Released: September 19, 2000
Label: Rounder Kids
With the holidays upon us, it’s time to fire up some of the old specials and music, and for me, that has included Arthur’s Perfect Christmas for as long as I can remember. I can’t put my finger on when I got the CD, but the 25-track album produced by Jeff Zahn complements the show very well, and with the advent of Spotify, can be played anytime and anywhere.
It’s fitting that the CD starts and ends with “Perfect Christmas,” just like the film, but I would’ve preferred the longer versions that we see in the show (e.g. at the beginning, the more extended version of Canon in D, and then the version at the end where it shows everyone celebrating their holidays).
Snowflakes falling real slowly
Everything looks so pretty
The day’s almost done
I wonder what everyone’s doing in Elwood City
Sometimes the thing you hope for
Isn’t the thing you get
But after today, I’d just have to say
This was the best Christmas yet
Nonetheless, we get to hear some other tunes from the show in their entirety, such as “What’s the Use of Presents?”, “Boogie Woogie Christmas,” and my favorite song of the whole show, “Baxter Day.” If you’ve watched the show enough times, you’ll be able to visualize what’s happening as the song plays, lyric by lyric and word by word. It’s also nice to hear the songs that aren’t on the show, such as “Here We Come a ‘Wassailing,” “Joy To The World,” and “I’m Not Scared of Santa.”
Just like the show, the album does well to include the traditions of the other kids in Elwood City, some that we don’t hear a ton about. It’s nice to hear the Brain sing about Kwanzaa, which just briefly gets touched on in the show, and also George (Mitchell Rothpan) sing about Lucia Day, the Swedish festival of light as well as Nu Är Det Jul Igen (“Now It’s Yule Again”), which is sung closer to Christmas. And of course, the Chanukah songs, with Jodie Resther showcasing her vocal talents as Francine, along with her family.
That brings me to another aspect of this album that I like, and that’s the unique takes on the more traditional holiday songs. Fern (Holly Gauthier-Frankel)’s shrieky version of “Silent Night” is admittedly not my favorite, nor is “Fum, Fum, Fum,” sung in kind of a minor key by Mr. Ratburn (Arthur Holden). I’m open to hearing any and all opinions on D.W.’s musical interludes, but Bruce Dinsmore and Sonja Ball as Mr. and Mrs. Read respectively are the highlight of this album on “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” and “Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella,” the latter en français. In addition, “Jingle Bells” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” feature notable Montreal jazz musicians James Gelfand (piano), Michel Donato (bass), Jean-Pierre Zanella (saxophone/clarinet) and Dave Laing (drums), making this album fabriqué au Québec.
While APC isn’t the first holiday special one might think of, and the album even less so when thinking of holiday music, for lifelong fans of Arthur, it’s essential viewing. It shows that even though one’s holidays might not go as perfectly as imagined, it’s still possible to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company. Jeff Zahn and his team did a great job with the music for the show and came up with some new songs that aren’t on the show to make this a solid holiday album for children of prime viewing age for Arthur, and twenty-somethings like myself who still watch it to relive their childhood.
By Guthrie Edson