently surfacing. These recordings, Alma-Ville in particular, remind us that he was far more than the Peanuts guy.