CD: Boy Named Charlie Brown, A (1969)

August 19, 2015 | By


BoyNamedCharlieBrown_McKuenScore: Good

LabelVarese Sarabande

Released:  June 23, 2015

Tracks / Album Length:  12 tracks / 31 mins.

Composer: Rod McKuen

Special Notes:  n/a




After seven TV specials, it seemed inevitable that Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters would make the leap to the big screen, and their theatrical debut came with Vince Guaraldi’s jazz themes plus new songs performed and co-written by Rod McKuen, an occasional film composer, songwriter, poet, and author.

McKuen’s songs are light and airy, with catchy melodies and folksy lyrics supported by a small orchestra, and the first track, “Champion Charlie Brown” features McKuen’s inimitable raspy voice, some whistling, and the composer’s affinity for the Ondes Martinot, an early electronc instrument similar to a Theremin that emits eerie ‘woo-woo’ sounds. (The album’s closing track features McKuen overbdubbing himself with a lower gravely voice set to a shuffling rhythm.)

A more tender tone with wistful melody make up the title track, with McKuen’s flowing lyrics accompanied by a slow and steady ostinato on piano, while “Failure Face” is a hysterical put-down tune with insults crooned in a pleasantly agreeable tone, a perky rhythm, and instrumentation that includes a gilded harpsichord and a cheerful Ondes Martinot that closes the ode to stupidity. The album’s instrumental tracks include “Something for Snoopy” with vibes, drums, piano, and strings locked to a jazzy rhythm, a piano version of “Failure Face.”

Because McKuen’s score contributions weren’t enough to fill out a full soundtrack album – at the time of the film’s release, Guaraldi’s themes appeared on a separate LP featuring his trio, plus a French LP with the film’s tunes sung by Serge Gainsbourg – the composer added new re-recordings of other themes from his more popular film scores, including an upbeat pop orchestral version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), and a medley from Joanna (1968) featuring a Dixieland jazz band and lounge orchestra.

McKuen’s vocals in the Henry Mancini authored Me, Natalie (1969) title track is a perfect fit, with the singer’s raspy voice supported by Mancini’s gentle strings and a swift light rhythm. Vibes and a soft Bossa Nova rhythm dominate “I’ll Catch the Sun” while McKen’s voice is again paired with piano in the light romantic tune “We.”

Originally released in 1970 by McKuen’s own label Stanyan Records, Varese Sarabande’s CD features clean sound but it’s a very timid recording, in which the original album master has all the frequencies in a safe zone, free from heavy bass or sharp highs. The instrumental details are nice and sharp, but their impact is slightly muted by a rather plain stereo mastering.

With the exception of the Joanna medley, the rest of the tracks run around 3 mins., making them ideal for radio play, but fans wanting longer versions featuring some solos matching the light jazz of some cues might be a little disappointed. Somewhere in the album is a performance by Chet Baker, but he makes barely an impact in this decent but rather minimalist music-from-plus-other-great-themes release.

McKuen’s modest film score C.V. includes Joanna (1968), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), Scandalous John (1971), Emily (1976), and the 1973 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movies Lisa, Bright and Dark and The Borrowers.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



Additional Links:
Editor’s BlogComposer on IMDB  —  Composer Filmography —  Soundtrack Album

Select Merchants: — BSX — Intrada — Screen Archives Entertainment

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Soundtrack Reviews

Comments are closed.