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A Boy Named Charlie Brown by Rod McKuen (Review)

posted Jun 17, 2015, 4:35 PM by Kaya Savas

Sometimes all you need is a good shot of nostalgia, and this release definitely will give it to you. A Boy Named Charlie Brown was the first feature length film for the Peanuts gang, all the way back in 1969. Now, don’t confuse this with the 1964 TV documentary about Charles M. Schulz that went by the same name. Of course composer Vince Guaraldi is the name most associated with all the Peanuts shorts, and he did in fact compose the score featured in this film. This album focuses on the songs written and performed by Rod McKuen, which also has some instrumental pieces by McKuen. So if you’re looking for a great nostalgic trip of jazzy songs and score then this is a fantastic album.

McKuen’s raspy voice softly delivers the lyrics of these great songs that became such a unique approach to A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The music is not coming directly from the perspective of the characters, but the lyrics and tone of them directly comment on the emotional state and thoughts of the Peanuts gang. Seeing the opening montage of Charlie Brown trying to build a kite and failing time after time with the song “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” being sung underneath turns something so simple into a great and poignant look at the character. The rest of the songs act in the same way, and provide wonderful little windows into the characters without the characters having to speak or sing. The minimal instrumental pieces in all their jazzy goodness perfectly fit into that classic Peanuts soundscape. And while we don’t have any of Vince Guaraldi’s main score here, Rod McKuen’s songs and instrumental pieces stand wonderfully on their own.

The fact that the characters really live within the lyrics of these songs as well as in some of McKuen’s jazzy instrumental moments makes this a wonderful album to reflect on. A Boy Named Charlie Brown was the first Peanuts feature, and to have these wonderful jazzy songs stand on their own is a real treat. We don’t have any of Vince Guaraldi’s main score, but Rod McKuen’s raspy jazz ballads punctuated with his few moments of instrumental score will definitely put a warm smile on your face. There’s a great bunch of tracks here, and a few even feature the talents of Mr. Henry Mancini. While not a score album in a traditional sense, the presentation opens the door into the world of the Peanuts characters and makes for a good flashback before we see the new animated feature.