It takes many elements to make a record. If one or two of those elements go wrong, it can turn a well produced album into an interesting train wreck. That is what we have here. Admittedly, we should know we’re in for trouble when we see the title of this album is Songs from “Your a Good Man Charlie Brown!” It’s even more inexcusable when you find that this mistake is repeated everywhere on this record, from the title song to the cover’s spine to the label on the record itself. So while Charlie Brown may be a good man, he’s not a terribly good proofreader. If this were the only problem we could just throw the cover away and move on, but apparently whoever arranged these songs had no idea what the originals sounded like (or didn’t care). This means that these songs bear little resemblance to the originals, other than the basic melody.
Now before we start, let it be said that I have no problems with interesting or unusual cover versions of songs as a rule. Heck, my blog is full of these kinds of albums. But when you have music based on a popular Off-Broadway show (which is itself based on an extremely popular comic strip) from a group calling itself the Kid Stuff Repertory Company, I think it’s natural to expect the songs to be more or less faithful to the source material. That’s definitely not the case here!
Allow me to demonstrate:
We’ll start with the title song. In the original show, this is performed as a loud, boisterous march. In this instance, it’s closer to how the song might be performed at Charlie Brown’s funeral!
This version of “Suppertime” isn’t too crazy, although it could stand to be faster. Bongos give it a bit of a South American feel. I never remembered Snoopy’s meals being quite this exotic!
In the musical, the song “Snoopy” is normally performed as a sort of wistful ballad until the “jungle animal” fantasy where it speeds up, only to slow down again at the end. They sort of do the opposite here. Not bad as such, just not what you’d expect if you’d heard this song before. (Extra points for the electronic bird noises.)
Next we have “The Kite,” Charlie Brown’s song about the frustrations he has flying his kite and the (short lived) success he achieves when it finally catches the breeze and flies. The song starts out sort of frantic and slows down when the kite starts flying. In the hands (vocal cords?) of the Kids Stuff Repertory Company it sounds like the theme song for the “KSRC News Brief.” (In a somewhat related piece of trivia, did you know that there is a DC super villain called Kite-Man and his civilian identity is Charles Brown? It’s true!)
Here’s Linus’s song “My Blanket and Me.” In the original version, it’s a sort of playful soft-shoe number. Here it sounds like a 70s cop show. (“Van Pelt! Blanket! They’re cops…with a difference!!!”) Now, while I’m quick to diss the odd arrangements, I have to admit that there is a nice jazzy guitar solo in here. I just have no idea why it’s there!
We end with the play’s finale “Happiness,” which is normally done as a sweet ballad, but in this case is a poppy synthesized number.
And that’s the entire album (minus a reprise of the opening song, which is just the same recording cut off at the end of the first verse). You can find the whole thing here. Maybe I was too hard on this record. Maybe, just like the kid on the album cover, it just wants to be loved. But when you’ve heard the originals as often as I have (and I’ve even played Snoopy in a local production), this just sounds really off! Take a listen and see what you guys think!